Throughout the Region, these nine Masses announce the Birth of Jesus, accompanied by Catholic hymns sung by local choirs.
It’s called Midnight Mass due to the legend of a rooster, believed to have been the first animal to witness the birth of baby Jesus, causing the rooster to crow, announcing the birth of Christ every Christmas.
The red colour is predominant in women’s clothing. In Ponta do Sol, married and unmarried women wore red cloaks, while the widows wore blue cloaks.
The type of clothing in Funchal, Machico and Santa Cruz consisted of a coloured or striped wool skirt, a red vest and bodice and a blue skullcap.
Men’s clothing has not undergone many changes. It consists of white shorts pleated at the knee and a pleated shirt that may or may not be embroidered.
The boots, called ‘botachas’ or ‘bota-chã’, made of tanned cow skin, were used both for men and women. The top of the boot was turned down to the ankle and adorned with a red ribbon.
It is made of flour, water, yeast, egg or tangerine colouring and some salt. The ingredients are all mixed together and the resulting dough is crafted by hand in order to give life to the traditional doll. Seeds are used for the "eyes" and coloured ribbons for the hair and clothes. Afterward it goes into the oven for 20 minutes and is ready to be sold.
In these festivals there is always entertainment, with philharmonic and modern bands.
The areas and streets surrounding the church are decorated with colourful flags raised on wooden masts, ornamented with laurel or boxwood.
The wooden stalls ornamented with bay branches and other vegetation are a pausing point for most visitors. At these stalls we can find a little bit of everything from sweets, and toys, to drinks, and varieties of food, among other things.
The food and drink stalls are among the most sought after at Madeira’s festivals. Always present are the traditional meat kebab, “bolo do caco” bread with garlic butter, the regional wine or the traditional orangeade “laranjada”. Cubes of beef skewered on a bay branch are grilled directly over the coals on grills placed near the stalls. Men and women gather near the fire in a festive atmosphere.
In the past the festivity had a strong religious character, and was visited by thousands of pilgrims who travelled by foot on the paths that linked the south to the north of the island, in a journey that could take 2 or 3 days.
Nowadays the pilgrimages are no longer carried out in the same way, as pilgrims take their own cars or travel to Ponta Delgada on public transportation.
Today it is still one of the largest festivals of Madeira island.
The Festivities in honour of Saint Anthony are centred in the parish with the same name, in the municipality of Funchal. The night of the 12th to the 13th of June is marked by the traditional Portuguese parade called “marchas populares”.
The Feast of Saint John is celebrated on 24th June. In the past, the Chapel of São João da Ribeira, in Funchal, was one of the most popular festivals in the entire region. Nowadays the entertainment is centred around Praça do Carmo, in Funchal, with the well-known "Altars of St. John”.
The Feasts of Saint Peter, the patron saint of fishermen, is held from 28th to 29th June, when all eyes turn towards the village of Ribeira Brava. All roads lead to this festival, also known for its musical entertainment, popular marches and for the boat trip that some maritime transport companies carry out between Funchal and Ribeira Brava.
The Festivity of Our Lord of Miracles commemorates the mudslide that occurred on 9 October, 1803, which destroyed the chapel where the precious figure of Our Lord of Miracles was located, dragging it into the sea. According to legend, the figure appeared three days later and was taken to Funchal’s Cathedral. In 1813, the image was again restored to the chapel of Our Lord of Miracles, in Machico.
This festivity is very similar to other religious festivals in Madeira. The particularity of this festival is that the procession is made by sea to the small chapel located at the top of the hillside. The ritual is as follows: on Saturday afternoon, there is a procession that goes to the chapel to get the figure, which then remains in church of Caniçal overnight. On Sunday, the people join again in procession to return the image to its place of origin, thus ending the festivities.
In all these festivities, the religious celebration is accompanied by a typical Madeiran festival, in some cases becoming the largest festival in the area because it coincides with the patron saint of the parish or place.
The festivities are held annually, on this date, in the following locations:
Our Lady of Monte: Parish of Monte (Funchal) and in Lamaceiros (Porto Moniz);
Our Lady of Grace: Parish Estreito da Calheta, Estreito de Câmara de Lobos and Graça (Porto Santo);
Our Lady of Guadalupe: parish of Porto da Cruz;
Our Lady of Ajuda: Serra de Água
The highlight of this festival happens the day before, on August 14th. In the past the pilgrims came on foot, on pilgrimage. Nowadays people arrive from everywhere in their private cars, by bus and more recently some people choose to use the cable car which connects Funchal to Monte.
The Festival is marked by great entertainment, spontaneously promoted by improvised groups that at the sound of the accordion, the “rajão” and other musical instruments, play challenge songs that attract the attention of passersby. Hence the popular expression "On 15th August, all roads lead to Monte".
The decorations, which deserve special mention, are accompanied by the traditional food and drink stalls. The meat kebab, the “bolo do caco” bread and the typical “carne de vinha-d'alhos” sandwich (meat marinated in wine and garlic) are always present at the festival.
The next day is highlighted by the religious aspect. It is the culmination of the “novenas” leading up to 15th August - nine masses serving to prepare the festivities. The religious ceremony is presided over by the Bishop of the Diocese of Funchal. It is also the day when the faithful fulfil their pledges. Some climb the dozens of steps that give access to the temple on their knees, with candles and other articles in wax.
The 11th November is celebrated by both the Catholic Church and people who take the opportunity to roast the last chestnuts. The Saint Martin Festival is very illustrative of the faith and traditions of the people of Madeira.
Although it is not known for certain when Saint Martin began to be celebrated in the region, the truth is that it is an ancient custom. Tradition dictates that on the eve of Saint Martin the wine is tasted and the roasted cod is enjoyed. This ancient tradition is still practiced today.
A grand festival dedicated to its patron saint is held at St. Martin Church, where the traditional pilgrimages once took place.
Ancient chronicles describe great religious pilgrimages and pagan feasts in which "many instruments such as guitars, flutes, ‘rabis’ and bagpipes” joined in a thunder of drums and drum basses, which resulted in the Madeiran traditional music, a musical genre that is played at home, at parties and festivals and is characterized by challenges and lively rhythms. Particularly noteworthy are the “charamba” and “mourisca”, which are sung, and the “Bailinho”, which can be sung or danced. There are also the chanting games.
Agricultural work songs were once also very common, but are threatened with extinction. Religious music is also frequent: songs of kings, the Holy Ghost and Christmas.
Portable stringed instruments are the most prominent among the rich instrumentation used in Madeiran folk music.
In Madeira island, folklore is practiced throughout the year and is lived more intensely during the celebrations of certain agricultural tasks, such as harvesting, reaping and digging, and during religious festivities, festivals and pilgrimages.
Nowadays, the folk tradition continues with folk groups through their dances. The great mark of Madeiran folklore is expressed by the “bailinho”, accompanied by voices and music and the well-known “challenges”, where two singers alternately improvise lyrics of social satire nature. The typical dances range between the “chamarrita”, the “charamba”, the “mourisca” and the “bailinho das camacheiras”.
The music and dance of Madeiran folklore describe love, pastoral traditions and the saddest moments in the history of the island. The treading of grapes is symbolized in the dance steps. The detail of the head down represents the time of slavery, as a symbol of submission of the slave to the master.
The instruments used in Madeiran folklore are the traditional instruments such as the “machete”, the “rajão”, the “braguinha”, the fiddle, the wire guitar, the accordion, the triangle and the traditional “brinquinho”, locally made.