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Bodo de Leite Parade

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This is my absolute favorite parade of the year… The Bodo de Leite Parade is a time to really see Azorean culture on display and celebrated! It’s like a party in the street, and when Portuguese people throw a party, we throw a party!  There are costumes and music, livestock and floats, and food and drinks all around! The Great Feast of the Holy Ghost is held in Fall River, Massachusetts each August.  The parade on Saturday starts at the “Portas de Cidade” (“Gates of the City” – a replica of the gates in Ponta Delgada, St. Michael, Azores) and ends at Kennedy Park where the feast itself takes place. This is only one of the many events that takes place each year, there is also a big Procession, which is a religious type parade, on Sunday where anyone who has held a Holy Ghost week in their home is welcome to participate whether through their church or a Holy Ghost Society, hence the name “The Great Feast of the Holy Ghost”  (If you will recall, I wrote about the Holy Ghost Feast at my church earlier this summer.)

At most parades, kids love picking up the candy that is thrown out to them from parade floats, I know my kids do.  And they loved doing that at this parade too… but, that is far from where the handing out of food stops.  Onlookers at this parade can expect to be handed out sweet bread and milk which is where the idea for this parade really all started, like a sort of Portuguese Halloween to celebrate the harvest… But, it doesn’t stop there, this year we were able to sample beer and wine freely poured by several passing floats and servers that walk along the parade route too!  As for food… that gets cooked as the floats pass by, grills are propped right onto the flatbed trucks that are carrying the beautiful displays of our heritage… We enjoyed grilled fish, chourico, cooked corn kernels, steak, and hot dogs and watermelon for the kids.

The Holy Ghost tradition is about giving back to the community and feeding the poorest of the poor, so all can enjoy the blessing of the Holy Ghost.  This thought process is deeply rooted in the Portuguese mindset and is reflected in the works of the participants of this parade.  Yes, it’s a great time, but it’s so much more than that, and it’s truly wonderful to see.  When you are Portuguese, it is hard to forget your Catholic roots because it is all around you and events like this one really bring that home.  When my parents and grandparents and parents before them grew up in St. Michael, wealth was far from plentiful, people made do, but community and that spirit of giving, I believe, was a big reason they did.  I am so happy to share all of this beautiful history and heritage with my children each year and expose them to this spirit of giving and celebration of our culture.

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Cold beer right from the tap!

Shared with friends and family.

Wine

Milk.

The tradition of the bride and groom leading the procession.

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Beautiful

When my mother talks about attending the feast of the Holy Ghost in her village as a child, she lights up when she talks about this vendor... each village would have a candy vendor... Candy was not so readily available when she was a child and it was an expense they were not afforded very often...

When my mother talks about attending the feast of the Holy Ghost in her village as a child, she lights up when she tells me about this vendor… each village would have a candy vendor… Candy was not so readily available when she was a child and it was an expense they were not afforded very often… These handmade candies were a real treat for a child who was lucky enough to get one!

My two with my Godson enjoying the parade and having fun!

These people are marching with sweet bread as an offering to the Holy Ghost and all these baskets of sweet bread will be cut up once they arrive to the feast and served to all.

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This is a very good friend of mine, MarkPaul has been in the Nosa Senhora de Luz Band since he was a kid (ahem that’s over 20 years now)

 

Dancing!

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Animals of course play a big part in this parade… Dairy farmers are a big part of the economy in St. Michael, but animals were traditionally utilized for farm work and for transporting goods from village to village… I can remember being on a trip to St. Michael with my grandmother when I was 11 years old and hearing the fish vendor come through, then the bread etc… This was in the 1980’s, not so long ago.

Chickens and bunnies!  This is very much an interactive event, children are encouraged to participate as they are encouraged to participate in all Portuguese events!

The sense of community and love is abundant as friends new and old get to see each other.

The sense of community and love is abundant as friends new and old get to see each other.

This is a replica of my father’s childhood church from Rabo de Peixe, his village in St. Michael.

This is not disimilar to the vendor carts that would troll the streets...

This is not dissimilar to the vendor carts that would troll the streets…

Dancers

 

Now onto the food!

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Look at that grill right up there on the float!

Some fun!

Some fun!

Even the cars get dressed up and bring sweetbread to the feast!

And that’s all she wrote, it was a great time, we really enjoy it every year!  Can’t wait to see it again next year! If you don’t already, you should think about checking it out!

