Best day in the paradise with Azorean May Day celebration and with a wonderful tour (Azorean tour guide 1. Part)
In this post I would like to tell you about how May Day (International Workers’ Day) is celebrated on the Azores, and also tell you about one of my best days ever on the island – which also included hiking on a beautiful trail. You might be thinking now: well-well, we are happy that you had a good time, but why is this post worthy, and what is there in it for us?
I would like you to consider this post as a cultural introduction into one of the many traditions of the Azores, and as a great event recommendation for May Day for everyone who is visiting in the future at this time of the year.
In the morning I thought I will only attend a simple May Day celebration, but thanks to lucky turn of events I found a beautiful hiking trail, too. So this post is an event and hiking trail recommendation.
I love attending all sorts of events which have to do with Azorean culture and traditions, and in fact what I enjoy even more is to ask the local people about the religious background or the story behind the festivities. This time it was no different. A few days ago I have seen a banner with GRANDIOSA FESTA DE MAIOS on it, and since I knew the festival is hosted in the parish of Maia, I figured MAIOS has to do something with the town, and GRANDIOSA FESTA means BIG PARTY. So based on my interpretation I thought I will be going to a big party, which is never a bad idea. There was something else on this banner which I could not figure out, at all. It said that the founder of the parish, Ines Maia will also take part in the festival, and also a huge Ines Maia statue will be inaugurated in her honor. This is where they lost me. So who? What? Is this now a statue or a living person? But how can the founder of a seemingly old town be still alive today? I had lots of questions, which made me even more curious.
The big rag doll festival – Azorean May Day
I have to admit I have never been to Maia before, but this will definitely change because it is such a beautiful little town. By the time I managed to park my car the sun came out, and I proceeded to find the place of the festivities near the Divino Espirito Santo (Holy Spirit) Church, located in the city center.
In the neighboring streets and the around the church there were life-size rag dolls everywhere, a group of drummers were drumming happy music, and accompanied a huge (GIGANTE – just as it was promised on the banner) Ines Maia statue that was mounted on a car. So Ines Maia graced the event in the form of a statue. The town Maia was named after her. Apparently, Ines has been the first woman in the town.
On the main square there was a small exhibition, featuring the tools of old trades and professions. Back in the days Maia had a tobacco factory – which is not functioning anymore, but there is a museum about its history. Next time I will go and visit this tobacco museum, and tell you all about it.
So the small exhibition started with showing the tools that were used for tobacco processing, but there were also wicker baskets with lids on exhibit: these were used by the wives to bring lunch to their husbands working on the tobacco fields. There were also lots of tools used in fishing, agriculture, dairy equipments, and another curious item: a pot with the picture of a pig on it.
I wanted to get more information about this festival, so I can share it with you, so I started to ask around if there is anyone who is willing to help me. This is how I have found a local gentleman called Manuel, who explained to me all about this May Day tradition.
So from Manuel I found out that the huge statue commemorating Ines Maia after whom the parish was named was installed the first time. The small exhibit on the main square – as I suggested earlier – was showcasing old trades and professions. The little pot with the piglet on it was used at domestic pig slaughters. Also, Maios means rag doll, so this is when I understood that GRANDIOSA FESTA DE MAIOS means HUGE RAG DOLL FESTIVAL. On the 1st of May in all smaller towns of Sao Miguel the balconies, gardens, and public places are decorated with life-size rag dolls for two main reasons: 1) to serve as fun decoration, and 2) to make fun of certain professions. People think this tradition brings a good harvest, and also since these dolls look like scarecrows they are here to scare away Winter and to welcome Spring.
On the festival there was also a local cake and local green tea – from the nearby Chá Gorreana plantation – tasting. All in all it was a very enjoyable festival that I can heartily recommend to all visitors.
Incredible ocean side trails starting from Maia
After the festival came that wonderful hike I told you about earlier. Manuel – the local gentleman who was so kind and offered to help, for which I now would like to publicly thank him – showed me the starting points of the trails in Maia.
Both trails are along the coastline:
one of them is the 5 km long Praia da Viola trail
the other one is the 1.2 km long Degredo
So I went for the shorter one. I was walking along on this beautiful oceanside promenade, complete with a secure wooden fence, the sun was shining, it was not too warm, and it was just me, Mother Nature, and a few fishermen. I could feel the positive energy radiating from the volcanic stones. The trail ends at a natural rock pool, where those who have their swimsuits ready can even go for a dip. The hike has been simply amazing! Take a look at the photos I took and get inspired to come and complete one – or both – of these trails.
You can find more information about all trails on the Azores on this Visit Azores website (http://trails.visitazores.com/en/trails-azores). You can find all information about town Maia on their Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/VisitMaia/). The trails going through Maia are Praia da Viola (5 km) and Degredo (1.2 km). Both trails are marked as EASY. I have seen a sign warning about rock falls on the Praia da Viola trail, so be careful if you go hiking there.
I am looking forward to your feedback, videos, and guest posts about these hiking trails.