Pão por Deus: the Portuguese tradition around Halloween
Another Halloween just passed by, and it seems Portugal is slowly but firmly adopting this “American” tradition. Throughout the country, but especially in the main cities, night walks and celebrations are set up. But the main Portuguese tradition is still the “Pão por Deus” in All-Saints day, a Catholic-inspired ritual in the morning just after Halloween. November 1st is, of course, a religious holiday in Portugal. But do you think these two celebrations – the Celtic/American and the Catholic/Portuguese – are really so different?
End of Summer
Throughout Portugal, and especially in villages and rural areas, children go knocking doors asking for threats in All-Saints day morning. The youngest may take an adult; the oldest go by themselves. Asking can include verses and rhimes to ask and thank the offer. In return, people buy candies in the supermarket or can offer homemade cookies, like “brindeiras”, chestnuts and others. If one doesn’t offer, children can even reply with negative poems, calling the person a stingy or a niggard. Although happening in daylight (and only until noon), it’s very alike with “trick or treat”.
History says that, throughout the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church tried to absorb the ancient pagan and Celtic rituals in its efforts to build a Christian society. In its remote origins, the All-Saints day and its traditions are a Catholic way of “Christianize” the ancient Celtic “Samhain” that originated modern Halloween.
Dia de Finados
Moreover, November 2nd is considered “Dia de Finados”, another expression for “Dia dos Mortos” (Day of the Dead), and Portuguese tradition says people should go to the cemeteries to clean up and honour their passed away, loved ones. (Many people perform this in All-Saints Day because the 2nd isn’t considered bank holiday.) If you’re familiar with the famous Mexican celebration of “Dia de los Muertos”, you’ll quickly conclude that it is exactly the same celebration, practised also in Spain and other Catholic nations. Even if local culture makes the celebration unique in each country and region.
In the end, you might consider that the recent Halloween and the old Pão por Deus are just the two sides of the same coin.