Gate Crashing – By Invitation

Just so you know there’s more to my life than writing, let me introduce you to one of the events I regularly attend, put on by the Portuguese community to which my husband, an immigrant from Flores, Azores, belongs.

Altar exhibiting crowns representing Queen Isabella and The Holy Spirit

Portuguese communities all over the world hold Holy Ghost Festas (pronounced FESH-tas) at different times of year to preserve their cultural and religious traditions and keep bonds alive.

You may have witnessed a Festa do Divino Espirito Santo-related activity yourself in or near your town.  A parade with decorated floats, queens dressed like royalty and marching bands is an integral part of the event.

The parade is followed by the serving of sopas e carne (soup and meat), free to all attendees.  Pans of sliced bread and mint ladled with gravy and platters of cabbage and beef are distributed to the tables, with plenty to go around.

Gate Crashing, by invitation

What you may not know, is that festa activities are open to everyone, no matter what nationality. Yes, you can gate crash, by invitation.

You can experience the excitement of sharing a new tradition with perfect strangers without the worry of being asked to leave.  It’s like gate crashing – by invitation.

Go ahead and satisfy your interest in other cultures without traveling a great distance or spending a dime.

However, there’s more to the festa than sopas and a parade.

Each Portuguese community brings its own unique flavor to the celebration that commemorates Portugal’s Queen Isabella feeding of the poor during the 14th century famine in Europe.  Depending on the Portuguese hall you visit, you’ll find such activities as the crowning and presentation of queens, bloodless bullfights, dancing (the Chamarita), auctions (silent and live), carnival rides and games.

One of my favorite festa traditions in the Sacramento area is the Espeto de Carne (Barbecue) picnic, which takes place yearly at the SPHSS Portuguese Hall on the Saturday proceeding the main events on Sunday.

Families bring potluck items and purchase spits of meat (pork or beef) for an outdoor barbecue.


Skewers of beef and pork on the barbecue


Unlike Sunday, this event isn’t free, but for what you get, it’s a bargain.  The pork and beef is marinated and ready to go.  Just step up to the pit and barbecue to your taste.

 To keep the children (and some adults) occupied, there is a Portuguese paper game. Hundreds of tightly rolled and bent squares of paper are sold, seven for a dollar.

Portuguese paper game
If you find a number written inside, you win the corresponding prize.
Prizes for Portuguese paper game


Believe me, the kids love it.  They go home with lots of loot.

Children unrolling papers for prizes


Families gather at tables in an outdoor covered patio to eat and socialize.

After the meal, participants often share desserts.

Gate Crashing, by invitation
Cupcakes by Martina


Become a member if you like.

Gate Crashing, by invitation
2012 Festa President Evelyn ‘Tinker’ Rosa


The Espeto de Carne picnic is an enjoyable way to spend an evening with family, soaking up a festa tradition that has been going on in the Riverside/Pocket area since 1914.


Gate Crashing
Evening comes to an end


For a schedule of the festas in your area go to Festas in California, and for a complete history behind the Holy Ghost Festa tradition go to Connecting with my Portuguese Heritage by Chef Bud.

As always, thanks for stopping by.