Flavors of the Portuguese Festival

I mentioned a few days ago that we would talk about the Portuguese festival that took place at McCoy Pavilion last weekend. This is an annual event that started in 1978 and was presented by the Hawaii Council on Portuguese Heritage (HCPH).

Portuguese Festival Sign

There was only one entrance open, but it took you right into the air conditioned exhibit hall they have there. That was nice! It was also nice to see all of the paniolo riding gear, old photos and other memorabilia! My first introduction to local Portuguese culture was just this way.

Bits Etc

Although the bulk of the items on exhibition were from the Big Island of Hawaii, many of my own memories from my youth on the Leeward side of Oahu were rekindled by this display. The equestrian lifestyle was my first experience with Portuguese culture, and it was the first thing I saw at the festival so it fit perfectly!

Saddle and other tack on disply

Aside from how to dress horses, there were the dress forms sporting ethnic clothing of different kinds.

Ethnic Dress

The one thing that struck me while I was pulling together the photos for this post was the color. Red. There were other colors, of course, but red was everywhere!

Ethnic Clothing

Even artistic renditions of traditional folk dress were primarily done in red!

Traditional Dance

Of course when talking about wine, you usually do think of red! There were displays of Madeira wine which is a fortified wine made in the Madeira Islands of Portugal. It is prized not only for drinking but for cooking as well. I should have bought a bottle. Maybe next year!


Every country has to have dolls. Here we had a display of Portuguese dolls!

Portuguese Dolls

More red! But this display was for something different. This was something more spiritual in nature. Something the whole world has heard of at one time or another, and maybe many times over!

Remembering Fatima

While Fatima, Portugal is a place, its name is synonymous with a series of historical, religious events that took place there back in 1917. These events strengthened the faith of a nation and of other nations as well. It is safe to say that Catholicism is alive and well in Portugal and the faith of choice for Portugal.

Children Sign

The festival organizers wanted to cover all members of the family so they set up a few things for the children to enjoy too! Here these young ladies collect the bean bags from a game they were playing.

Bean Bag Game

Everyone’s favorite part of these kinds of festivals, no matter what ethnic group or age group they belong to, is the food!

Portuguese Hot Dogs and Bean Soup

Portuguese bean soup is a standard favorite among Hawaii locals too. Most restaurants that serve local favorites have it on their menu. Portuguese sausage is also a local standard.


I knew about bacalhao salad, but, stew? I had to look it up! This particular dish was apparently codfish in a sauce. Upon looking it up a little and comparing notes with friends, the bacalhao salad that we are more familiar with, the one with the green bananas and lettuce, is actually a Puerto Rican dish. There are variations of things but the Portuguese version of bacalhao salad is substantially different from what I can gather. Everything you ever wanted to know about how to cook and eat cod fish!


My favorite is always the malasadas, when they’re available. I will remember to go earlier next year… they sold out! *Sniff!* I was lucky enough to meet and talk with Laura Figueira, seen in the red apron above. It’s always fortunate when you run into someone who is in the know and has the patience and desire to share that knowledge. Thank you, Laura!

Roosters on Crafts

There were also handicrafts and items from Portugal for sale. Along with the color red being prevalent, you could also see roosters everywhere you looked! Why?

Well, there’s a story that talks about a man who was falsely accused of a crime of theft. He was found guilty and sentenced to death, all the while proclaiming his innocence. On the day of his execution, he requested and was granted one last audience with the judge who sentenced him.

Some stories say that it was the king rather than a judge, but whoever the party was, there was a celebration in progress when the accused man made his requested appearance. The conversation and the rest of the story went something like this:

So you are innocent, are you?” laughed the Judge.

“Yes Sir, I am. Before God, I swear it,” answered the stranger.

“Ah, but you have been accused and sentenced to death, and I can’t change the sentence on just your word without proof. How do you think you can prove your innocence, my good man?”

“But Sir, I swear that I am innocent,” the man insisted.

He looked around the banquet room in desperation, seeking some way, some help. His eyes fell on a servant carrying in a large platter of fowl, steaming with seasonings. He fell to his knees.

“Lord God,” he prayed, “as Peter, your servant, denied you at the cock’s crow, would that you show my innocence as your humble servant by this rooster’s crow…”

All eyes turned to the platter of steaming cooked fowl and widened in wonder and amazement as the rooster got up, ruffled his feathers and crowed loudly.

“The Lord has indeed spoken,” the Judge said in awe, and rising to his feet, he proclaimed, “Let this be a lesson to each of us never to sit in quick judgment of our fellow man. The rooster, henceforth, shall be a reminder to us and to our children after us, of this, the Lord’s message. So shall it be in our land forever!”

So, the rooster became, and remains today, the national symbol of trust and honesty.

Bull Whip Demonstration

Crack that whip!

This was what I caught on the way out of the Festival. I’m not sure if this gentleman was slated to do this or if he himself was convinced to share his talent with everyone. But, he could certainly handle that whip!

He talked to everyone while cracking the whip, which sounded like a fire cracker! The best part of his monologue was when he shared the story about telling his friend he would make one for him but not for his wife. Why? Because the wife had said to him that she wanted one, “fo’ I can lick my husband!”

From the way that whip sounded, nobody would want to be on the receiving end of that thing! I think his friend’s wife needed more malasadas!

For those interested in Portuguese culture, I think it would be most rewarding to volunteer for next year’s festival. I know they would appreciate it and you could learn a lot about the history of Portugal and the history of the Portuguese in Hawaii.

For more information, call the Hawaii Council on Portuguese Heritage at 808-845-1616. I’ve got my shopping list ready for next year!

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6 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Best Hawaii Vacation // Sep 29, 2007 at 7:55 am

    great post. fun to read and educational. shows again the multi-layered culture and heritage of hawaiian islands. aloha, pua

  • 2 Evelyn // Sep 29, 2007 at 9:00 am

    Hello Pua, I was amazed at just how much an ethnic group impacts your life. I’ve really got to pay attention to what other groups have molded me into the person that I am. I know that sounds a little deep, but it’s true. Hawaiian culture was a given, of course, and I guess Portuguese should have been a, “no, duh!” for me. But you don’t think about such things until it’s in your face! Just one more thing to make me sit up and pay attention! Thank you for the comment, Pua and mahalo to the Hawaii Council on Portuguese Heritage for the awakening! 🙂

  • 3 cabral // Feb 15, 2008 at 4:17 am

    Really nice post i just got back from hawaii and was suprised to see how much of my culture is present there i had no idea being born in the azores and coming to america was a dream amd then going to hawaii and noticing themy culture there it was like being home back at the azores my islands i really wish i would have caught this festival while i was there so i can catch up on my portuguese culture there BUT i will return someday andtry to catch up thnx for the post it brang tears to my eyes thank you

  • 4 Evelyn // Feb 15, 2008 at 5:04 am

    I’m glad you were able to find the post and I’m glad you were able to visit Hawaii, Cabral! I just wish you had been able to do them both at the same time! 🙂 It is an annual event so maybe you can plan your next trip to be around the middle of September?!? Thank you for letting me know it touched you this way — that means a lot to me. Rest assured that your ethnic culture has had tremendous impact on the culture of the Islands, I’m very happy to say!

  • 5 Jasmine // Aug 29, 2011 at 8:51 pm

    DO you know if there will be a festival in 2011?

  • 6 Evelyn // Aug 30, 2011 at 10:04 am

    I’m not sure, Jasmine. I will try to find out and send you a note here as soon as I can! 🙂

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