The Carnation Revolution of 1974 is also known as 25 de Abril, which is the date that the revolution occurred in Lisbon. The Armed Forces Movement began as a coup and overthrew the authoritarian Estado Novo regime, and even after 49 years this date still holds a profound effect on Portuguese society. The date is also a national holiday which is coined as Freedom Day in Portuguese, which offers time to commemorate the revolution.

Why did the Revolution happen?

Portugal had been ruled by the Estado Novo which was formally the second Portuguese Republic. Up until 1968, Portugal was under the authoritarian rule of António de Oliveira Salazar which is said to have “ushered in an era of oppression and censorship of newspapers and books”.

Catholicism was reinstated as the state religion and at the time Portugal was in the midst of a colonial war with many movements opposed to Portuguese rule in their African territories. BBC History Extra writes that “This was an extremely unpopular conflict, and many of the troops had been conscripted. The majority of the population approved of decolonisation to put an end to the war which was something the Estado Novo regime opposed.”

Freedom Day

The Head of the Association 25 de Abril Vasco Lourenço, notes that “On April 25, 1974, the Armed Forces Movement (MFA) overthrew the dictatorship regime that for 48 years oppressed the Portuguese people. On that early morning of the initial day, whole and clean (as Sophia de Mello Breyner poetised) the April military were clear in their promises: the repression had ended, freedom had returned, the end of war and colonialism and democracy was coming.”

Further adding that “With all this, the Carnation Revolution put an end to the isolationism to which Portugal had been condemned for several years and helped the birth of new independent countries. Constituting the pioneering movement of enormous democratic transformations throughout the world and demonstrating that the Armed Forces are not condemned to be an instrument of oppression, but can, on the contrary, be a liberating force.”

Celeste Caeiro

For those wondering, how the carnation became the symbol of the date, The Portugal News did some digging and it turns out it is all down to Celeste Caeiro who later became known as Celeste dos Cravos.

Portuguese Radio Station RFM cites that “For Celeste Caeiro, April 25, 1974 would be another Thursday of work. At the time, she was 40 years old and was a waitress at the Franjinhas restaurant, on Braancamp Street, next to the Marquis of Pombal. That date happened to be the restaurants’ first anniversary, so red carnations were purchased to give to their customers. When Celeste arrived, she was told by her boss to go home because a revolution was underway and that they were closing the restaurant. Celeste ended up taking the flowers home and, on her way, home she came across a group of soldiers and one of the soldiers asked her for a cigarette. Celeste did not smoke so she offered him one of the flowers instead and he placed the carnation in the barrel of his shotgun. Other soldiers copied and hours later, the florists of Baixa were distributing carnations to all the soldiers, a gesture that would remain forever in history and pave the way to democracy.”

Surprisingly, this was an almost bloodless coup and the red carnations were also spread by crowds who celebrated the overthrow of the government.

A final interesting fact is that one of Lisbon’s bridges, formerly known as the Ponte Salazar, was renamed Ponte 25 de Abril to commemorate the revolution.


Following undertaking her university degree in English with American Literature in the UK, Cristina da Costa Brookes moved back to Portugal to pursue a career in Journalism, where she has worked at The Portugal News for 3 years. Cristina’s passion lies with Arts & Culture as well as sharing all important community-related news.

Cristina da Costa Brookes