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July 23, 2013 > Holy Ghost Festival returns for 91st year

Holy Ghost Festival returns for 91st year

Submitted By Luis Freitas

On Saturday, July 27 and Sunday, July 28, Newark's Sociedade Do Espirito (S.E.S.) will continue its 91-year tradition celebrating the compassion of Queen Isabel and miracles that led to Portugal's relief from famine in the 14th century.

According to legend, during the reign of King Diniz, his wife, Queen Isabel (Elizabeth) was saddened by her starving subjects. She prayed to God for help. One story says she pledged her jewels as a token of her faith. When the king found her with the jewels hidden in her apron and demanded to see what was hidden, the jewels changed into white roses. It was winter and roses could not grow at that time... a miracle!

The next day, two abandoned ships appeared in the harbor, one with grain and another with animals. The queen ordered that bread be made and the animals prepared to feed the poor. She crowned one of the poorest men to be "emperor" and invited all to a great feast. So the Holy Ghost Festival tradition began.

The Holy Ghost Festa tradition was brought to the Bay Area by Portuguese sailors, primarily from the Azore Islands who dominated European exploration on the high seas in the 15th century. The lure of adventure and the shortage of land on the Azore Islands prompted young men to work on whaling vessels, sailing around the world. Those who were unsuccessful mining gold turned to the land and farmed. Working as tenant farmers, they saved to buy their own farms and became an important part of the dairy industry and excelled in the cultivation of fruits and vegetables.

Today, Holy Ghost Festivals are organized by social, fraternal and Portuguese heritage groups. Celebrations usually last three days and culminate with a procession to a Catholic church where a special Mass is held. Processions feature participants dressed in traditional finery including Festa queens wearing elegant white gowns and hand-beaded exquisite capes. A dinner of sopas (soup) prepared with meat and spices, follows. Holy Ghost Festas are held throughout the year, many attended by Portuguese organizations from near and far. Previously this year, groups in Union City, San Leandro, San Lorenzo, Hayward, and Fremont in the Mission San Jose and Centerville district have also celebrated this festival.

Over 50 Portuguese organizations will gather on Sunday, July 28 as a culmination of this year's Newark S.E.S. "Holy Ghost Festival." This celebration of St. Isabel is one of a series of such festivals held during summer months. Parade participants include Holy Ghost "Queens" and "Little Queens" with their courts from Catholic churches and social organizations throughout the Greater Bay Area and beyond.

Local Holy Ghost Festivals remind Tri-City residents of the rich heritage and contributions by the Portuguese-American community to our area. S.E.S. officers for this year's festival are: President Mark and Teresa Peixoto, Vice-President Paula and Mark Silva, Marshal John and Christina Nunes, Treasurer Mary Baptista, and Secretary Lilia Couto. The parade is a fabulous display of finery and these people know how to throw a great party too!

S.E.S. Holy Ghost Festival
Friday, July 26 - Sunday, July 28
(510) 793-4062

Friday, July 26
Noon: Sopas served

Saturday, July 27
11 a.m.: Opening Mass
1 p.m.: Parade
Dancing, Bazaar, Auction, Food
Newark Pavilion
6430 Thornton Ave., Newark

Sunday, July 28
Holy Ghost Procession
10:45 a.m.: Mass at 11:30 a.m., return at 2:30 p.m.
Newark Pavilion to St. Edward Church
6430 Thornton Ave. (at Cherry St.) to 5788 Thornton Ave., Newark

Photo: Queen Saint Isabel Jordan DaRosa

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