Ostatnia aktualizacja: 2020-04-23. Autor: Milena
Festas do Espírito Santo – what’s that?
Festas do Espírito Santo – the Holy Spirit’s festivities – are one of the most distinguishable Azorean traditions. Their history starts in the 17th century, when Holy Spirit’s cult appeared in mainland Portugal. Sources don’t tell about any specific date, they just suggest different possibilities – but they claim that the Holy Spirit’s cult arrived where the Portuguese arrived – to the Azores, Brasil and Canada. The first reports on the Holy Spirit’s feast celebration in Terceira come from 1492.
Today Festas do Espírito Santo are celebrated only in the Azores.
In mainland Portugal, maybe because of bigger contact with “the outside world” than on the islands, the tradition hasn’t survived. In the Azores, though, you can observe processions with crowns and meals for the whole village. Feasts are always concentrated around império – a small colourful Holy Spirit’s chapel. In Terceira there are over 70 of them, so no wonder that these feasts are celebrated so exceptionally here.
Festas do Espírito Santo include the whole Easter time…
…meaning the time from the Resurrection until Pentecost Sunday, and then – Trinity Sunday (one week after Pentecost Sunday). Each village or district connected to império has its own traditions. In many of them during the first six Sundays of the Easter time what is popular are processions with the Holy Spirit’s crown. Chosen people from the society are crowned, they get a silver tray as a symbol of the Holy Spirit and go in a procession to the house of the privileged family. In that house the Holy Spirit will stay for a week. Friends and family will gather there together to pray – and of course to eat.
You can also see cows dressed up like brides. Usually there is music and singing, and numerous habitants of the village – and in such circumstances the cows are getting consecrated, and then, on Sunday, they become a meal for their owners and all the neighbours.
If you show up in Terceira during Easter time, don’t get surprised if one Sunday somebody knocks on your door and give you bread or a bag with meat. Back then, food was distributed among the poor, today – among all the habitants. You should smile, politely say “thank you” and accept the gift. Festas do Espírito Santo is time of sharing, common feasting and common joy.
Two last Easter Sundays, and sometimes also Trinity Sunday, are one big feast for the whole society.
There are crowds gathering around the chapels, you can get bread (standard one or the sweet one, which is popular here) to go, almost in bulk, and have an annual wine limit. Or cheese limit. Or boiled fava bean and other beans.
You can look into carts decorated in white, standing in front of império, and check if there’s something interesting to eat inside. Or if you can rest there – with a piece of bread in one hand and wine in the other. While listening to the local orchestra.
You can sit by a long table and get lucky to have some sopa do Espirito Santo – the Holy Spirit’s soup. It’s one of the typical soups from this region. It’s cooked on a meat stock with garlic and mint, and it contains mainly bread and cabbage.
Sometimes on the tables you can also see cozido à portuguesa. It’s a cooked dish containing vegetables (mainly potatoes, in smaller amounts: carrots, cabbage and omnipresent beans) and different types of meat (mainly chicken, pork meat, beef, local chouriço, morcela – local blood sausage, and cubes of boiled blood – yes, it’s not a mistake).
There’s also a dessert – arroz doce. It’s sweet rice boiled on milk, with cinnamon. You can also get juice as a dessert. Or even more wine.
Festas do Espírito Santo is one of the traditions that hold the local society together.
Everybody can be favoured by receiving the Holy Spirit to their house, there’s also a place for everybody by the long, full of food table. Also for lost, curios tourists. And nobody will ask you right at the beginning about your religion (nobody asks about it all, unless as an interesting cultural thing: “And how is it in Poland?”). Guests are welcome with opened arms. The Holy Spirit’s celebration is a celebration of unity and equity. As by the table that I mentioned, also in life everybody is equal and worth the same. The Azorean people know how to remind themselves about it.
PS Of course Festas do Espírito Santo as a continuation of Easter wouldn’t be possible without… Easter.
Sometimes you ask me what Easter on Terceira looks like. I will tell you that it’s quite similar to the one in Poland. It’s primarily a religious but also a family holiday. It’s time to meet in a large group, with loved ones. On Easter Sunday, the church bells ring as a sign of the Resurrection of Christ, and families gather for a lunch. The traditional Easter dish on Terceira is lamb. And the typical sweet bread massa sovada with egg on top. LEARN MORE.