Thursday, May 1, 2008

Feasts and Festivals

Feasts and Festivals are very much a part of Portuguese culture, in the Azores, Madeira, and right here in Fall River. These feasts, often lasting a week or more, are dynamic and bring together both religious (catholic) and secular ideas. They are something special, and are set off from normal space and time. Feasts will often begin with a week of prayer, rosary recitation, and preparation. The church and surrounding streets are adorned with flags, banners, colored lights and flowers. Often images of patron saints, Jesus or the Blessed Virgin Mary, are highly visible as they are the ones for which many festivals are held. These saints are scene as intermediaries to God and are thus revered. After the religious ceremonies are held, those celebrating indulge in much food and drink. They socialize on the church grounds and in the streets while bands play, dancers perform, and fireworks light up the sky. As the festival winds down, the Portuguese partiers recall former feasts and those of neighboring towns. They compare and contrast and decide whether this years feast was traditional, yet memorable and exciting. The feasts are a large part of the group identity and a successful one assures admiration and esteem among the community and from other communities.

One such feast, the Holy Ghost Festival, occurs annually in Fall River. Revolving around the Espirito Santo Church, this festival shows the devotion the many Portuguese in Fall River, especially Azoreans, to the Holy Spirit.

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