May 1st isn’t just International Workers’ Day, it’s also a traditional spring holiday although compared to some European countries, Portuguese celebrations tend to be rather muted. 1st May in Portugal is also a day for protecting homes from evil for the year ahead, a tradition which is similar to the Gaelic Beltane.
Every year, sprigs of yellow broom are wedged into doors and windows on the eve of May 1st to ward off the Maios, a.k.a. the devil, for the rest of the year. I’ve noticed that in my village, people put them on barn doors and garages as well as their homes but it wasn’t until last year, in Caminha, that I saw machinery and cars being protected in a similar fashion!
In the centre of Ponte de Lima, more upmarket versions are used to decorate important buildings near the tourist information centre although simple sprigs are still in evidence in the back streets.
I’m curious to see what happens this year though. The weather has meant that most of the broom in the forests around my village flowered a couple of weeks ago and are now looking past their best. Whether this diminishes their power over evil spirits remains to be seen.
Do you have any May Day traditions in your area? Do tell…
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