Portuguese Holy Spirit festivals

Portuguese Holy Spirit festivals

Last week, a tragic fire killed four women preparing for a traditional Portuguese Holy Spirit festival this past weekend in Fall River, Mass. What is this religious festival? The Boston Globe gives us an idea. I gather they’re not unlike the saint festivals put on by Italian immigrants and descendants in the North End of Boston every summer, a combination of religious observance and piety along with a secular street party. Unfortunately, in recent years the parties have overtaken the religious observance in the popular view, but faith is still a vital component.

The festivals are a unique expression of devotion to the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Christian Trinity, that is closely associated with the intense religiosity of the Azores, a Portuguese archipelago in the northern Atlantic. As residents of the Azores immigrated to the Americas, they brought the festival with them.

``It’s simply the most important tradition in the Azores,” said Manuela Bairos, Portugal’s consul general in Boston.

There’s more in the story about historic tension within the Church over some of the secular aspects of the festival (I’m sure some have worried about too much superstition or too much partying) as well as the historical origins.

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