Information on Holy Ghost Festas
The Aҫorean tradition of the festa of the Holy Ghost is based on the miracle of a 14th century Queen Isabel of Portugal, who was a champion of the poor and helped organize ways to feed them when earthquakes, and subsequent famine, ravaged the Aҫores. The retelling of this miracle deserves a blog of its own so for this short explanation, I’ll say that her deep faith in the Holy Spirit created a miracle where her bread hidden in the folds of her dress to flowers. This saved her from being caught in an act of defiance that wouldn’t have ended well for her otherwise. Please note, there are other versions of this explanation.
Azoreans in the United States have been celebrating the Holy Ghost Festa for more than 100 years. California is home to the largest Aҫorean population in the country, with over 85% of California’s Portuguese population being of Aҫorean descent. Taking that into consideration explains why there are many festas!
The Holy Ghost Festa is Based in Catholicism but Not Hosted or Organized by the Church. Because the original Portuguese immigrants formed fraternal organizations in order to support their assimilation while also maintaining their traditions, they are the organizers and hosts of the Holy Ghost festas. According to the Portuguese Heritage Publications of California, Inc., there have been as many as 149 Holy Ghost festas celebrated by the Portuguese community in California. That’s not to imply that there are still that many still celebrated annually.
The festas held during the months of April and May in California, are to celebrate the Holy Ghost miracle. There’s an annual calendar of festas that happen each year on the same cycle, but not all are Holy Ghost festas. The season for the Holy Ghost festas is in the spring beginning in April through June of each year. But other festas continue throughout the summer and into the fall.
Each festa, whether it’s one devoted to the Holy Spirit or to other sacred entities, has many moving parts. There’s no way to do justice here to all of them. But here are the main elements found in the Holy Ghost festa. The festa is open to the public without admission costs. No one must pay for the main meal served, but donations are greatly appreciated. There’s always a parade representing Queen Isabel and her courts. There’s always a Catholic mass associated with the celebration. There’s a session of praying the rosary. There's music and dancing. And there's fun.
Written By : Margaret Resendes Peek
The Story of Queen Isabel
Queen Isabel of Aragon, wife of King Diniz of Portugal, saw her subjects suffering from the devastation of drought followed by a long famine. As she made her trips to visit her sisters at the Monastery of Santa Clara convent, Queen Isabel would secretly take bread from the palace and carry it in her apron to feed the poor and hungry. One day when King Dinis confronted her as to what she was concealing in her apron, she revealed her apron to him and the bread she was carrying had transformed into red roses. This made the King angry and suspicious since red roses would not be blooming in winter. God had honored her generosity, love & devotion to her people by miraculously replacing the bread with roses. In return, her people were delivered from famine and drought. As a gift to the church she layed her jeweled crown on the altar. In 1625, Pope Urban VIII canonized Queen Isabel.