ARCATA -- An important feature of the Portuguese-American cultural and community activities is the celebration of religious-social festivals, or "festas."
The Festa Do Espirito Santo, a festival held every year in honor of the Holy Ghost, or Holy Spirit, is perhaps the most important religious event for Azorean communities, both on the islands and in the United States.
The festivities are elaborate and include a parade, the choosing of a queen, a community banquet and distribution of food to the sick and poor.
The Portuguese-American community in Arcata will be observing its annual traditional celebration next weekend. The festivities will begin at 6:30 p.m. on May 29 at the Portuguese Hall with the recital of the Rosary, followed by a linguica and bean dinner at 7 p.m. After dinner, there will be music and dancing. At 10 p.m., the presentation of the queens will take place. This year's big queen is Amanda Freitas, with her side maids Miranda Mullin and Julia Janeiro. The little queen is Lydia Gomes, with her side maid Sienna Long and her escort Eliot Gomes.
On May 30, the devotion continues at 10 a.m. with the procession to St. Mary's Catholic Church for the 11 a.m. Mass. The procession will then parade back to the Portuguese Hall, where the traditional sopas and alcatra lunch will be served at 1 p.m., followed by music, dancing and auctions throughout the afternoon.
Queen Isabel of Portugal set off this particular devotion to the Holy Spirit in the 14th century. She vowed to give her jeweled crown to the Church of the Holy Ghost in Lisbon if God would end the drought that led to thousands of deaths from famine and disease. Her prayers were answered, and she not only donated the crown but also hosted a feast for the poor every year of her reign. Also called Elizabeth, the queen was canonized a Catholic saint because of her work as a peacemaker between her country and its enemies, and her devotion to the poor.
The Portuguese Hall is located at 1185 11th St. in Arcata and can be reached at 822-9521.