The Trays Festival is held every four years in early July. It has origins in the Cult of the Holy Spirit, which began in the 16th century, but we can see in it traces of earlier harvest festivals, such as in the profusion of flowers and the fact that bread and ears of wheat are present on the trays.
The Procession, which is the high point of the festivities, takes place alongside a wealth of cultural and recreational events, the most important of which are the Boy’s Procession, the “Mordomos’s” Procession, the decorating of the popular streets, the popular games, the Partial Processions, the popular parties and the “Pêza”.
The Festival starts on Easter Sunday when the Crowns and Standards representing all the parishes are brought out in a processionenlivened by pipers, drummers, firework launchers and bands. From this point on, this is repeated seven times but with the Crowns and Standards of the town and just a few on the parishes each time. As children are not allowed to take part in the big procession, the Boy’s procession was created so that the children could have their own festival. The Boy’s procession is an exact copy of the adults one but it in held on the previous Sunday. Children from Nursery and Primary school take part.
On the Friday before the Main Procession there is the “Mordomo’s” Procession, simbolising the entrance into the town of the sacrificial oxen, which, in the past, would have been slaughtered, and the meat distributed to the poor. In the past this procession was called the Procession of the Holy Spirit; today it is an impressive procession of carts and people on horseback with pairs of oxen at the head.
The streets of the historic centre are closed to traffic and decorated with millions of hand made paper flowers, which represent months of intense but enthusiastic work.
On the morning of the Saturday before the Main Procession, the Partial Processions come from the parishes; hundreds of Trays that will be paraded the next day. That afternoon, the traditional popular games are held in the Municipal Stadium (races with jars and barrels, tugs of war, climbing the greasy pole, quoits).
On the Sunday, the Procession of Trays starts with the pipers and drummers. Next come the Standard of the Holy Spirit and the three Crowns of the Emperors and Kings. After that come the Standards and Crowns of all the parishes.
The Procession is an immense weaving train of colour and music, made up for hundreds of pairs: the girls in white, with a broad ribbon tied across their front, carrying the tray on their heads; the boys in white shirts with sleesves rolled up, black trousers, a berent on their shoulder and a tie that matches the colour of the girl’s ribbon.
The triumphal carts of breads, meat and wine, pulled by the symbolic sacrificial oxen, bring up the rear of the procession.
The Trays the symbol and main decorative feature of the Festival of Trays. It should be the same height as the girl who carries it. It is decorated with paper flowers, greenery and ears of wheat. It also made up with 30 bread rools of a special size, each wighing 400 grams, threaded onto 5 or 6 canes. The later emerge from a wicker basket, wich is wrapped in a white embroidered cloth, and on top it isfinished off with Cross of Christ or a Dove of the Holy Spirit, the girl’s outfit consists of a long, white dress with a coloured ribbon across the front; the boy’s one is a simple, white shirt with sleeves rolled up, dark trousers, black beret on the shoulder and a tie the same colour as the girl’s ribbon.
On the base a white sheet symbol of purity
30 loaves represented by the 30 pieces of Judas
Flowers that represent fertility and harvest (now in paper)
On the top, the cross of Christ or the dove symbol of the Holy Spirit
Only the girls can bring the Tray on the head and if the boy wants help her, can bring the Tray but on his shoulder
The Figurado of Barcelos is an unavoidable art, constituting itself as one of the greatest traditional productions in Portugal, due to the relevance that work in clay has acquired over the centuries and its connection to people and the region.
This art was mainly concentrated in the north-eastern part of the city, which was richer in clay and water
Figurado is a certified production since 2008. This fact makes Barcelos the first municipality to certify this popular artistic expression, which is the identity root of a territory that sought to enhance and affirm its unique art.
Assorted figuration was the designation adopted for the statuary pieces of popular expression, produced in the pottery tradition region of the current municipality of Barcelos, where they fit from small pieces entirely modeled by hand, to pieces produced in small molds or through mixed techniques used in this production. This group also included pieces modeled by hand, without mold, such as pitas, harmonicas and some roosters. Pieces started in mold and finished by hand, such as musicians and oxen, belong to the same universe. In the same way, pieces produced from a base form, raised on the potter’s wheel and which were also finished by hand, such as wheel cocks, nightingales and bugles, are included in this group. With the same designation of figurative, the pieces produced in mold were still known, but with a naive or primitive finish.
The diversity of this production is born from the skilled hands of baristas who reproduce everything they see and feel. The themes on which this production is mirrored are, in turn, religion and festivals, bestiary, daily life, various figures and miniatures. In this context, it is important to highlight the most characteristic pieces within each theme. In the theme of religion and festivals, representations of Christs and Saints predominate, as well as religious practices. The world of the fantastic, represented by the bestiary presents monsters, devils and deformed figures that unite the sacred and the profane in the Figurado. Representations of scenes from rural life, crafts, professions and dolls dominate the range of Figurado pieces, showing the importance of everyday life as inspiration for this production. In the category of single figures, emblematic pieces appear, such as roosters, hedgehogs, doves, oxen and goats. Among others, the famous Rooster stands out (you can read my post on September 1, 2020 https://lisbon-a-love-affair.com/2020/09/01/the-rooster-of-barcelos-how-was -this-portuguese-symbol-born /)
As for the mode of production, modeling, molding and turning are the techniques used in the production of the Figurado de Barcelos, used alone or combined with each other, with modeling being the most important and most valued, since the personal intervention of the craftsman is totally or practically total.
Finally, considering the identity of the Figurado, it will be impossible not to mention one of the most charismatic names of this art: Rosa Ramalho, the figure that drew the attention through which this unique art spread in the most urban and elitist environment.
Rosa Ramalho learned to work with clay very early, but abandoned this art to dedicate herself to her family. It was when she was a widow, aged 68 and illiterate, that she began to produce the pieces that made her famous. Discovered in 1950 for the collector Alexandre Alves Costa during his research on popular art. His works are dramatic and creative and show great imagination at the same time.
The Figurado de Barcelos, certified artisanal product, is currently one of the largest artisan productions in the county. This production started as a subsidiary activity of pottery, in their spare time and using small portions of clay, small pieces were made for children to play, namely figures of people or animals where a whistle or musical instruments were placed at the base of them (ocarinas, nightingales, cuckoos, harmonicas, among others). The Figurado de Barcelos is distinguished from any other production, assuming unique characteristics, both in shapes and colors. If you want to watch the making of a figure, I leave this video here.