The Folkloric Group of the Parish of Pussos from Alvaiázere, in the district of Leiria and province of Beira Litoral, is part of the ethnographic region of Alta Estremadura.

The Folkloric group was created on 15 August 1995 and on 31 October 2003 it was constituted as an association. Ruled by its own statutes and rules of procedure, the group became aware of the need to collect information with the sole objective of achieving a true and dignified ethnographic representation. Thus, in 1997 the group started to wear these worn out clothes which were used for years on the various tasks that characterised one’s daily routine. The group also started to use Sunday clothing which was only worn on special occasions and was well preserved and protected from daily work aggressions. Since 1997, the group has included not only the garments worn at this time, but also the accessories and objects used to perform the various seasonal agricultural chores. Some of them include objects used during the olive harvest season, as well as specific objects and tools used by herd keepers and workers to water, weed and reap the land.

The dances and songs that the group takes to the stage are the result of the information gathered among the citizens of Alvaiázere. Moreover, this task of collecting information has allowed the Folkloric Group of Pussos to recreate local traditions in order to perpetuate the memory of several generations.

One must highlight the various important traditions, festivals and customs that are recreated by the group:

  • “ Ceia de Natal” (Christmas Eve);
  • “Cantares dos Reis” (a tradition that takes place on the 5th January, in which groups of people go door to door at night, singing songs that announce the arrival of the Three Wise Men) ;
  • “ Matança do Porco” ( a tradition where people gather together and slaughter a pig);
  • “Jantar da Matança” (a traditional dinner prepared after the slaughtering of a pig);
  • “O Magusto” (a traditional social gathering that involves roasting chestnuts in an open fire);
  • “Descamisada” (corn stripping);
  • “Apanha da Azeitona” (olive harvesting);
  • “Cantar das Almas” (the tradition of singing from door to door in order to collect money to offer in memory of the deceased);
  • “Baile do Ano Novo” and “Baile do Carnaval” (social dances which were held after the most significant fairs in the parish);
  • “Feira de Ano Bom” and “Feira da Segunda-feira Gorda” (Annual fairs that take place on New Year’s Day and the Monday before Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras)
  • “Festa de agosto” (August Festival);

In addition, this group has been developing other projects, such as the celebration of Christmas with a traditional live Nativity scene and also participates in various activities promoted by the Municipality of Alvaiázere and the Parish Councils.

On 6th September 2012, this group’s great involvement in community service made it possible for them to be recognized as an Institution of Public Utility, under the Decree No. 118542012, issued by the President of the Council of Ministers.


The Folkloric Group of the Parish of Pussos works to promote the territory and ethnographic area of the Alta Estremadura in order to depict an effective representation of its people. Thus, according to the Portuguese Folklore Federation’s guidelines, the group intends to represent the decades between 1850 and 1910. However, the knowledge of ethnography and people’s traditions are based on a continuous and dynamic process that presents a new detail or alteration in the facts registered every day. This knowledge often turns out to be oblivious to the rigid boundaries of time.

The group began by studying the Parish of Pussos more rigorously, but soon realized that territorial and administrative boundaries did not represent ethnographic barriers. They felt the need to extend their study to other parishes of the municipality. Such a study allowed one to perceive certain differences that were not contradictory but rather seen as a treasure that can’t remain buried. Furthermore, this study allowed the group to also realize that certain influences from other parts of the country were eventually brought to the municipality as a consequence of the work habits of the people of Alvaiázere. These influences where brought by citizens who used to work in different regions trimming, cropping or harvesting grapes, being thus part of Alvaiázere’s ethnography and cultural specificity.

Since this territory is located in the interior region of Portugal, traditions have been kept unchanged for a longer period of time when compared to other areas. Numerous documents as well as the photographic records of the 1920s and 30s were analysed and studied. Testimonials of people born in the 1930s confirm that the way of life in Alvaiázere during these decades does not differ from the information gathered on the decades that the Portuguese Folklore Federation recommends one to study.

