Legend has it that in the 14th century, Queen Isabal of Portugal greatly loved the poor, and tried to give charity when she could. The queen was also renowned as a peacemaker, and loved by her people. During a time of famine, the queen filled her skirts with loaves of bread and tried to sneak out of the castle with them to give to the poor, but her husband stopped her at the gates.
He demanded that she open her skirts to show what she was concealing, and consumed with fear the queen did as he asked–only to discover that a shower of roses fell out, courtesy of a quick switcharoo by the Holy Ghost.
The Queen and her husband, Denis of Portugal, were real people, remembered for their charity to the poor (which contradicts the legend that Denis was angry at her for helping the poor). During their reign, Portugal also expanded, culturally, and built up stronger trade agreements, greater rights for the rural poor, and better rural infrastructure in general. Denis was an environmentalist, a peace maker, and a highly educated author. He also allied Portugal with the Catholic Church, and offered shelter to the Knights Templar.
All this aside, Portugese communities all over the world celebrate an annual Holy Ghost Festival, a good excuse to have a big party, a parade, and a fish feed. As you all know, I adore nothing so much as a good parade, and I had actually forgotten the festa was happening until I heard the sound of a band approaching over the Radiohead I was playing, very loudly, while I baked a cake.
What’s this, I thought. Could it be Festa?
I know I’ve mentioned this before, but I really am ideally placed to watch most parades in town, especially one winding from the Portugese Hall to church and back, and my heart filled with excitement and glee as I saw the parade approaching down Franklin.
A big part of Festa is the Queens, who actually come from all over the state. They are all wearing fantastic robes of velvet and seed pearls and embroidery, which drag along the street with a hissing noise while the queens proceed in a stately manner.
The robes actually have plastic under them, to protect them from the street–useful, as you can see, because they are quite long. Some of the queens also have attendants who are supposed to help hold up the heavy robes, but the attendants often get distracted, leaving the queens sagging under their garments.
No Holy Ghost festival is complete without a few statues of the Virgin, and these were escorted by a number of the community, dressed in their Sunday best.
The Queens mingle with the common folk, entirely appropriate given the event Festa commemorates.
Many thanks are due to Baxt for the loan of her camera, without which these pictures wouldn’t be possible.
To be continued…
[Holy Ghost Festival]