Portuguese American Journal

Community: 29th Holy Ghost Festival of New England – Fall River, MA

The Portuguese American community of Fall River, MA, is celebrating the 29th Holy Ghost Festival of New England opening Wednesday, August 26, through Sunday, August 30.

Thousands of people from all over the United States, Canada, Portugal mainland, Azores and Bermuda are expected to attend. The festival starts in Kennedy Park, on Wednesday, at 5pm, with the recitation of the Rosary followed by the traditional Holy Ghost Soup communal event. On Thursday, at 7pm, the illumination of Kennedy Park takes place followed by an evening of entertainment.

On Friday, the traditional blessing of the pensões takes place, at 7pm, presided by D. Francisco Jose Senra de Faria Coelho, Auxiliary Bishop of Braga, and Fall River Bishop Edgar Moreira Da Cunha. The pensões, consisting of gifts of sweet bread and meat, will be delivered to the community poor. The event is followed by an evening of entertainment.

On Saturday, starting 9:30am, the traditional Bodo de Leite parade takes place featuring 20 folkloric groups and 11 brass bands. The parade departs from the Ponta Delgada Boulevard to Kennedy Park, via Columbia and South Main streets.

The religious component of the festival takes place on Sunday, starting at 12pm, with the Solemn High Mass at St. Anne’s Church co-celebrated by D. Francisco Jose Senra de Faria Coelho, Auxiliary Bishop of Braga, mainland Portugal, and Fall River Bishop Edgar Moreira da Cunha.

The religious ceremony is followed by the Holy Ghost Coronation procession, starting at 2pm, with the participation of various Holy Ghost Brotherhoods and marching bands. The procession route starts in South Main Street continuing to Columbia and Broadway streets and Bradford Avenue to Kennedy Park.

Local dignitaries and invited guests include José Cesário, Portugal’s Secretary of State for the Portuguese Communities; Paul Teves, Regional Director of the Communities of the Azores; João Moniz, local businessman; Fall River Mayor Sam Sutter; Pedro Carneiro, Portuguese Consul in New Bedford; Marcia Sousa, vice-consul of Portugal in Providence, among other community and political leaders.

Held annually in August since 1986, the Holy Ghost Festival has become one of the largest ethnic festivals in New England gathering over 200,000 people in the Kennedy Park area, featuring religious festivities, Portuguese food and entertainment. Admission is free and open to the public.

Holy Ghost Festivals are an integral part of the religious and cultural heritage of the Portuguese of Azorean descent. The tradition is based on the celebration of Pentecost, observed by the Catholic Church, marking the establishment of the Christian era.

The Portuguese connection with Fall River (population 95,072) started in mid-19th Century after waves of immigrants from the Azores settled in the city to work in the textile mills. Since then, Fall River became home to the highest concentration of Americans of Portuguese descent (43.9%), most of them with roots on São Miguel island.

Find a detailed schedule of events here.

paj.staff.updated. 08/26/15. 

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The Azores (population 250,000) is a region of Portugal composed of nine islands. The archipelago discovered by Portuguese explorers in the 15th century, became an Autonomous Region of Portugal in 1976. The government of the Autonomous Region of the Azores includes the Legislative Assembly, composed of 57 elected deputies, elected by universal suffrage for a four-year term; the Regional Government and Presidency, with parliamentary legitimacy, composed of a President, a Vice-President and seven Regional Secretaries responsible for the Regional Government executive operations. The Autonomous Region of the Azores is represented in the Council of Ministers of the Central Government by a representative appointed by the President of Portugal. According to the latest US census over 1.3 million individuals of Portuguese descent live in the United States, the majority with roots in the Azores. It is estimated that over 20,000 US citizens live in Portugal.