Thus, this folklore group focuses its study and representation on the time period between 1850 and 1930. Nevertheless, the information gathered concerning the decades between 1910 and 1930 is rigorously analysed and evaluated before being considered.

"Culture perpetuates itself in the life of the people"


In Reverend Father Jacinto Nunes’, book Alvaiázere, parte do meu contributo para a sua monografia, he explains that Alvaiázere is geographically located in the centre of the country, in an area between the Nabão Valley and the Valleys of "Tomar and Barquinha which, passing through Cabaços, where they meet, also pass Pontão and Penela, ending in Coimbra.” He goes on to explain “This area is based, almost entirely, in a mountain range that extends from South to North, and whose highest point is Alvaiázere’s hill, 618 meters altitude".

According to the same source, Alvaiázere has become a mandatory passage for "all people coming from Europe, pressured by the need to expand in search of better living conditions." In other words, this area is seen as “a land that had the privilege to remain the route that pours out all human and migratory movements of the European continent".

The history of the Parish of Pussos is wrapped in a veil that with the passage of time, is created around the history of people and hinders the diachronic perspective one intends to create. Although it is difficult to identify the time this parish was created, Reverend Father Jacinto Nunes has done research work on it which has been compiled in a text in “Percursos”, published by this group in 2005, through which this historical review was done.

Thus, according to the author, it is known that the administrative territory of this parish was given "by the order of the Temple in 1231 to Maria Pires, the widow of Estêvão Pires Spinel, with the clause that upon her death, it would return to “Convento de Tomar”. "This condition would ensure that this land would continue to be part of the Templar assets, (...) military knights whose purpose was to pray and fight the infidels ".

This order was abolished in 1308 and was converted to the Order of Christ, headquartered in Tomar, in 1319. Their territories were vast and "D. Dinis, as Grand Master of the order, divided the territory into patches that he called “Comendas” in 1321”. Altogether 84, these “Comendas” were scattered throughout the nation’s territory and led by a Friar-Knight, known as Commander.

The parish was then born and is “surrounded by identified landmarks still well- preserved today ". This territory was therefore administered by a Commander and the various patches of land were explored by many farmers who rented the land and had material, civil and religious responsibilities.

Considering "its importance, D. Manuel gives it charter in 15/06/1514, in the so-called “Forais Novos da Beira”, which gave it the right to have its own judicial system, including judges and administrative staff." This parish, then, becomes a County, being ruled by its own administrative code – its Charter.

Initially, the county’s headquarters was in Pussos, a place which became a village under the charter issued by “D. Manuel and later its headquarters changed to Vila Nova de Pussos" where it remained until the extinction of religious orders by a decree dated 13/08/1832.

"The census of 1527, ordered by King João III to Jorge Fernandes [Chancery Clerk in the province of Estremadura], held on 4th and 5th October, says the following: This village of Pussos, has only one “fogo” (neighbour) in the village because there are only few houses in the “Comenda”, the Town Hall and Ermida de Nossa Senhora (a chapel) as well as following places and their number of “fogos”; Pinhanços and the Church with its square-11. Casal da Piedade, Farroeira and Terras – 21. Venda da Lousã, including Loureira, Vale do Oivado, Santa Clara and Castelo – 22. Caparota and Casais – 5. With a total of 79 “fogos” (neighbours). In this document written by Jorge Fernandes, one can read that this village "which belongs to Christ's Order(...)is divided between Alvaiázere, Arega and Maçãs de Dona Maria ".

According to Maria Izabel Corrêa (author of the book Contos, written in 1924, in an attempt to revisit her childhood) the invasions of the peninsula and the Civil War were also felt in this parish. Furthermore, the author explains that the French "killed fourteen of her family members". Thus, the adult population "fled to Loureira where they hid in small caves, suffering from hunger, cold and all kinds of difficulties. They had left their assets at home". In fact, her "great-grandmother, as she refused to reveal the whereabouts of her husband, was stabbed fourteen times but did not die".

