It’s been a busy but fun summer for me!  I know I’ve been gone for a bit but it’s because I have been working on launching a new business, which I hope to debut very soon on here!  I’ve also started writing again for Catavino  and you can check out my latest posts there on the link, but I still plan to continue posting on my own blog, which will soon be on a new interface :)  Until then, I wanted to share some of the things I’ve experienced during the summer, so enjoy!

Three adorable little children from a neighboring village all dressed up and ready to do their march!

Back in June, I spent another weekend in the country with my friend Rita and her family at their home in the little aldeia of Avecasta, in the Ribatejo.  That weekend happened to be their village’s festival for São João or Saint John, who is celebrated among numerous little villages in Northern Portugal as well as the very large party for him in June in the city of Porto.     These festas populares or popular parties, are held in basically every locale throughout the summer months.  They typically consist of 2-3 days of celebration with food and drinks and dancing to silly pimba music (the Portuguese version of polka) that include a religious procession with the hailed saint and the Nossa Senhora (Virgin Mary) and marchas populares (popular marches), where the villagers or neighborhood  residents dress up in colorful costumes and parade down the main avenue to do a little sing and dance to a popular Portuguese march played by a small band for the audience.   Lisbon has their popular parties in June as well but for Santo Antonio (Saint Anthony), which you can read my Catavino post  I did on it awhile back.

 

Since Lisbon’s parties are some of the biggest and craziest in the country, they therefore tend to be too chaotic for my enjoyment, but in the little village of Avecasta, they are much more traditional and friendly and I really had a wonderful time!   It’s amazing to see all the hard work this tiny village puts in to making their festas populares great, they make their own costumes and props for the marches and put in a lot of practice for the dances, they do all the decorations, some of them handmade, they make all of the food for the parties and work the drinks and food stands all weekend and the neighboring villages come from all around to enjoy the parties and participate in the marches.  And for Rita and her family, they contribute quite a bit to all of these things!  I even got a chance to help them on Saturday morning rolling out and baking the traditional ferraduras used for saints’ days, which is a very firm but tasty, horseshoe-shaped bread flavored with erva doce (anise) and canela (cinnamon) and is used in both decoration and on sale for people to buy at the festival.  It was a lot of work but fun to do and we baked them in the family’s outdoor brick oven mmm :)

Below is a medley of photos I took throughout the weekend there, showing us making the bread, preparing and conducting the religious procession through the village, the colorful marchas populares and of course some shots of the nighttime dances and festivities.  I highly recommend anyone visiting Portugal in the summer then to visit one of these aldeias or towns during their festas populares, it’s a Portuguese party you don’t want to miss!

Interested in making ferraduras?  Check out this recipe on “Pot On The Stove”s Blog.

Getting started on rolling out the bread, that’s a very big container of dough!

 

Here I am hard at work on the bread!  You grab a hunk of dough and a dab of  homemade extra virgin olive oil to knead in and then roll out :)
Brushing the dough with egg wash
Ferraduras ready to be baked!

 

Just imagine the wonderful aroma of anis and cinnamon that was coming from that oven :)  The olive branch in front is supposed to help prevent them from burning.

Taking a quick break from bread baking to show off the large bucket of fresh alperces (apricots)  that Rita’s uncle brought over from their tree, yum!

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The women decorating the Nossa Senhora                                                                The statue of São João all decorated by the men of the village

The village’s little chapel all lit up for the festival
                        Everyone having fun at the party!
Lots of singing and dancing, I was spun around so much I almost fell! :p

 

                                           More of the decorated ferraduras and flowers :)
The ferraduras all decorated with handmade flowers to be carried during the religious procession
Getting ready for the procession
Here they come!
Rita’s mother and sister holding up the back end of one of the bread and flower structures
Rita’s mother and sister holding up the back end of one of the bread and flower structures

Even the old abandoned stone houses were decorated for the occasion! :)
The march from a neighboring village ready to go!
And another village march :)
One of the props for Avecasta’s march, a replica of one of the traditional houses :)
Rita, her mother and the villagers of Avecasta performing their march!
Avecasta was the best of the marches!  And what a fun party they throw! :)Enjoy the rest of your summer! 
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