One of the fun things about living in a country in which you did not grow up is discovering how much alike and yet how different your birth country is in comparison others. Holidays are no exception.
Pão por Deus almost mirrors what Americans call Halloween. However in Portugal, October 31 is Dia de Finados (Day of the Dead). This is the day that they pray for the souls of all of the dead to rest. In the old days, they processed to the graveyards and took food to eat at the graves of their dead.
In 1755, The Great Lisbon Earthquake (8.7 on the Richter Scale) destroyed a good portion of the city. The ruined section is now known as the Baixa Pombalina for the Marques de Pombal who was responsible for the task of reconstruction. People lost their homes and had no food in this disaster. Many of them walked the streets of Lisbon asking for bread in the name of God. Sixty thousand people died as a result of that earthquake and it created a tsunami about ten meters high. There was no discernible tectonic activity in the area at that time. (Want to know more?)
A new custom that began that day that has passed the test of time. Although it may vary from region to region, on November first children replay the aftermath of the earthquake. They take bags and go around to their neighbors’ homes early in the morning asking for “Pão por Deus.” Although originally the people were looking for bread, it is not uncommon now for people to give children cookies, candy, fruit and maybe even a coin.
Fun fact: In our second home in Portugal, one afternoon everything that was loose in our home was rattling or jangling. I thought at first that it was a big truck rumbling by the house, but soon realized it was an earth tremor. Before I could lose it, it was over.
What do you think about the custom of Pão por Deus? If you were going to begin a new holiday, what do you think you might like to do?