The Celebration of Easter on the Azores Islands

The celebration of Easter on the Azores islands is filled with various religious festivals and unique gastronomic traditions that make this one of the brightest times of the Azorean calendar and one of the most entertaining. After the rainy season that blankets the winter months here in the Azores, the anticipation for spring becomes evident in the marking of this colorful, religious holiday. The last supper, which takes place on Holy Thursday, is the beginning of the Easter celebration. Many households still have a traditional family meal together in honor of the last supper of Jesus.
Azores GirlThis is a happy time and the beginning of endless baking, curing, and boiling as traditional Azorean meals are prepared for the upcoming weekend. This is predominantly a weekend filled with seafood, as catholic traditions dictate that no meat should be eaten on Good Friday. This is not a problem for the Portuguese diet as Cod is extremely popular in Portugal, with over 1000 recipes for the famous fish to be prepared.
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is bigstock-our-lady-of-peace-in-a-peacef-252797977.jpgThe Portuguese culture has always been associated very closely with Catholicism, with over 95% of the country identifying as Catholics. This is the same in the Azores, where every town, village, and city has at least one parish, all devoted to a separate patron saint. The celebration of mass in the Azores is vital, and all the local parishes have multiple masses each day for the devoted and are always packed. This is also the beginning of many religious festivals that take place throughout the archipelago, and it is when the magic of the Azores and all its glory begins to bloom, adding with it the sweet, floral scent of spring to the Atlantic breeze. Here you begin to see countless varieties of endemic and native flowers bloom, with many households making beautiful floral arrangements for table centerpieces and to adorn religious artifacts. Easter Sunday begins with either mass or an Easter egg hunt followed by a lunch that lasts well into dinner in many cases and is the primary day for all families to gather and celebrate. On Easter Sunday, it is customary to have either Goat, Lamb, Ham, or Cod as entrees with a wide variety of fresh vegetables. Easter’s westernization with the bunny rabbits, chocolate eggs, and colorful baskets has also influenced the local culture, with many children following the same Easter traditions throughout North America and Western Europe.
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is pc3a1scoa_annca.jpgThe difference is mostly the food. Here traditional, family recipes passed down for generations get dusted off the bookshelf as they are replicated the same way as their parents and grandparents taught them as children. Some traditional dishes prepared during the Easter week in both the Azores and Portugal are, of course, the Portuguese Easter Sweet Bread known as “Folar da Pascoa.” The Folar da Pascoa is a sweet bread that can be replicated in many ways to either be salty or sweet and usually consists of at least two eggs. There is a legend that involves Saint Catarina and this Portuguese sweet bread; however, I find it so outdated and unrealistic that I chose not to perpetuate such fodder. Regardless, this is a must if you want to celebrate Easter in a traditional Portuguese way. It will surely impress your friends or family with this delightful Portuguese Easter bread.

Azores Easter BreadAn Azorean tradition that also takes place in Portugal is the service known as “Compasso.” Before Easter Sunday, it is tradition to have the local priest perform the service called Compasso. During Compasso, the priest travels from house to house with the cross and a small procession, blessing the homes in God’s name. This is a popular tradition with the older Azorean generation households and has become a custom that even the current generation enjoys, as it said to bring luck, blessings, and joy to your home.

Celebrating Easter on the Azores islands, whichever of the nine beautiful islands you choose to celebrate this special holiday on, are bound to be a memorable, unforgettable experience culturally, religiously, and of course, gastronomically.