Portuguese-American Feast honors benevolence & tradition

Board members and volunteers of the Portuguese-American Club march down Circuit Avenue in a past parade.
Photo by Ralph Stewart

Board members and volunteers of the Portuguese-American Club march down Circuit Avenue in a past parade.

The Holy Ghost Association of Martha’s Vineyard, more commonly known as the Portuguese-American Club (P-A Club), will hold its annual Feast of the Holy Ghost in Oak Bluffs this weekend, Saturday, July 16 with a parade and more feasting on Sunday, July 17.

The festival, adored by many for its assortment of Portuguese delicacies, live performances, games, and all-around fun, celebrates a significant figure in Portuguese and religious history.

It is said that in the 13th century, the benevolent Queen Isabel of Aragon experienced a series of miracles. One such miracle was that the queen’s crown cured those of ailing health when placed on their heads. In another, the queen promised God that she would give up her jewels if the hunger-ridden people of Portugal were fed.

In the process of distributing her jewels she encountered her husband, someone who found displeasure in her generosity. When asked what she was hiding, she responded, “Roses, my lord.” Sure enough, when the king looked for himself, there were white roses in the folds of the queen’s dress. These miracles have been attributed to the Holy Ghost, and the festival aims to celebrate both these marvels and the altruistic spirit of the queen. Every year, a young girl from Our Lady Star of the Sea’s first communion class is selected to wear the crown while parading through the streets.

This beloved tradition is also a means for the descendants of Portuguese fishermen who immigrated to the Island to remember their history. It is a way for them to appreciate and honor the benevolence of their people and to revere their faith. While the festival’s traditions are just that — traditions — and being so, firmly rooted despite changing times, the P-A club hopes to enlist another aspect to the festival in the coming year. A document by Judy Williamson details the P-A Club’s hope to recreate the hosting and display of the crown by seven families, representing the seven gifts of the Holy Ghost, in the seven weeks preceding the festival.

The P-A Club looks forward to this weekend as a time of reconciliation, as relations with the Church have improved from last year. Experience the Feast of the Holy Ghost this weekend for what is sure to be one of the P-A Club’s most enjoyable events.

The Feast is Saturday, July 16, from 5 pm to close at the P-A Club, Oak Bluffs; Sunday, July 17, from 11:30 am with the parade starting at the Oak Bluffs Steamship Authority, and the feast starting at 12 noon at the P-A Club.