Spending Halloween in Portugal? Find out all about it!
October is a popular time to visit Portugal, especially southern Portugal. From mild temperatures and plenty of sunshine to avoiding the busy summer season, there are many draws. However, when it comes to spending holidays away from home, the added benefit is seeing how it’s done elsewhere and taking part in entirely different traditions.
While Halloween has only really taken off in Portugal in recent years, there’s a tradition stretching further back: Pão-por-Deus (literally “Bread for God” in English). So keep reading to find out all about it!
The History of the Pão Por Deus Tradition
Halloween in Anglophone countries involves dressing up, going to themed parties, and the much-loved tradition of trick or treating. But did you know that the Portuguese take part in a similar tradition with very different origins?
Records of the Pão Por Deus Tradition stretch back to the 18th century following the Great Lisbon Earthquake in 1755. Classed as one of the most destructive earthquakes in history, it razed much of the city to the ground and was followed by a tsunami and firestorm, killing around 12,000 people in Lisbon alone.
One year after the destruction of the capital, those who survived wandered the streets, asking for “pão, por deus” (bread, for [the love of] God), having lost everything. They were given bread, cakes, wine, and other foods and drinks – all to honour the dead and help the poor. And so, a tradition was born.
The Pão Por Deus Tradition
Having begun in Lisbon, the tradition quickly spread across the country. However, while for many decades it was a means of helping the poor meet their basic needs, in the 60s and 70s, it became more of a fun activity for children to take part in, and some very strict rules started being enforced:
- Only children under the age of 10 were allowed to take part in the Pão Por Deus Tradition.
- Children could only ask for Pão Por Deus until midday. Any requests after that would result in a telling-off from any adults who answered their doors.
Armed with cloth bags decorated for the occasion, the children would then say any one of various rhymes. The most common were as follows:
Ó tia, dá Pão-por-Deus? | Aunty, will you give Bread-for-God?
Se o não tem Dê-lho Deus! | If you have none, may God give you some!
Pão por Deus, | Bread for God,
Fiel de Deus, | Disciple of God,
Bolinho no saco, | Cake in the bag,
Andais com Deus. | Walk with God.
Bolinhos bolinhos, | Little cakes, little cakes,
cá para os meus saquinhos! | Into my little bags!
What the children were then given would depend on what was available in the home and could be anything from specially baked cakes and “broa” corn and rye bread to chocolate, sweets, nuts, fruit or even money. Shops may have given a little of whatever they stocked.
Making your Own Pão Por Deus
Though widespread until the 80s, the tradition slowly started to fizzle out and can rarely be seen practised nowadays. However, one way to get a taste of Pão Por Deus or “Dia do Bolinho” (Little Cale Day), as it is also known, is by making a batch of the traditional little cakes yourself!
Fancy giving it a go? Though there are many recipes and traditions involving these special little cakes, here’s a simple recipe to get you started.
Ingredients for Pão Por Deus
1 kg of flour
½ kg of sugar
250g melted margarine
50g baker’s yeast
2dl of olive oil
1 pinch of salt
15g of cinnamon
1.5dl of hot water
100g pine nuts
Instructions to make Pão Por Deus
Mix the flour with the salt, fennel, cinnamon, sugar, and baker’s yeast, crushed with your hands. Make a well in the mixture and add the olive oil, margarine, and hot water. Knead the mixture thoroughly and add the nuts, mixing until smooth. Shape the dough into the shapes required and place on a tray lined with baking paper. Cover with a cloth and let it rise for an hour before baking in an oven preheated to 180ºC for 20 minutes. Now, with the smell of traditional Pão Por Deus cakes wafting through your house, you’re sure to get into the spirit of Portuguese All Saint’s Day!