 

Now onto the nighttime entertainment at the feast, the Marc Dennis concert!

 

\The Marc Dennis concert held on the feast grounds!

Thousands of people came out to see him well into the night.

You can buy one of Marc Dennis’ most popular albums here, Marc Dennis ‘Superman’

I don't often let my kids stay up this late, but there are just some things they need to experience.

I don’t often let my kids stay up this late, but there are just some things they need to experience.

I hope you enjoyed my take on this wonderful cultural experience!

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The Holy Ghost Feast at Espirito Santo Church, Fall River, MA

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My parents, along with thousands of other Azorean people, moved to the New England area in the 1960’s when the “gates” of this country were open to emigration from Portugal.  With those thousands of people came churches.  With the people and the churches came traditions steeped in history.  As a little girl, I grew up knowing these traditions like most kids knew the Saturday morning cartoon line up.  The tradition of the Holy Ghost feast, and everything that comes along with it, has been dotted throughout every summer of my life.

My earliest memories of the Holy Ghost feast at my church, Espirito Santo Church in Fall River, MA, was of walking in the procession on the Sunday of the big feast.  My mother would make me a beautiful white satin gown adorned with golden roping.  My feet were placed in white thread hand crocheted socks and stuffed into white paten leather shoes.  We would always start the procession walking on a beautifully decorated road (a carpet of flowers, colored wood shavings and pine needles), that would inevitably turn my beautiful white shoes different colors.  We would walk throughout the “Flint” area of the city passed family and friends, Portuguese shops, bakeries and jewelery stores.  My mother and Vavó would always be looking on from the sidewalk somewhere along the route and my father would always march in the procession as he still does today, now toting my brother along with him.

The procession would lead to a mass at the church that was then followed by the opening of the feast for the day. There you could find food, lots and lots of food…  My Dad would roast some Carne Espeto (shish-kabobed beef) over an open pit of fiery coals.  We would eat the salty meat with bread and french fries and favas, grilled chicken and sardines and always, always top it off with the best malasadas in the entire city (Portuguese fried dough).

The feast always had music and games too… The music was a combination of traditional marching band music, traditional folk music and more modern Portuguese stage music later at night.  The games were of the carnival variety with booths full of donated items from parishioners that were won by games of chance.  My favorite was always these little white squares of paper that were rolled and bent and one out of every 25 or so would have a number printed on it with a corresponding prize.

The Holy Ghost feast is celebrated not only in my little childhood church in Fall River, MA, but in Portuguese Roman Catholic churches and Holy Ghost Clubs throughout the state, the region and anywhere you can find a large Portuguese community.  If you look you will find Holy Ghost feasts in the Azorean Islands of course, but also in Hawaii, California, Martha’s Vineyard, Connecticut, throughout Canada and Bermuda.  So, what does all this mean?  Where did all these traditions come from?  Well, it all started with Queen Isabella of Portugal in the 1200’s.  She decided to humble the kingdom by finding the poorest man in the country and crown him king for the day.  He would literally wear a crown and sit on the throne and a banquet would be given in his honor. Two hundred years later when the Azorean Islands were populated by the Portuguese, they carried this tradition with them turning the royal crown into a silver ballooned crown we now know as the Holy Ghost crown.

Today the greatest symbol of the Holy Ghost is that silver crown.  For seven weeks leading up to the feast, known as Domingas, the crown is brought into someone’s home and that family will open their home to parishioners who gather each night of the week to say the rosary and pray for the poor and sick.  At the end of these Domingas the feast of the Holy Ghost takes place… a three-day festival that begins on the Friday night just before the Seventh Dominga, the “Blessing of the Meat and Bread,” in which a portion of beef and bread — the “Pensao” — is blessed by a priest and distributed to each member present. Following the tradition of charity and feeding the poor, a bowl of soup or stew is served to everyone. On Saturday night, participants decorate religious statues and crowns in preparation for the Sunday Procession and Mass. Differing from the original man in the 1200’s, a woman is chosen to represent Queen Isabel, and she and her court join a procession. At the end of the Mass, the priest crowns the Holy Ghost Queen.

Here are pictures of the procession:

Here are some highlights from the feast itself:

There is nothing better than passing on these traditions to my children.

There is nothing better than passing on these traditions to my children.