Regional Traditions

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Childbirth Masses
From 16th to 24th December, Madeira celebrates one of its main Christmas traditions: the Childbirth Masses.

All around the Island, these nine Masses represent the nine months of the Virgin Mary's pregnancy, announcing the Birth of Jesus and excel in their Catholic hyms, namely the "litany" sung by tuned choirs.
At the end of the Masses, the merriment takes place in the churchyard, where locals gather after the Mass, in a lively reunion where the local delicacies and drinks are shared amongst everyone.

These masses are usually celebrated around six o´clock in the morning
Mass of the Rooster
The Mass of the Rooster is a mass which is held at midnight from 24th to 25th December and is celebrated after Christmas Eve dinner.

It’s called Midnight Mass due to the legend of a rooster, believed to have been the first animal to witness the birth of baby Jesus, causing the rooster to crow, announcing the birth of Christ every Christmas.
Regional Costume
The traditional costume of Madeira is the subject of much speculation regarding its origin and evolution. It is supposed that it was affected by several domestic and foreign influences, especially Minhota, Moorish, African and Flemish. It is common to see florists and restaurant employees dressed in the traditional costume of Madeira.

The red colour is predominant in women’s clothing. In Ponta do Sol, married and unmarried women wore red cloaks, while the widows wore blue cloaks.

The type of clothing in Funchal, Machico and Santa Cruz consisted of a coloured or striped wool skirt, a red vest and bodice and a blue skullcap.

Men’s clothing has not undergone many changes. It consists of white shorts pleated at the knee and a pleated shirt that may or may not be embroidered.

The boots, called  bota-chã’, made of tanned cow skin, are used both for men and women. The top of the boot is turned down to the ankle and  women boots are adorned with a red ribbon.

Sweet Necklace

The traditional sweet necklaces are sold in the typical religious festivities which are held in Madeira.

In the old days, when there was not much money, the sweet necklace was the children’s delight.

Today, times have changed and the number of sellers and varieties of sweets has grown.

Dough Dolls
The dough doll is traditionally found at festivities, and was on the verge of disappearance, since for a long time the children neglected the custom. This tradition has recently been taken up by the Casa do Povo do Curral das Freiras who invited residents of the parish to learn to shape these figures.

It is made of flour, water, yeast, egg or tangerine colouring and some salt. The ingredients are all mixed together and the resulting dough is crafted by hand in order to give life to the traditional doll. Seeds are used for the "eyes" and coloured ribbons for the hair and clothes. Afterward it goes into the oven for 20 minutes and is ready to be sold.
In the Madeira Islands, all parishes celebrate religious festivities and pilgrimages, most of which are organized by the “festeiro” [host] - a person who pays the expenses of the festivity and the religious celebrations.
In these festivals there is always entertainment, with philharmonic and modern bands.
The areas and streets surrounding the church are decorated with colourful flags raised on wooden masts, ornamented with laurel or boxwood.

The wooden stalls ornamented with bay branches and other bushes are a pausing point for most visitors. At these typical stalls we can find a little bit of everything from sweets, and toys, to drinks, and varieties of food, among other things.
The food and drink stalls are among the most sought after at Madeira’s festivals. Always present are the traditional "Espetada Regional" (Beef Skewers), “bolo do caco (typical bread) with garlic butter, the regional wine or the traditional orangeade “laranjada”.
There locals usually gather to have the typical "Espetada Regional" (Beef Skewers), made with chunks of beef skewered on a bay branch are grilled directly over the coals on grills placed near the stalls. Men and women gather near the fire in a festive atmosphere.
Bom Jesus Festival
The Festival of the Blessed Sacrament, better known as the "Bom Jesus of Ponta Delgada” religious festivity, is celebrated on the first Sunday of September, in the parish of Ponta Delgada, São Vicente.

In the past the festivity had a strong religious character, and was visited by thousands of pilgrims who travelled by foot on the paths that linked the south to the north of the island, in a journey that could take 2 or 3 days.

Nowadays the pilgrimages are no longer carried out in the same way, as pilgrims take their own cars or travel to Ponta Delgada on public transportation.
Today it is still one of the largest festivals of Madeira island.
Popular Saints
Throughout Madeira island, the month of June is synonymous with celebration in praise of the three popular saints. All parishes celebrate these festivities more or less intensively.

The Festivities in honour of Saint Anthony are centred in the parish with the same name, in the municipality of Funchal. The night of the 12th to the 13th of June is marked by the traditional Portuguese parade called “marchas populares”.
The Feast of Saint John is celebrated on 24th June. In the past, the Chapel of São João da Ribeira, in Funchal, was one of the most popular festivals in the entire region. Nowadays the entertainment is centred around Praça do Carmo, in Funchal, with the well-known "Altars of St. John”.

The Feasts of Saint Peter, the patron saint of fishermen, is held from 28th to 29th June, when all eyes turn towards the village of Ribeira Brava. All roads lead to this festival, also known for its musical entertainment, popular marches and for the boat trip that some maritime transport companies carry out between Funchal and Ribeira Brava.
Our Lord of Miracles Festival
One of the most important Madeiran festivals happens in the month of October, in the municipality of Machico, east of Madeira.
The Festivity of Our Lord of Miracles commemorates the mudslide that occurred on 9 October, 1803, which destroyed the chapel where the precious figure of Our Lord of Miracles was located, dragging it into the sea. According to legend, the figure appeared three days later and was taken to Funchal’s Cathedral. In 1813, the image was again restored to the chapel of Our Lord of Miracles, in Machico.

