The Ribbon Burning festivities are the big yearly celebration for the students and townspeople as well. The festivities run for a full week in May beginning with the traditional nighttime fado serenade in the square of the Old Cathedral of Coimbra.
The square is packed with students in their black capes and according to the ritual, studies are forgotten for a week of joy and all-night revelry. The high point of the festivities is theCortejo, a parade beginning in Alta (upper Coimbra, the university historic centre and home to the Rector’s Office and the famous University tower) with the graduating students burning their grelo. The parade progresses down the hills of the Alta towards the Baixa (downtown Coimbra, near the river) with dozens of elaborately decorated floats, each in the color of their respective faculties, carrying placards with ironic criticisms alluding to certain teachers, the educational system, national events and leaders. The parade is made up of thousands of “newly liberated” students set apart by their top hats and walking sticks.