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Festa dos Tabuleiros

Every four years, the town of Tomar honours the Holy Spirit. Every four years, for about six months before the Festa dos Tabuleiros (aka Festival of the Trays), households were busy making flowers and leaves from crêpe paper. Every four years, expectant tray bearers put their names onto a list and hope to be a chosen ones. Every four years, the streets are lavishly decorated and there is a certain zing in the air.

Festa dos Tabuleiros

Festa dos Tabuleiros

During each festival, parades are organised where the locals are paired up, age-appropriately, and the girls/ladies carry the tabuleiros on their heads. Typically, for adults, the tabuleiros are approximately the height of the bearer! Built using stacked breads decorated with paper flowers, leaves and oats, often topped with crown and dove or crown with holy cross, the tabuleiros are not very heavy per se but there are certainly some training needed to balance the trays against the elements. (We spotted many who practiced walking with their trays around town, usually in the evening when it was cooler.)

I had zero knowledge about the Festa dos Tabuleiros until my colleague S spoke to me about it, when I asked for advise on something interesting to do while in Portugal. By a dose of good fortune, the festival for 2015 would run near towards the tail end of our trip and we could spare a couple of days to head to Tomar. We even found lodging right smack in the town centre, with a room which balcony opens towards the street where the parades will take place.

Festa dos Tabuleiros

Festa dos Tabuleiros

Festa dos Tabuleiros

Festa dos Tabuleiros

Festa dos Tabuleiros

Festa dos Tabuleiros

Festa dos Tabuleiros

Festa dos Tabuleiros

There was a negative point with a room on the street side and anyone can guess it: the noise. In this case, it wasn’t really noise per se, but the continuous broadcast of a radio station throughout the town with strategically placed loudspeakers. There was no way to shut it out bar closing the windows to our small room, which became too hot in the summer heat… At night, merry makers sing their way home (or not), so to say we sacrificed our sleep for a prime viewing location was no exaggeration.

Unfortunately, despite our braving the rackets for two nights, we couldn’t take full advantage of it, due to mistiming of train back to Lisbon. Once the parade starts, there would be no way for us to get to the train station as we would be encirled by the route so with a heavy heart, we left our viewing-perfect balcony and waited street-side with our luggage and all, to try to catch glimpses that we could. I guess we ran out of luck here?

Festa dos Tabuleiros

Festa dos Tabuleiros

Festa dos Tabuleiros

Festa dos Tabuleiros

Festa dos Tabuleiros

Festa dos Tabuleiros

Festa dos Tabuleiros

Festa dos Tabuleiros

We caught the first parade of the 2015 festival, which involved the local children where the youngest ones were tasked with carrying flowers within baskets and the older ones with half-size tabuleiros. As you can imagine, there were plenty of jostling for spots to view the parade; definitely not one for the faint-hearted. Over a thousand children were involved, so plenty of voluntary chaperons were also participating in the parade.

When we left, the were also poles around the town centre being set up for flower streamers, which would be put up just before the main parade of the festival. Afterall, paper flowers are fragile and could be easily damaged if left outside right from the start of the festival (of 10 days). Such a shame, since I would have loved to catch a glimpse of that. I had to make do with photos on postcards to see what it’s like. Or maybe I can plan better for the parade in 2019? ;)



Category: Culture, Europe, Event, Portugal, Travel

Tagged: , , ,

2 scribbles & notes

  1. med says:

    Somehow it reminds me of the Thaipusam festival but definitely a much much milder version ;)

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