Thursday, May 5, 2011

Pelted by Petals

On any given weekend, there are multiple festivals, feast days or celebrations taking place nearby and we often have to choose between equally enticing options (we also like to stay home once in a while!!).  This past weekend we were torn between the Festa do Alvarinho e do Fumeiro (Festival of Alvarinho Wine and Smoked Meat!) in Melgaço and the Festa das Cruzes (Festival of the Crosses) in Barcelos.  We've certainly had our share of alvarinho and smoked meat, so we opted for the festival in Barcelos.

The Festa das Cruzes is an annual celebration in honor of a miracle that occurred in Barcelos 500 years ago. In 1504, a shoemaker saw a luminous and fragrant cross appear on the earth near the market square.  Every year since the apparition, a solemn procession has marked the occasion.  The celebration has grown since then and has now exploded into a 9 day festival that includes traditional and non-traditional music and dancing, creation of floral carpets in the church that was built on the site of the miracle, a procession of crosses, fireworks, carnival rides, fair food and the wacky Batalha de Flores.

lots of drums - a sure sign of good things to come!

We went to Barcelos on Saturday, specifically to see the Batalha de Flores or Battle of the Flowers!!  After enjoying some delicious bifanas, pork sandwiches served in buns baked in on-site ovens, and watching some of the entertainment, we staked out good spots near the center of the main street in town and waited for the battle to begin.  Unfortunately, the rain started before the battle did, but we held steady and tried to stay as dry as we could.

band members approach wearing rooster hats in honor of
the beloved Barcelos cock -
a nod to another miracle which occurred here

Finally, we heard drum beats and saw bands coming towards us from opposite ends of the street leading 2 separate, simultaneous parades.  Each of the 2 parades had musicians, floats and lots of people in traditional costumes and other funky outfits. They were all armed with baskets and buckets of confetti, flowers, leaves, and petals. As the 2 parades passed in the street the groups pelted each other with their colorful ammunition.

float driver attempting to block
flying foliage and raindrops

It was raining really hard, but that only seemed to add to the fun. Several people took delight in throwing huge handfuls of soggy ammo right at us and our camera.  It was fantastic to be a part of such a joy-filled event and we laughed hysterically each time we were pelted by petals.  We were totally soaked and petal-strewn on our train ride home, but we were happy to have experienced another unique celebration in northern Portugal.

armed and dangerous!

who doesn't like to throw stuff at friends and strangers?!

ready to head home with a nice collection of
petals and confetti

On Tuesday afternoon, Eric's parents joined us for the final big event of the festival, the Grand Procession.  This was a solemn event which truly honored the miracle of the cross.  People from Barcelos and surrounding towns gathered to process through the streets carrying crosses from their parishes.

The procession included lots of ornate crosses and beautifully decorated statues carried on strong shoulders, escorted by lantern bearers.

At the end of the procession, all participants gathered near the site of the miracle for the bishop's address.

It was great to have Marv and Lois here to witness a fascinating slice of life in Portugal!

To see a nice video promoting the Festa, click HERE
For Eric's fab video of Portuguese entertainment, click THIS!


1 comment:

  1. I think the processions there are even more "Over the Top" then they are here, if that's possible!

    We are getting so excited! We have booked ourselves into the Castelo Santa Catarina for 3 nights, June 12-15th. We'll meet one of those days!
    Will email with more info as the day gets closer!