Holy Spirit Festival Parade, Surrey, 1 June 2014

Four SKs from Pope John Paul 1 Assembly #2485 joined SKs from Msgr. Clinton Assembly #2307, St. John Bosco Assembly #3120 and St. Maximillian Maria Kolbe Assembly #3259 making a twenty-two man Honour Guard for the 2014 Portuguese Holy Spirit Festival parade on Sunday June 1st. The Honour Guard was led by the Master of the 4th Degree in BC & Yukon, SK Antonio Pimentel.

The Holy Spirit Festival Parade is an annual event which is preceded by the Mass at 11:00 AM. The 4th Degree Honour Guards have participated in this parade for many years, giving it lots of pomp and colour. Rev. Fr. George Edattukaran (St. James, Abbotsford) has been saying mass at this event for many years. Mass is said in English, but most of the readings and hymns are in Portuguese. After the Mass, parade participants begin assembling outside the “basement church hall” in preparation for the procession.

The annual festival is organized by The Irmandade Portuguese Cultural Center, located at 12918 112th Ave in Surrey.

The parade route extends about 1/2 km along 122 Avenue, 128A Street, 111 Avenue, and back to the Centre.

This year participants were blessed with a pleasant breeze and lots of sunshine. After the parade, the Honour Guard were guests at a reception on the main floor of the Portuguese Center and treated to the traditional “Soupas” – boiled beef with mint and bread soaked in the beef juice, with lots of good Portuguese wine to go with it!

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The Master, SK Antonio Pimentel, has provided this description of this centuries old tradition…

Linked to Franciscan mysticism and the charitable spirit of Queen Elizabeth of Portugal (16th century), the Festivals of the Holy Ghost came to the Azores with the first settlers. The invocation of the Holy Ghost at the time of the natural catastrophes that struck the archipelago and the fame of the consequent miracles together with the hard life and isolation of the islands, all contributed to making the devotion sink deep roots and persist in the Azores, while disappearing in Portugal with rare exceptions.

Moreover, Azorean emigrants carried the devotion to Brazil, America and Africa, where the old ceremonies are now repeated in all traditional splendor. The Holy Ghost Festivals are also held in Hawaii, where there is a large Azorean community. Of a charitable nature, the festivals are aimed at distributing food to the needy.

Everything starts on Trinity Sunday with the drawing of the names among the “brothers” to determine who will be the “mordomos” or stewards of the festival in the following year. The first to be chosen keeps the insignia of the Holy Ghost (crown and scepter on a silver plate) in his house until Low Sunday, when the festivities begin with ”balhos” or dances accompanied by guitars and singing while the “throne” of the Holy Ghost is set up and profusely decorated in the “stateroom”, the main apartment of the house.

The “coronation” ceremony is then held in the parish church, the crown is placed on the head of a child or adult called the “emperor” who carries in procession the symbols of his dignity to the house of another steward in a ceremony called “disposing of the crown” where it is kept for a week.

Afterwards, on every Sunday, the crown, scepter and plate are passed on to the houses of the other stewards until the feast day itself, when they are displayed in the “Imperio” (literally, empire) or chapel.

On that day the beef, offered to fulfill promises, is made into the typical “Holy Ghost soups” and the fragrant “Alcatra” (meat dish) accompanied by various types of bread and “massa sovada” (sweet bread made from kneaded dough).

The aromatic red wine called “vinho de cheiro” is consumed by all the inhabitants of the parish and its visitors, in an atmosphere of great rejoicing. The festivals are never lacking in “foliões” or jesters, who are entrusted with the task of announcing, directing and animating the ceremonies with singing accompanied by music on a drum and cymbals, called “testos”. In rural parishes the festival ends with a lively and colourful “tourada a corda” (bullfight on a rope).

The Festivals of the Holy Ghost extend from early spring to the end of the summer, spreading joy all over the islands.