Boys Festival (Festa dos Rapazes), a Christmas tradition - All About Portugal
Boys Festival (Festa dos Rapazes) is one of the most emblematic Portuguese Christmas traditions and a symbol of the Bragança Christmas.
Boys Festival (Festa dos Rapazes) is one of the most emblematic Portuguese regional Christmas traditions and a cultural symbol of Bragança, one of the most Portuguese northern cities. This celebration, associated with the cult of Saint Stephen, is part of the winter solstice festivities that are held in the region between December 24th and January 6th (between Christmas and Epiphany) and in ancient times were dedicated to the cult of the Sun. After the advent of Christianity, the Church adapted this celebration, giving it a Christian character and integrating it in celebrations of Christmas.
Boys Festival (Festa dos Rapazes) tradition
Since the early days of December, young boys go each night around the village, announcing the Festival with the sound of bagpipes.
On December 24th, at dawn, young men dressed in costumes made of burlap clothes with tin or wood masks and wearing cow bells around their waists go around the streets playing bagpipes and drums and singing ancient chants, raising funds for the church. They are called chocalheiros, zangarões, mascarões and caretos.
After Mass, a group of young men (above 16 years old), wearing the masks, go from door to door demanding the king’s tribute – usually sausages, cheeses, bread and wine. Then they occupy strategic positions in order to scare the inhabitants, namely women and children, forcing them to gather in the village square where wish all a Merry Christmas and make sarcastic comments on the most important events that happened along the year.
On the eve of the 26th the boys gather for a supper and elect next year Mordomos (persons uncharged with the Festival organization). The Mordomos have a distinctive hat decorated with red strips hanging on their backs that is passed on each year.
The meal is followed by a ball attended also by the village girls, which ends the celebrations.