The registers made by Reverend Father Jacinto Nunes confirm this information since he makes clear that the partisan fights of the late 19th century led to many civilian changes. For example, the county of Cabaços was created in 1832 and extinct in 1836. There are records in Parish council minutes and reports (dated from 1896) which confirm that the Parish of Pussos was once part of Ferreira do Zêzere county. These facts prove the successive changes which the territory has been subjected to and administrative changes involving Portugal.

Considering today’s administrative division, the Parish of Pussos is part of the Municipality of Alvaiázere and Terras de Sicó and includes, "as a whole, fertile land, suitable for some crops, such as vineyards, cereals, cherries, chestnuts, “Chícharo” (a cereal similar to chickpeas) and olive oil. There are no plain grounds, nor large irrigated areas in Pussos. The parish rests upon a slope with some hills of shale and Jurassic limestone.

It’s vital to visit the parish church (Igreja Matriz de Pussos) to admire the beautiful oil paintings and 18th century, handmade artistic tiles. The churchyard is a pleasant place and it is a great lookout point from which you can appreciate the vast horizon facing west.

This important parish (belonging to the Council of Alvaiázere) is characterized by a tremendous cultural and ethnographic wealth which is characteristic of a people who devoted themselves to working the land. They have kept a legacy of ancient traditions alive and have passed them on from one generation to another. Many of these traditions are related to the simple activities of daily life and the crafts of a people who based their economy on subsistence agriculture.

This working of the land and everyday activities are strongly related to this people’s religiosity whose lives were strongly linked to the Church. There are numerous religious traditions which determine the identity of the people of Alvaiázere since they sacralised rituals associated to the religion’s practice, as well as profane practices. One can see the popular wisdom of the elders of the Parish of Pussos and of the Town Council of Alvaiázere, including an intangible heritage, in terms of prayers, beliefs and rituals. Some of the rituals involved home-made remedies which have always proved to be helpful and comforting in difficult times. Over the centuries, a religious calendar determined the best time to perform certain tasks in the fields and the breaks that the workers needed to take from working the land. It also imposed certain times to do household chores, as well as the colours of clothes to be worn and the times of festivities.

One can define people from Alvaiázere as being homogeneous in spite of its idiosyncratic characteristics related to the territory. Nonetheless, one can also conclude that its culture was influenced by the contact established with other regions. Therefore, regarding the traditions and ethnographic heritage of the Parish of Pussos, one can identify influences which were brought to the territory because of migratory movements. At that time, people would return to Alvaiázere with new trends and real-life experiences.

One must refer to the hundreds of “alvaiazerenses” (Portuguese term used to refer to people who live in Alvaiázere) who used to move around to other parts of the country every year in search of work in order to make ends meet. They used to go away from home for short periods of time, for instance, to the regions of Ribatejo, Alentejo and Beira Alta where they worked during the reaping and pruning seasons. These larger scale migratory movements help one identify many of the songs and choreographies as being ours. However, we know as a fact that they were brought to Alvaiázere because of the influence related to these excursions throughout Portugal. Although Rancho Folclórico da Freguesia de Pussos (RFFP) is part of the Alta Estremadura, regarding ethnography and folcklore, one can identify influences from the region of Ribatejo in many songs and choreographies performed by the group.

The Parish of Pussos can be seen as a mosaic in which each piece represents the history and evolution of its inhabitants.


Nowadays, a great social, economic and cultural transformation can be seen in Alvaiázere and consequently, in the Parish of Pussos. This changing process is similar to the one which is occurring across the country and in all of the countries of the European continent. Thus, in the twentieth century, the local economy stopped being based on a subsistence economy. This change can be understood as an attempt to keep up with modern times and tendencies defined by the Industrial Revolution (as well as a way to prevent the exodus of people to urban centres). However, the difficulties that characterise the contemporary world have been associated to a greater difficulty in maintaining jobs in Alvaiázere. In addition, the mobility which is claimed to be the major strength of the 21st century has profoundly changed in both local society and culture. This mobility makes it possible to integrate citizens from countries such as Ukraine, Romania, Brazil, England, China (among others) in Alvaiázere. On the other hand, people from Alvaiázere are immigrating to other countries in search of better living conditions, especially to Brazil, Angola, France, Belgium and Germany.

