Every year, on January 20, is held one of the most important community celebrations: the Table of S. Sebastião (St. Sebastian) or the Feast of the Papas, as it was initially known.
The origins of this party are lost in times, says the popular memory that during the French invasions, the people of Vila Grande sighted soldiers on a road, the old road, near the villages of Couto de Dornelas and knowing that where they passed , plundered everything, begged for divine protection. They took the picture of St. Sebastian, went out with him to the street, took him to the church tower, and promised the saint that every year they would celebrate a feast in his honor if the troops did not descend to the villages. Behold, the miracle was done, the troops followed, and the people, grateful, fulfilled the promise.
The communal meal, was initially organized by the 9 largest farmers of the village of Vila Grande, in a system of rotation between them. They are the mordomos (stewards), with the help of family and friends, who prepare and prepare the food served at the communal meal (bread, meat and rice).
Given the size of this party, everything has to be prepared well in advance. By Christmas time, they walk through the houses of the parish villages to collect the cereals (rye and corn) to make the broas. In January, they collect the remaining donations: pork (essentially breast and pecan) and money to buy rice. In addition to collecting these products, they arrange firewood to bake the buns and to cook the food; and grind the cereals in two local mills.
The food is made in the “Casa do Santo” (House of the Saint), built for this purpose. It has a kitchen with a fireplace, a large oven and a room to store the broas. For about five days and five nights they cook the hundreds of broas that will be distributed or sold throughout the party.
On the 19th at midnight they light the fire in the fireplace of the “House of the Saint”, around which they have more than 20 pots of iron with the meat split into bites, to bake.
On the 20th, as soon as the bell rings for mass, the pots are placed with the rice to bake. After mass, they proceed in procession with the saint to the “House of the Saint”, where the priest proceeds to the blessing of bread, meat and rice. Food distribution can then be started. In the main street of the village, for hundreds of meters, the wooden benches are placed, covered with linen tablecloths – the table – where the food will be placed: broa and two wooden plates, one with meat another with rice.
This meal is for all the people who take it. Dishes and cutlery each carry their as well as drink to accompany such wholesome foods. Meanwhile, the mordomo goes around the table giving the saint to be kissed and collecting the gifts that each pilgrim wants to offer the saint. They say that because it is blessed, this food has healing properties; so that the breasts can be stored for a long time that do not create mold. Such are the benefits that are bestowed upon him, that many are the ones who take pieces, if not whole breasts, to the house, to eat or to give to the animals so that they do not suffer from any malady.
Source and photography: CMB