The month of August is fast-approaching and so are some of New England’s most popular traditional Portuguese festivals (festas).

The first weekend of August is home to the Feast of the Blessed Sacrament (the “largest Portuguese festival in the world”) in New Bedford, MA.

“Brinquinho” – a traditional Madeiran folk instrument

The festival – whose first edition was celebrated in 1915 – will be celebrating its 103rd edition August 3-6, 2017 at the Madeira Field. Madeira wine will certainly be flowing over the course of the weekend along with the sounds of the brinquinho – a traditional Madeiran folk instrument. The festival also features Portuguese and American entertainment across four stages. Highlights include Fado performances in the courtyard of the Museum of Madeiran Heritage as well as the annual parade on Sunday.

The Blessed Sacrament’s 2017 President, Steven Duarte, recently sat down with the folks at The Rhode Show to chat about it. To learn more about the festival’s schedule of events and history, visit their website.

In nearby Fall River, the Grandes Festas do Espírito Santo da Nova Inglaterra (Festival of the Holy Ghost) will be taking place August 23-28.

“Bodo de Leite”

The Grandes Festas do Espírito Santo began in 1986, thanks to the idea of an Azorean immigrant, of uniting all the various local groups dedicated to the Holy Ghost. The first group of celebrants joined together at Kennedy Park in Fall River, celebrating at St. Anne’s Church nearby. As customary, this year the festivities open with the serving of the Holy Ghost soups on August 23rd at Kennedy Park. The highlight of the festival is the traditional “Cortejo Etnográfico”, an annual parade with hundreds of participants, which will take place on Saturday, the 26th. Ranchos folclóricos (folklore groups), philharmonic bands, and marchas come from all over the East Coast to participate. This year’s night entertainment will count with the performances of Roberto Leal and Agata. Dignitaries and representatives from mainland Portugal and the Azores also travel to the festival – one of the largest of Azorean heritage in the world. (CLICK HERE FOR MORE FEAST INFORMATION)

“Cortejo Etnográfico”

According to the organization, some of this year’s distinguished guests include: 

  • Bishop D. João Lavrador of the Diocese of Angra do Heroísmo, Terceira
  • José Luís Carneiro, Secretary of State of the Portuguese Communities
  • Rui Bettencourt, Adjunct Regional Secretary of the Presidency of the Regional Government of the Azores
  • Paulo Teves, Regional Director of the Communities of the Government of the Azores.

Lastly, the festa in honor of Our Lady of Fátima will be taking place over Labor Day weekend in Ludlow, MA. This year, the 67th annual festa will be celebrated. 2017 marked the 100th anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady in Fátima, Portugal. The first apparitions took place in 1917, between May and October, witnessed by three shepherd children — Lúcia, Francisco and Jacinta.

Starlight Band

Pope Francis visited Fátima this year to honor the 100th anniversary of the apparitions and to celebrate the canonization of Francisco and Jacinta as saints. In Ludlow, Archbishop Seán O’Malley will be presiding over the Sunday evening mass, just before the candle-lit procession on Sunday evening, one of the weekend’s highlights and a breathtaking experience.

This year’s entertainment includes performances from Jorge Ferreira and Starlight. Festival-goers come from all over the East Coast and as far north as Canada to pray to the Virgin Mary and take part in the cultural festivities.

For anyone who is unable to visit Portugal this summer, here are some great opportunities to celebrate our traditions and feel Portugal in the USA!

Enjoy the festas!


About Author

Diana Rodrigues is a first-generation Portuguese-American with roots in Arcos de Valdevez. She is based in New England and is involved in many Portuguese-American organizations including the International Portuguese Music Awards (IPMA) and the Young Portuguese-Americans. Connect with her on social media at @diana_rdrgs.

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