Despite the inevitable changes caused by these circumstances, an effort is being made in order to preserve and disseminate the territory’s traditions. This work is being done by several social agents and associations related to folklore and ethnography (folkloric groups, marching bands, and choirs).


The garments, shoes and adornments worn by people are seen as part of the people’s identity. The clothes worn were adapted to each season as well as to each one’s daily routine. Back then communities lived isolated from one another, considering the lack of transportation and the absence of mass media (which stimulate the creation of globalized trends and fashions). Each group of people preserved their own peculiarities that embody the ethnographic richness of each region of the country.

The process of collecting information based on the clothing worn has been on-going since the founding of the group, Rancho Folclórico da Freguesia de Pussos, which visually presents the different attires worn in the past. Thus, each element of the group wears clothing according to the recreated social conditions and everyday work situations. Affluent, mediocre and poor peasants wear everyday clothing worn when performing daily tasks as well as clothes worn during special occasions (Sunday clothes). They also use accessories and adornments according to their financial situation as well as to the recreated situation which characterizes the region of Alta Estremadura, namely Alvaiázere and its neighbouring territories.


The dancing activities which brought great joy to the people of Alvaiázere, collected by the Rancho Folclórico da Freguesia de Pussos, include a vocal, instrumental-vocal or vocal-only accompaniment.

Male and female voices rise up in unison to immortalize the tasks and feelings of people devoted to the work of the land. These voices are accompanied by simple instruments which, combined or individually, produce the chords that made people’s feet move intuitively.

This group’s “cantata” includes male and female voices of different age groups who interweave the stories recognized as their own. These voices are accompanied by several musical instruments which are seen as the group’s “soul”, such as the Reco-reco, the “cântaro” (a traditional clay water jar that makes a sound when a leather object hits the top of the jar), the mandolin, the viola, the triangle, concertinas and the accordion, the flute and the “cana” (musical instrument made of bamboo with transversal cuts).

The information collected by the group is systematised and truly represents people’s daily lives. The collected information shows what many of the people that travelled around the country looking to define the Portuguese Ethnography, found in Alvaiázere. For example, Leite de Vasconcelos writes in several volumes of his work (Etnografia Portuguesa, Tentame de sistematização) some of the songs collected in our parish:

“Sun go away, Sun set,
There behind the shed!
Joy for us,
Sadness for the boss.”
(Volume V, page 662)

“From here to my homeland
Everything is path and ground,
Everything is carnations and roses
Planted by my hand ”
(Volume VI, page 639)


After a long day of hard work, what better way to unwind and celebrate than to attend a dance or festival. These dances (“bailaricos”) usually took place in yards and in a small living room of a house (traditionally designed as “casa de fora” or playing room in Portuguese rural culture). The concertina or the fipple flute assumed a central role in the dances and couples got together spinning their bodies to the music. According to Tomaz Ribas (in Danças Populares Portuguesas) "parties (festas) had an important role amongst us all during the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries and it is also known that just as nobility participated in popular parties so did common people in the royal and civic parties which were especially dedicated to them."

Therefore, the importance given to moments of celebration since immemorial times justified the importance that dance has taken in Portuguese society and in this territory. To this day, reports collected make it possible to recreate the way one danced with all its specificities: the lightness of one’s feet, the movements of the hands and arms amongst many other details.

The repertoire of this folkloric group includes several songs and dancing moves which were collected amongst the population of Alvaiázere. The choreographies reflect the assumed centrality in the life of some people, such as the windmill.


The children of our parish, similar to other children in other areas and eras, always found time to have fun in between the small tasks they had to do, such as distribute water, herd cattle or collect water from the fountain, among many others. In fact, as stated by Carlos Neto, in the preface to Mario Neto’s book entitled Brinquedos Rurais Tradicionais, Numa Aldeia da Alta Estremadura, "the behaviour when playing or the act of playing in childhood is a universal language that can be observed in all cultures and geographical areas." However, as the preface also adds, it is a "behaviour that is easier to observe but more difficult to interpret." Thus, this folkloric group has gathered information on the main games which were part of the lives of the children of Alvaiázere, regardless of the difficulty involved in analysing its associated behaviours.

