Human Flower Project

Armed for Easter -  São Brás

On the Feast of the Resurrection, one town in southern Portugal remembers an insurrection, with flowers held high.


Men beat their “torches” together on Easter Sunday

São Brás, Portugal

Photo: Katrina Berry

Christians, told to turn the other cheek, have been a notoriously combative people through the ages. And in São Brás, Portugal, that martial spirit even creeps upon Easter.

The town’s Festa das Tochas remembers when locals citizens repulsed invading sailors, Sir Francis Drake and the like, in the 16th century, holding the intruders off with only clubs and branches.

In the Easter rite, the streets are decorated with floral carpets and local men and boys carry “tochas” – torches, illuminated with flowers.

Photographer Katrina Berry of London kindly wrote us this spring:

“My family and I have been regular visitors to São Brás for the past 20 years, but it was only last year that we discovered the quite astonishing ‘Festa das Tochas Floridas.’ Words can’t describe how breathtaking it is to wake up on Easter Sunday morning and see the floral wonders the local womenfolk have created in the streets since the early hours of the morning.”

With her camera, Katrina has more than words to convey. See her whole portfolio of pictures here.


Waiting to process with a towering bouquet

Photo: Katrina Berry

“By the time the crowds are gathered outside the Igreja Matriz to greet the worshippers from mass, there’s literally a buzz in the air as the local men and boys of all ages start gathering in the church square dressed in their suits, wearing shades (looking like they’re from the opening scene in Reservoir Dogs!) and carrying their splendid flower torches.”

Can anyone think of another floral tradition that is so incumbent upon generations of men, from community elders to very young boys?

“There’s generally a feeling of competition amongst the young men as to who can carry the most outrageous creation,” Katrina reports. We are reminded of the Episcopal Church’s Easter custom: the cross is surrounded with Easter lilies and held high for the Easter morning processional.

But in São Brás, every male is an acolyte, and the “tochas” feature many, many varieties of flowers – from Easter-white calla lilies to daisies, the branches of fruit trees, and wildflowers of all colors.

imageYoung “acolyte” with his bundle of calla lilies and other blooms, wild and shop-bought

Photo: Katrina Berry

Katrina goes on: “As the clock strikes 11.30 the brass band arrives, the parishioners leave church and out comes the priest. The church statues are carried out of the church, along with a large crucifix and begin the procession through the streets of São Brás, followed by the chanting, torch-wielding menfolk.”

Each year, Katrina says, the crowds that edge the streets have grown, feasting their eyes for the magic hour as the sacred parade passes by and returns to the church.

“By this time,” she writes, “there’s been some sipping from hip flasks, and the chanting of ‘alleluia!’ takes on a competitive edge…! Upon their return to the church square, they beat each others’ torches, followed swiftly by the local women trying to rescue what flowers they can.”

The boldest tochas are kept out of the fray, for judging later that afternoon.

“Easter Sunday in São Brás is a beautiful mixture of colour, scent, life, joy and celebration for all,” Katrina says. “ We plan to return year after year!”

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 04/26 at 01:15 PM


We have something very similar in our’s called Butara, and there are special way of painting egs, called Pirhi

Posted by Mateja on 05/06 at 08:45 AM
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