Our Lady of Mercy Festival - Caniçal
The tradition of the Festival of Our Lady of Mercy is celebrated every year in Caniçal parish. Thousands of people participate in the festivity in honour of Our Lady of Mercy, which is held on the third weekend of September.

This festivity is very similar to other religious festivals in Madeira. The particularity of this festival is that the procession is made by sea to the small chapel located at the top of the hillside. The ritual is as follows: on Saturday afternoon, there is a procession that goes to the chapel to get the figure, which then remains in church of Caniçal overnight. On Sunday, the people join again in procession to return the image to its place of origin, thus ending the festivities.
Day of the Seven Ladies - Monte and Graça Festival
15th August became known in days past as the "Day of the Seven Ladies", which refers to the seven places in Madeira where the Marian Feasts are celebrated, marking the Solemnity of the Assumption of Our Lady.
In all these festivities, the religious celebration is accompanied by a typical Madeiran festival, in some cases becoming the largest festival in the area because it coincides with the patron saint of the parish or place.

The festivities are held annually, on this date, in the following locations:
  • Our Lady of Monte: Parish of Monte (Funchal) and in Lamaceiros (Porto Moniz);
  • Our Lady of Grace: Parish Estreito da Calheta, Estreito de Câmara de Lobos and Graça (Porto Santo);
  • Our Lady of Guadalupe: parish of Porto da Cruz;
  • Our Lady of Ajuda: Serra de Água
Monte Festival
On 15th August, the patron saint of Funchal and of the entire Diocese is celebrated. More than a tradition, which has been kept for many years, it is above all an expression of faith, which attracts thousands of people to the centre of the parish. The festivity extends from Largo da Fonte to Babosas, known for the Chapel destroyed during the storm of February 2010 - a new project will be built on the same site.

The highlight of this festival happens the day before, on August 14th. In the past the pilgrims came on foot, on pilgrimage. Nowadays people arrive from everywhere in their private cars, by bus and more recently some people choose to use the cable car which connects Funchal to Monte.

The Festival is marked by great entertainment, spontaneously promoted by improvised groups that at the sound of the accordion, the “rajão” and other musical instruments, play challenge songs that attract the attention of passersby. Hence the popular expression "On 15th August, all roads lead to Monte".

The decorations, which deserve special mention, are accompanied by the traditional food and drink stalls. The "Espetada Regional" (Beef Skewers), the “bolo do caco” bread and the typical “carne de vinha-d'alhos” sandwich (meat marinated in wine and garlic) are always present at the festival.

The next day is highlighted by the religious aspect. It is the culmination of the “novenas” leading up to 15th August - nine masses serving to prepare the festivities. The religious ceremony is presided over by the Bishop of the Diocese of Funchal. It is also the day when the faithful fulfil their pledges carrying candles. 
Saint Martin Festival

The 11th November is celebrated by both the Catholic Church and people who take the opportunity to roast the last chestnuts. The Saint Martin Festival is very illustrative of the faith and traditions of the people of Madeira.

Although it is not known for certain when Saint Martin began to be celebrated in the region, the truth is that it is an ancient custom. Tradition dictates that on the eve of Saint Martin the wine is tasted and the roasted cod is enjoyed. This ancient tradition is still practiced today.

A grand festival dedicated to its patron saint is held at St. Martin Church, where the traditional pilgrimages once took place.

Madeiran locals are passionately fond of music.

Ancient chronicles describe great religious pilgrimages and pagan feasts in which "many instruments such as guitars, flutes, ‘rabis’ and bagpipes” joined in a thunder of drums and drum basses, which resulted in the Madeiran traditional music, a musical genre that is played at home, at parties and festivals and is characterized by challenges and lively rhythms. Particularly noteworthy are the “charamba” and “mourisca”, which are sung, and the “Bailinho”, which can be sung or danced. There are also the chanting games.

Agricultural work songs were once also very common, but are threatened with extinction. Religious music is also frequent: songs of kings, the Holy Ghost and Christmas.
Portable stringed instruments are the most prominent among the rich instrumentation used in Madeiran folk music. 
Folklore is understood in each region or country, as a genuine manifestation of the people’s cultural traditions.

In Madeira island, there are folklore shows all year round, particularly during the celebrations of certain agricultural tasks, such as harvesting, reaping and digging, and during religious festivities, festivals and pilgrimages.

Nowadays, the folk tradition continues with folk groups through their dances. The great mark of Madeiran folklore is expressed by the “bailinho”, accompanied by voices and music and the well-known “challenges”, where two singers alternately improvise lyrics of social satire nature. The typical dances range between the “chamarrita”, the “charamba”, the “mourisca” and the “bailinho das camacheiras”.

The music and dance of Madeiran folklore describe love, pastoral traditions and the saddest moments in the history of the island. The treading of grapes is symbolized in the dance steps. The "Ponta de Sol dance" where dancers have their heads down, represents the time of slavery, as a symbol of submission of the slave to the master.

The instruments used in Madeiran folklore are the traditional instruments such as the “machete”, the “rajão”, the “braguinha”, the fiddle, the wire guitar, the accordion, the triangle and the traditional “brinquinho”, locally made.
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