In order to come up with an effective collection of traditional activities and games, this association launched a contest in 2005 where grandparents and grandchildren could participate in a competition entitled "Exchanging and sharing knowledge between generations". As a result, an extraordinary collection of traditional activities and games was presented in an exhibition that was shown to the public in various parts of the country.

Looking at the collection and the inventory of the pieces created, one can easily understand that toys were spontaneously created by children, whose creativity allowed them to transform what they had at their disposal into extraordinary mechanisms, thus creating moments of fun. Among the games and toys collected which are truly representative of the region, one must highlight the "corrupio" (an object made from a piece of tile, a walnut, a piece of twine and a stick), the rag dolls, the “estaladeira” or “estoque” (when pieces of wood were joined to make noise), hikers, the bullet shotgun, the socks ball game (balls made from old socks), the top, the slingshot, the quoit, among many others.


According to Manuel Farias’ book Dignificar o folclore (Dignifying folklore), the selection of instruments used in folklore must be related "to the habits of each region throughout several generations" enriching the musical expression of each territory.

Regarding the Portuguese instrumental roots, the Rancho Folclórico da Freguesia de Pussos uses the accordion "which made its way into Portugal by classical or bourgeois influence, and was gradually adopted by popular performers throughout the 20th century". The concertina (brought by Portuguese soldiers returning from the trenches of Flanders ", the guiro, the traditional clay water jar (the sound is made when a leather object hits the top of the jar) and the triangle. The viola is always used when possible. It is an instrument which derives from the chordophones and "whose origin is related to the Celtic harp and to its court’s adoption in the 12th century and proceeding centuries ". The fipple flute, which became popular in the 19th century, is also used by the group.


In spite of the strong religiosity of Alvaiázere’s people, there was always room in their lives for beliefs and rituals involving home-made medicines, prayers, and conjurations. These beliefs and superstitions were passed on from generation to generation and can still be found and heard in our parish today.

Leite de Vasconcelos registered in his book some of these beliefs, superstitions and spells used by the people to achieve certain purposes whether it be to help or harm others. Societies have always lived between a feeble Machiavellian equilibrium view of the world, in which the forces of good and evil structure the lives of each person. For example, the author notes (in volume IX, page 92 and 93), "if one wants to harm someone, one throws salt at that someone’s door at night. This is called a “salga ou ressalga” which is a type of witchcraft that involves throwing salt. Those who tread on this salt will have bad luck. In other words they may spill olive oil or their pigs may die, among others (Cabaços, Alvaiázere) ".

However, this secular knowledge was mainly used for the practice of good. Today prayers, conjurations and rituals involving home-made remedies to cure herpes zoster, to ward off the evil eye or to help in domestic and agricultural tasks are still well known among us.

When someone suffered from herpes zoster they would seek someone who knew the prayers and who could repeat a ritual until it was finally cured.

With regard to the evil eye, the drops of olive oil in a bowl with water showed the eyes that interfered with the well-being of the envied. Then, using a knife (to the rhythm of a prayer) those eyes were cut out so that all the evil energy came out (of that body or house) and all the good energy would go back in.

In short, superstitions, beliefs, rituals involving home-made remedies, conjurations and prayers were part of the people’s soul who prayed when they got up in the morning (asking "God and Virgin Mary" to “keep them safe all night and day"). At bedtime they would pray for the living and the deceased. They would also pray at any time of the day and in other occasions such as mealtimes, when baking the bread, when they saw a church, when entering and leaving it, when kneeling down, when receiving communion. People would also pray when working in the cornfields, so they would bear fruit. After the harvest, they would say a prayer as a way of giving thanks. This wide range of prayers, which define our land’s identity, has been systematised by the Rancho de Pussos in a serious and committed research study. In fact, dozens of informants have been heard and numerous versions of a same prayer, adapted to the characteristics of those who perpetuated them throughout time, have been registered.


