East­er on the Azores – through our own eyes, the cakes we tried, the pro­ces­sions we atten­ded

East­er (in Por­tuguese: Pas­coa) is one of the most import­ant reli­gious feast and hol­i­day of the year both in Hun­gary and in Por­tugal, cel­eb­rat­ing the resur­rec­tion of Jesus from the dead. In Hun­gary, there are spe­cial church ser­vices and masses held all over the coun­try, and the fest­iv­it­ies usu­ally end with strolling pro­ces­sions. The cel­eb­ra­tions on the Azores are sim­il­ar, the main excep­tion being that on the Azores the pro­ces­sion is not lim­ited to one single day – East­er Sunday – but is held on a dif­fer­ent week­ends in sev­er­al cit­ies.

Accord­ing to Hun­gari­an tra­di­tion, after the 40-day-long lent peri­od people are head­ing to the church with bas­kets full of cooked ham, eggs, milk-loaf, and horseradish so that they can enjoyed a blessed meal in their homes after the ser­vice, sur­roun­ded by their loved ones. We have seen people with bas­kets full of food on the Azores, too, with the young­er crowds hold­ing bas­kets full of chocol­ate eggs.

And now a little extra inform­a­tion to my non-Hungarian read­ers: in Hun­gary (Wet) East­er Monday is the day when boys douse girls with water. It has at its core the pagan spring rite of pour­ing water as means of cleans­ing, puri­fic­a­tion, fer­til­ity, and mak­ing things right with the god of nature. In the coun­tryside (for example Hollókő) girls are doused with buck­ets of water drawn from the well, in the cit­ies the usage of cheap per­fume is the pre­ferred meth­od. The girls return the favor by gift­ing the young men hand dec­or­ated East­er eggs. Some people argue the dous­ing ritu­al ori­gin­ates from the Bible, where the sol­diers used water to quiet down the women who brought the news of the Jesus’ resur­rec­tion. Since I have not been vis­it­ing Azorean fam­il­ies dur­ing the hol­i­day sea­son, I am not sure about the loc­al East­er Monday tra­di­tion. If you, dear Read­er, know more about Por­tuguese tra­di­tions, please let me know so I can improve this post with more inform­a­tion.

What are the main dif­fer­ences between East­er cel­eb­ra­tion on the Azores versus that in Hun­gary?

There are quite a few appar­ent dif­fer­ences between East­er cel­eb­ra­tion on the Azores and that in Hun­gary. Whilst in Hun­gary East­er means a 4‑day-weekend with Fri­day and Monday being pub­lic hol­i­days (mean­ing all shops and some res­taur­ants are closed), on the Azores only a few shops were closed on Fri­day and on Sunday. So most shops were open but the queues were massive, and due to the rel­at­ively long wait times to be served the gro­cery shop­ping took espe­cially long. The biggest dif­fer­ence is, how­ever, that on the Azores East­er Monday is not a pub­lic hol­i­day – even though Por­tugal is a very Cath­ol­ic coun­try.

What kinds of cakes are the Por­tuguese pre­par­ing for East­er? What are the typ­ic­al Hun­gari­an sweets at this time of the year? Atten­tion, the below list of good­ies are not recom­men­ded for those on gluten-free, and lactose-free diets

The stores were well pre­pared for the East­er hol­i­day. I have seen giant packs of hard candy covered in pink and white wrap­ping.

East­er cakes

Massa Sovada or Pão Doce – this simple loaf, the Massa Sovada – made of water, salt, eggs, and flour – can be pur­chased in sev­er­al dif­fer­ent sizes dur­ing East­er.

Folar da Pas­coa – the Folar is a Massa Sovada with 1, 2, or 3 hard-bolied eggs baked into it as dec­or­a­tion. We have even took a photo for you. In Por­tugal, the Folar comes both in sweet and in savoury ver­sions – and there are regions where the ver­sion without the hard-boiled eggs (Massa Sovada) is also called Folar. We have tried a sweet Folar, the tra­di­tion­al choice of Sao Miguel. The hard-boiled eggs in the cake are rep­res­ent­ing renew­al, rebirth, resur­rec­tion. For all non-gluten free vis­it­ors I can highly recom­mend try­ing the Folar. We have bought ours at the bakery of Glor­ia Mon­iz, in Fur­nas, where everything tastes simply amaz­ing. I have intro­duced this bakery in a pre­vi­ous post already, also men­tion­ing their (unfor­tu­nately only) gluten-free option. It is also cus­tom­ary for a god­son to bring a viola bou­quet of flowers to his god­moth­er on Palm Sunday, the kind ges­ture then being recip­roc­ated by the god­moth­er bak­ing a Folar for the god­son on East­er Sunday.

Pão de Ló – this cake looks like a milk-loaf, but has a hole in the middle. This cake is made on all kinds of occa­sions, not just dur­ing East­er. I have noticed that dur­ing East­er they put a little jar in the hole, and fill the jar with the pink and white hard candy I men­tioned earli­er.

How were the pro­ces­sions like?

Yes­ter­day – mean­ing East­er Sunday – the sun came out a little, so we went on a road trip. Since we were aware, that the pro­ces­sion in Fur­nas is on Sunday next week we figured we take a look in oth­er cit­ies. Driv­ing towards Pon­ta Garca we found ourselves in the mids of a huge pro­ces­sion, the road we were driv­ing on was covered with a flower car­pet. By the time we reached the church on the coast, the pro­ces­sion with all the people and the band man­aged to catch up. I find it fas­cin­at­ing how the good people of the Azores take pride in the pre­par­a­tions for every hol­i­day. They put down these beau­ti­ful flower car­pets, and every­one – those attend­ing the pro­ces­sion, but also those who are only attend­ing ser­vice – is in their Sunday best or in their uni­form. We have man­aged to take a few pho­tos from our car whilst driv­ing to Pon­ta Garca, the flower car­pet, and the pro­ces­sion – take a look.

Due to the unpre­dict­able weath­er East­er might not be the best time to vis­it the Azores, but of course this time of the year is full with cel­eb­ra­tion, fest­ivals, and pro­ces­sions. We have made some East­er dec­or­a­tion at home – how do you like it?

Fel­iz Pas­coa! Happy East­er!


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