Most everybody has heard of the Festa dos Tabuleiros, which takes place in Tomar roughly every 4 years in July. Actually, there is no set date: a month or two ago the mayor called the populace and asked them if they wanted the festa next year (YEAH!!! roared the crowd) and if anybody was willing to be the mordomo1 (VICTAL!!! Shouted the crowd on behalf of the very popular mordomo of the last festa). So, after the three celebratory firecrackers were thrown in the Praça, it was settled. But there were times when it was every 2 years and some press for a Festa dos Tabuleiros every year. As a matter of fact, this big event in Tomar dates from the 50’s: before that, every parish made its own separate procession in honour of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost Sunday, where young girls dressed in white carried baskets of bread interwoven with flowers to be blessed in church.
Nowadays, only one parish keeps the tradition every year, Carregueiros. Here, the flowers of the fields don’t fear the showers of May, unlike the paper flowers of the big production of Tomar, that made the whole thing move to the rain-proof month of July. Here, the Holy Spirit has not been forgotten, just like in the distant-cousin-festas of the Azores. Here, no tourists, virtually no outsiders, only the local youth donning the traditional clothes capped by the most modern haircuts and fancy sunglasses.
First the Band, followed by the Brotherhood carrying the Holy Spirit’s crown and flags and then the couples with their offerings to the Holy Spirit (or perhaps it´s really Ceres) pass under the windows of Carregueiros’ Main Street and the residents lean out over their best bedspreads to throw petals at the crowd.
The procession takes place between the two churches of the village, and small children carry their little baskets with flowers with great gravity and even greater courage.
The walk is long and the lazy are already waiting at the second church watching the long, colourful snake approach through the fields, up and down, and finally up a steep flight of stairs.
For thirsty onlookers, the “water” man has a mixture of beer and soda (a little beer and a lot of soda, to maintain the decorum of the festivities), and for the hungry there are bolos da cabeça to help them wait for lunch.
After mass everybody walks back to the centre of the village and the first church, where the baskets are blessed. The bread is then distributed among the people, who keep it throughout the year in the hope that they will be blessed with abundance.
The great Festa dos Tabuleiros of Tomar, that attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors, brings together the Tomarense who for a year work tirelessly to transform their city. But the connection with the mystical origins of this celebration is all but lost. Here in Carregueiros, and even more in the Azores and Brazil, the cult of the Holy Spirit still echoes the utopia of a Third Age, which would bring universal and egalitarian love and total freedom which comes from the direct inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
1 the elected administrator and organiser of the event.