Despite the fact that the town council of Alvaiázere is small in area and located in the interior region of the country, its history and traditions has inspired many writers. Several authors have written about different themes that make it possible for one to retrace part of this territory’s history and to become acquainted with many of the singularities and specificities of its inhabitants.


The Rancho de Pussos lives and relives the history of its people with the community. In fact, this connection with the community has enabled the group to gather a vast collection of items that constitute a collection of items and equipment. This collection includes numerous items which allow one to understand the way our ancestors lived in order to recreate the domestic and rural activities performed by them. These collected pieces are inventoried in order to identify the origin and the social class that used them.

Among the several hundred pieces collected and inventoried, one can find authentic costumes (inner and outer clothing), bed linen, adornments, pieces of furniture, agricultural implements, crockery and kitchen accessories, among many others.


Alvaiázere is characterised by the richness of its land’s flavours and aromas in which the fruit of labour fed its people and kept them from starving over the years. People from Alvaiázere have also shown their determination to keep a collective identity in regards to eating habits.

The working day started at around 6:00 in the morning with breakfast. This first meal consisted of the leftovers from the previous day’s supper. These leftovers were followed by eggnog consisting of eggs mixed with wine and sugar. This meal, as all others, was of great importance because people worked from sunrise to sunset. After working a few hours, at 10:00 am lunch was served. When men preformed tasks such as digging, they would always eat a meal which required using a fork (for example, stewed potatoes with small sardines) in order to assure they had enough strength to tear the land. However, lunch didn´t always require using a fork; small sardines covered a slice of maize’s bread that was baked every Monday. When there was no more bread left, people would ask a neighbour for a loaf and return the loaf the following week. People would eat this meal along with a glass of wine.

At 1:00 pm it was dinner time and this meal was very substantial and was cooked at home. A girl from the house would transport it to the fields where the men were working. The girls would take the meal in a wicker basket covered with a white linen towel. This meal was given to the workers who worked hard and constantly until the sunset indicated the end of another working day. This dinner consisted of cabbage, beans, potatoes and a bit of uncured bacon, which was preserved in salt inside a trunk since the day the pig was slaughtered (tradition). After dinner, workers would take naps on a sackcloth bag under the shade of an olive tree. Naps were taken when the days became longer starting on 25th March (the day of March’s Holy Mother) and ending on 8th September.

At around 5:00 pm, after a few more hours of work, it was time to have another snack. This snack was previously brought to the field along with dinner and it could consist of a slice of bread with small sardines, olives or a very thin slice of cheese that was preserved in olive oil in a clay pot. Once the work day had ended, men returned home and supper was prepared. This meal was cooked using vegetables and other things women had at their disposal and which were grown on the land. Greens, turnips, cabbages, beans, pumpkin, sweet peas, among many others, depending on the season, were the main ingredients of the meal which was made to spare for breakfast the following day. Meals were eaten from a common bowl in an act of sharing among family members.

However, different meals were also prepared for special occasions. For these few days in a families’ calendar, different meals were prepared. For example, on Carnival Day people would eat pork meat (pig’s trotters, uncured bacon, and black pudding were kept specifically for this occasion) in a rural and traditional soup (containing vegetables such as potatoes, beans and cabbage). The meat which wasn´t eaten would be stored in the “salgadeira” (wooden trunk used to salt and preserve meat) where it was sprinkled with salt and kept to be eaten 40 days later when the period of Lent was over. On Holy Thursday, vegetables and lupines had no place at the table, as well as meat which could not be eaten during Lent.

On Easter Sunday, depending on the family’s income, a chicken was killed. It would be partially boiled in water and the stock would be used to make chicken soup. The chicken was then roasted and served as a feast for the family. The only desert ever cooked at home on special occasions was “fatias de mulheres paridas”: slices of stale bread, soaked in egg, fried in olive oil and then sprinkled with brown sugar.

