This is another (this one pre-Christian!) sweet tradition still going strong on Terceira. One cannot miss the lovely, dollhouse-like chapels located in each village and neighborhood. Each is unique, and most carefully fit the character of their neighborhood, like the carefully handsome gray and white imperio in Porto Martin which is a contrast to the more usual frills.
The imperios are the centers for the Festival of the Holy Spirit, an event that will happen in each village, or city neighborhood, some time between May to October. Lasting a week, it begins with a parade led by a young girl in white, carrying a crown on a pillow. Those trappings are stored away in the chapel the rest of the year.
There is an extensive range of festivity, fireworks, and music. Meat, bread and wine are provided free to all invited! And for the entire following week, a red flag (with the emblem of that crown on it) will be flown at a designated house in the village.
All can stop there, at that house, while the flag is flying, for a free meal. Rather than an imposition, it’s viewed as an honor to be that designated host for that year, and the owners will have constructed an elaborate alter in the home for visitors to marvel at.
The committee, chosen to plan next year’s celebration, begins its work almost a year in advance. The meetings are a social event on their own, lasting into the night with shared alcohol. A huge amount of work goes into preparing the bread and meat necessary to feed all the neighbors. Intense work and play, over generations, breeds strong connections.
It’s an age-old festival of friendship, giving and caring for each other — a celebration of those traits of conviviality and generosity that run strong and deep on this island.