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Perfectly Imperfect Life..........

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Missing the Portuguese Holy Ghost Festa and Sopas

Both of my parents were Portuguese, so we attended Festas Spring through Fall throughout California each year during my childhood and I continue to do so now with my family. 

Except for this year due to the pandemic :(

Above is St. Michael's Catholic Church in Livermore my family attended and I grew up in.  We attended so many growing up. My parents always went to celebrate at St. Michael's, as well as, Manteca because we had family there.

Our family has spread out over the years ~
 since my Sister and I have left the nest, we've ventured out a bit.
My Sister lives in Petaluma so we have gone to several there.
I live in Newman, so we've celebrated here and we have attended the largest in the valley at Our Lady Of Miracles in Gustine.
It has been the largest for many, many years. When my Dad was little they lived in Modesto and would make room at their home for many Portuguese friends who would travel cross country to come to Gustine for the celebration.

When my Mother was young she was crowned Queen at St Michael's in Livermore 
where she was born and raised, as were my sister and I.

My Grandmother made her beautiful beaded long dress 
with collar and train by hand! Who was a beautiful seamstress in her own right.

Now as my parents have gotten older (and since Mom has passed) we attend The Holy Ghost in Livermore.
It's usually around Dad's Birthday so it makes for an overall beautiful celebration.

So what is the Festa? What does it represent and celebrate? 
This article describes it well. 

"Feed your fascination for other cultures by going to a Portuguese Holy Ghost festival.  Whether your name is Silva or McClanahan, you'll be welcomed.

Portuguese Americans from the Azores-many whose ancestors came to the West to fish or farm hold festas (pronounced "fesh-tas") in California, Nevada, and Hawaii. There may be one in your city or town; more than 500,000 Azorean Americans live in California alone.

The festa tradition, which has been observed in this country for about a hundred years, mingles Catholic religious beliefs and ancient legend. Although the sentiment behind festa's is the same everywhere, particular customs can differ between communities. The Sunday portion usually starts at 10 A.M., with a parade from the Portuguese hall in town to church. Other fesh-tivities sometimes including bloodless bullfights-- take place on Friday evenings, Saturdays, and Monday evenings.

But for the uninitiated, the Sunday events are the most interesting. Appointed festa Queens (big Queen and little Queen) and their Side Maids make their way down the parade route towing capes of velvet, jewels, seed pearls, beading, feathers, and appliques (their finery, and other aspects of the festa, recall 14th-century Queen Isabel, a peacemaker and friend to the poor-particularly during a Portuguese famine). 

A Portuguese brass band or two enliven the atmosphere. 

At the church, the costumed parade cast jams into the front pews, and a Mass is said, often in Portuguese. After the Mass, the priest crowns the Queen at the altar.

A feast of tradition ~
The parade then returns to the Portuguese hall, where the new Queen releases a white dove, symbol of the Holy Spirit, into the air. (The popular belief that a visit from the Holy Spirit is what enabled Isabel to relieve her people's suffering is the subject of several miraculous legends; according to one, the queen, smuggling food to the poor in midwinter, produced live roses from her robes when her husband, Diniz, demanded to see what she was concealing.)

Inside the festa hall, volunteers prepare sopas e carne (beef soup),
served free to everyone in the charitable spirit of Isabel.  The cooking starts in the wee hours of the morning in order to have enough to feed everyone who attends, Portuguese or not.

To make the sopas, cows donated by Portuguese community members are slaughtered and boiled for about 6 hours in huge pots (some large enough to hold the meat of entire cows).  Added are onions, paprika, cinnamon, cumin, tomato, wine, and sometimes cabbage. The broth is poured over French bread and mint sprigs; the beef is served alongside.

Bread and meat are served to the tables in huge metal bowls along with carafes of wine.

The hall fills up fast, as people finish, more are ushered in.

Everyone makes their plate.

Throughout the day, you can usually buy other Portuguese specialties-sweet bread, linguicatremocos (boiled lupino beans).

After the meal, an auctioneer sells donated items like homemade bread, homemade wine, homemade table linens and a multitude of other items..  

Proceeds are used to defray the cost of the festa's. Portuguese music fills the hall Sunday night (or sometimes Saturday),
and dancers stamp their feet, spin,
and pose according to the calls of the Chamarita. Generally, a community holds its festa at the same time every year."
Sunset Magazine

Every year I try (someone usually outbids me) to win some homemade delicacy.
This year I finally did!!