Taste buds with a unique and unrepeatable flavour which is still part of today’s gastronomic particularities in Alvaiázere.

Throughout the years, the Rancho de Pussos has recreated many of these meals and working habits which characterize the people from Alvaiázere and which must be preserved for future generations to witness.


The religiosity of the people of Alvaiázere manifests itself in a multiplicity of rituals which, over the centuries, have been perpetuated with the encounter between different generations. Therefore, attending Vesper’s mass on Saturday evenings, Sunday mornings or other holy days, was not only one’s obligation , but also a moment to unite with the community.

In addition to the usual masses (the vesper’s religious ceremonies on Saturday or Sunday), certain liturgical celebrations also determined the way people lived. Some of these celebrations where mass is celebrated are:

  • In honour of “Nossa Senhora das Candeias” (2nd February);
  • Ash Wednesday (the day after Carnival, which marked the beginning of Lent);
  • Palm Sunday;
  • Holy Thursday (in which the sermon passion was celebrated);
  • Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday;

People also attended masses on:

  • Ascension Thursday;
  • Corpus Christi (which included a procession of faith);
  • Assumption of Our Blessed Lady, popularly known as the mass of the
  • Ascension of Our Lady (15th August);
  • All Saints ' Day (1st November);
  • All Souls ' Day (2nd November);
  • The Immaculate Conception of Mary (December, 8th),
  • Midnight Mass on 24th December, Christmas Day (25th December ) and New Year's Day (1st January).

In addition to the masses celebrated in the council of Alvaiázere, processions and pilgrimages were extremely important to the community. On the day of each church’s patron saint, mass was celebrated and a procession of faith was held in honour of the saint. The pace of the processions was determined by the cadence of the prayers. The participation of children dressed as crusades and angels brought angelic beauty to these processions along with the colours and aromas of “fogaças” (wooden frameworks used to carry traditional cakes later sold in the popular festivals) and “andores” (also a wooden framework used to carry statues of patron saints). Flags with images of saints and sometimes attached offerings also took part of the processions swaying in the wind as proof of people’s generosity. At that time, people were religiously committed to their faith which they believed helped them overcome the difficulties and challenges of everyday life.

Feasts and pilgrimages started with the launch of several fireworks which could be heard throughout the entire county. Families would go to mass in a procession and would take with them a packed meal to be shared among the family members. They would eat this meal under a shade of one of the trees that surrounded the church. They would treat themselves with goodies such as a refreshing drink consisting of brown sugar and lemon juice and a few lupines which were soaked in fresh water. These were the only goods which most households could afford to buy. Only the well-off citizens could buy a cake from a “fogaça”.

In addition to these rituals which were essential to demonstrate one’s faith and which took place in the church, there were others that took place in the community. These are celebrations which are related to the religious calendar, such as “O cantar das almas” ( people would sing during souling) and “Cantares dos Reis” (a tradition in which groups of people would go door to door on the night of 5th January , singing songs that announced the arrival of the Three Wise Men). They would also sing Christmas carols that echoed in every house on this special night when baby Jesus was born.

Another ritual which determined the identity of the people from Alvaiázere’s was the practice of “maiar”. This ritual was practised in order to protect people’s land, animal corrals and houses from evil. On the first of May, people would ”maiar” what they considered most precious to them in order to keep evil out of their houses and to ensure the fertility of the land and crops. Wooden crosses adorned with broom (shrub), spurge-laurel and wild lilies were placed in the middle of the land, on corrals’ and houses’ doors. It was believed that by doing this one would ensure the protection of everything that was essential for one to live a decent life.

These rituals mark the daily life of Alvaiázere’s society even today. Some people still perform these rituals although they do not know their actual meaning. However, people accept, live and carry out these rituals that are recognized as part of our history.




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  Rua Conselheiro José Eduardo
  Simões Baião
  3250-359 Pussos  
  Alvaiázere - Portugal
Terras de Sicó PRODER LEADER Ministerio da Agricultura Mar, Ambiente e Ordenamento do Território União Europeia