Maios in Ponte de Lima

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.

Sprigs of broom in doors and windows, Caminha, Portugal
Sprigs of broom in doors and windows as protection against the devil.

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!

Sprigs of yellow broom protecting machinery, Caminha, Portugal
Sprigs of broom protecting machinery, Caminha, Portugal

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.

Posh "Maio", Ponte de Lima
Posh “Maio”, Ponte de Lima

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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8 Comments

  1. Some was outside my garage. Thank you to who ever put it there.

    1. Author

      Looks as though you’re safe for another year, then 🙂

  2. The simple yellow sprigs probably do the trick of warding off the devil as well as the fancier bouquets and wreaths :-). Thanks for educating us on this Portugese spring tradition…

    1. I think you’re right about that 🙂

  3. Very neat tradition.

    I’m excited to have discovered your blog. I just booked a trip to visit Portugal for the first time. I’ll be going at the end of August through early September. Your blog has so much great information to explore before my travels!

    1. Thanks for taking the time to say so. Let me know if you have any specific questions and I’ll see if I can help.

  4. Thats interesting, because just across the border in Valencia de Alcântara, they dress floats and tractors with broom and other greenery at San Isidro and parade through the town. I just assumed they used it because it was plentiful at that time of year, but now I am wondering. if is for the same reason. Thanks for the info

    1. It probably is, Shelagh. In the south of Portugal they have stuffed lifesized dolls to help keep the devil at bay so there are many ways of getting rid of him. Some more fun than others.

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