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June 17, 2009 > Holy Ghost celebrations, rich in heritage

Holy Ghost celebrations, rich in heritage

By Miriam G. Mazliach

The tradition of Holy Ghost festivals first came to California via Portuguese mariners from the Azore Islands, lured here during the Gold Rush in 1849 by the thoughts of "Gold in them 'thar hills." Eventually, they settled into the fertile agricultural regions where they became an integral part of the farming and dairy industries.

Organized by Portuguese heritage groups, the Holy Ghost festivals typically are held over two to three days and feature a special procession preceding a Catholic Mass, with participants wearing elaborate gowns and flowing capes. Following the religious service, a meal of traditional sopas (meat soup) is served to attendees.

The significance of this celebration dates back to the time of the 13th century. Queen Isabel of Portugal known to be dedicated to helping the poor and homeless, snuck out to feed the poor with bread hidden inside her cape. When confronted by her unkind husband, King Dinis who asked what she was carrying, Queen Isabel told him that they were roses. Surprisingly that is exactly what fell out of her cape, roses not bread. To commemorate this miracle, Holy Ghost festivals are held celebrating Queen Isabel's compassion toward the less fortunate.

Locally, three of these festivals, also known as "festas," are fast approaching. The first is in Hayward, followed by Mission San Jose in Fremont and a large event in Newark. Traditionally Holy Ghost festivals begin the fifth Sunday after Easter and continue until August.

According to Manuel Costa, President of Hayward I.D.E.S. (Brotherhood of the Divine Holy Spirit), this year's event should draw several thousand people and will have a wonderful parade, dance, Mass and sopas as in previous years.

The organization's state historian, Joanne Camara, says, "This will be Hayward's 111th celebration and there will be over 40 visiting groups involved in the festival." To mark the occasion, two Portuguese marching bands, from San Jose and San Leandro, are performing. On Saturday evening, last year's Queen will carry crowns to church for a symbolic exchange of crowns with this year's appointed Queen. On Sunday there will be a Catholic Mass recited in Portuguese.

Another Holy Ghost Festival is presented by the 185-member Mission San Jose I.D.E.S. Chairman, Jess Loya says, "Our celebration is unique. We have the parade on the Dominican Sisters' grounds, and sometimes the route even goes through the Priory."

"Because we don't have a large kitchen facility at the Mission, we barbecue tri-tip beef outdoors instead," explains Loya. "The meat begins marinating four days prior to the festival. Then volunteers Mike and Dave Andrade trim and cook the 400 pounds of meat in a rolling barbecue pit. Frank Correia generously donates $750 towards the cost of the meat, representing the price a cow would cost."

As part of the festivities there will be a wine and beer booth, an auction, quermese (knickknacks) and a raffle. Also new this year is a cake roulette booth.

Newark's Holy Ghost Festival will include a parade along Thornton Boulevard, Mass at St. Edward Catholic Church as well as festivities and sopas at the Pavilion.

To fully appreciate Holy Ghost Festivals, it is best to experience them firsthand. Whether you wish to revel in the pageantry, attend religious services or sample tasty foods, these festas are a delight for the heart, the mind and the spirit.

Holy Ghost Festivals:

Saturday, June 20 and Sunday, June 21
I.D.E.S. Council No. 14
I.D.E.S. Hall, 1105 C Street, Hayward
Hall: 510-581-8518
June 15 - 19, 2009 - 7:00 p.m. -Rosary: Hall Chapel
Saturday, June 20 - 7:30 p.m. - Parade to All Saints Church where Queens exchange the crowns
Followed by dance and presentation of the Queens at the hall.
Sunday, June 21 - 11:30 a.m. - Festa of the Holy Spirit, Sopas, Auction, Dance
12:30 p.m. Mass

Sunday, June 28
I.D.E.S. Council No.1
43148 Mission Boulevard, Mission San Jose, Fremont
Contact Jess Loya: 510-657-9446
10:45 a.m. - Parade forms at the Old Mission on the Dominican Sisters Grounds
Mass at 12:00 Noon
Bar-B-Que Tri-Tip is served, Auction, Raffle and Quermese

Saturday, July 25 and Sunday, July26
S.E.S. Council #8
6430 Thornton Avenue, Newark
Hall: 510-793-4062

Saturday, July 25 - Mass at 11 a.m. followed by Bodo de Leite, Various Events and Dance in the evening
Sunday, July 26 - 10 a.m. Festa do Divino Espirito Santo Parade, Mass, Sopas
Auction and Dance

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