Portuguese American Journal

Grandes Festas: 31st Holy Ghost Festival of New England – Fall River, MA

The Portuguese American community of Fall River (MA) is celebrating the 31st Holy Ghost Festival of New England, starting August 24 through August 29.

The festival is held every year on the last weekend of August. The event has become one of the largest Portuguese celebrations in the United States and the one of the largest ethnic festivals in New England.

Highlights of the festival include the traditional “bodo de leite” event scheduled for Saturday, August 26. On Sunday, August 27, the Holy Ghost coronation at 12pm at the Santa Maria Cathedral, followed by the coronation parade via Spring St. and South Main St. to Kennedy Park. The parade gathers numerous Holy Ghost guilds and many marching bands. On Monday, August 29, the festival ends with a festive banquet at Venus D’Milo.

Over 100,000 people, from all over the United States and abroad, are expected to come at Kennedy Park, over the weekend to enjoy Portuguese food, including the famous Azorean sweet bread and malassadas. The festival also features folk dance, bazaars, live music and entertainment. Admission is free.

Guests of Honor include D. João Lavrador, Bishop of the Azores; D. Edgar Moreira da Cunha, Bishop of Fall River; Portuguese Government representative, José Luis Carneiro , Secretary of State for the Portuguese Communities; Representatives from the Government of the Azores, Rui Bettencourt,  Secretary of the Presidency for External Relations and Paulo Teves, Director for the Azorean Communities. Community representatives include the Mayor of Fall River, Jasiel Correia, and local businessman, John Medeiros, among others.

The festival is an old tradition celebrated by all the Azorean communities around the world. The tradition is based on the celebration of Pentecost, observed by the Catholic and Protestant churches, which marks the establishment of the Christian era.

It originated in the 14th Century by Queen Saint Isabel of Portugal (1271-1336). She was canonized a Catholic saint in 1625, by Pope Urban VIII. Her feast day is July 8. She is celebrated for her work as a peacemaker and her devotion to the poor. She established orphanages and provided shelter for the homeless.

Fall River (MA), with a total population of 95,072, is home to the largest Portuguese American community (43.9%) in the United States, many claiming Azorean origin, mostly from São Miguel Island.

The Portuguese connection with Fall River started in mid-19th Century when waves of Azorean immigrants settled in the city, looking for job opportunities in the textile mills.


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