Portuguese Sweet Bread,  Portuguese Cheese From Portugal (huge wheel came into the Oakland Port, they cut wedges and zip locked),
Casal Mendes (a white Portuguese Wine),
and the illusive Pièce de résistance....
Aquardente (Homemade Portuguese moonshine)!!

Donations are also given after the meal. Deacon Dave receives one from the Knights of Columbus.  Talk about a small world ~ Dave and my sister graduated High School together. She used to date him!

Since they were all cancelled, I decided to make Sopas myself. Mom used to make it all the time. This is her recipe.



  • 3/4 container Pickling Spice
  • 5 Bay Leaves
  • 1 can Tomato Sauce
  • 1 Onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves Garlic, chopped
  • Dash Salt, to taste
  • 1/2 cup Dry Red Wine (Burgandy)
  • 3 lbs. Stew Meat
  • 1 bunch Fresh Mint, tied into a bundle
  • 1 loaf French Bread, sliced
  • Water, to cover
Place Pickling Spice and Bay Leaves in Spice Bag or make Cheesecloth bundle.

Tie spice bundle tight

You can see Mom's recipe had been used many, many times

Boil meat till tender, reserving the liquid. Place all ingredients, but the Mint, into dutch oven/kettle. Fill with water until all is covered. Simmer 3-4 hours, covered.

Add the tied bunch of Mint. 

Simmer 20 minutes more covered. Remove spice bundle and Mint bunch. Discard. Serve gravy and meat over sliced French Bread and enjoy!


  1. This looks like a wonderful celebration! Thanks for this post - so informative - and for sharing your photos at http://image-in-ing.blogspot.com/2020/09/tufted-titmouse.html

  2. The Sopas looks very tasty and thanks for including your recipe! I've enjoyed reading about this special time and learning more of the history. How beautiful your mother looks in that gorgeous dress. It makes you so happy to have the old photos!

    1. Yes, I'm lucky all the old photos were saved all these years. Thank you for stopping by ♥

  3. Thank you for sharing this tradition in your family. I love to hear about the traditions of other cultures. The Sopas sounds delish and what a wonderful time of celebration. Sadly we are all missing our favorite celebrations and festivals this year. :-(

    1. Yes, 2020 will be known as the year that never was! One thing is for sure, I don't think we'll take things for granted anymore. Have a feeling 2021 will be the same :(

  4. Thank you so much for returning to Mosaic Monday. This is a very interesting post. All of us are facing the loss of traditions and events that we treasure, and one way we can hold these close to our hearts is to document them in our blogs and share them with others!

    1. Yes, we need to remind each other that hopefully we will return to the new normal that will include all our past festivities. And see our families again!

  5. This is close to my heart, as I'm Portuguese (and live in Portugal). I had no idea so many traditions were still upheld in the US, but it's wonderful to learn about it.
    Thank you for joining The Really Crafty Link Party, and have a wonderful week!

    1. That's right, you live in Portugal. Why can't I remember that!? During the Summer here just within a few hours there's 1,2 or 3 a weekend. Our towns and my hometowns are the same day! Figures! It was much more fun when my parents were alive. No matter where we went, they would run into someone they'd know. One time we sat next to people who were currently living in the house he was born in! Whats the chance? Good times, good memories.

  6. This year has changed so many things. I grew up in California and it had lots of festivals and cultural events to experience. - Margy

    1. I miss all of them. There was so much to do

  7. Thanks for sharing your family celebration at Vintage Charm!

  8. What a wonderful rich heritage and family fun.
    Dawn aka Spatulas On Parade

  9. Thanks so much for linking up with me at my #UnlimitedMonthlyLinkParty 16, open until September 26!

    1. You're welcome Dee! Thanks for hosting ♥

  10. I love this post. I love your personal connection to the recipe. I would be so excited if you shared this at our What's for Dinner party! https://lazygastronome.com/whats-for-dinner-sunday-link-up-280/

    1. Thank you so much. On my way to share. Thanks so much for the invite!

  11. What an interesting post about your celebration. The photos are so gorgeous and the food looks yum! How great that you all carry on the same traditions that started in that beautiful church!

    Your link at 'My Corner of the World' is greatly appreciated!! I'm glad to see you this week!

  12. What a lovely festival! The sopas sounds delicious. Thanks for sharing with Creative Compulsions.


  13. I live in the central valley here in CA and have missed the festas this year (thanks covid). I look forward to making this for my husband this week thank you so much for sharing this recipe!

    1. You're so welcome! Enjoy and let's hope 2021 is much better - fingers crossed!
      Wishing you and yours a Happy Healthy New Year ♥


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