Portuguese Flower Marches

We want to teach the children the traditions that the events come from - the meaning of things and why they are held

'The (South Coast Portuguese Association) club is important for the community and it is a big responsibility to run it. There are about 3000 Portuguese people in this area. Name Days and Saints Days are celebrated in the club. Easter and Christmas are celebrated at home.' Angie

'In Portugal the main community events were the festivals and everyone went. People from one town would go to the celebrations held in other towns. We want to teach the children the traditions that the events come from - the meaning of things and why they are held; the food and how to cook it.' Grace
The Association also has its own bread oven and bakes Portuguese-style bread for club events and on special request.

'The Marchas are part of a festival honouring three popular Portuguese saints - St Anthony, St John and St Peter - whose days are all in June, so in Australia because we have a much smaller population we combine them into one celebration in the middle of the month. The March is not just a walk - it is a march in formation. The trainer chooses the pattern and signals to the dancers. It changes each year so people come back and watch. The padrinhos (godparents) lead the march. They can be anyone from the community as long as you look up to them. Adults and children participate: it starts with the companheiros (companions), then the younger children, the older children, and last year we introduced the parents of the children dancing the folkloric dance as well. It is full of meaning to see parents dancing with their children. It is important to teach and involve families. It wouldn't happen in Portugal.' Grace

In Portugal the marches take place at night and the flower arches may be only a half arch with a lantern hanging off one end. The colours and the light are always important.

The celebrations and festivals held at the South Coast Portuguese Association club are a way in which parents can pass on their Portuguese traditions to their children.

'We also hold functions to raise money - an auction of animals, cakes, flowers, lemons - whatever is in season. We share the produce so everyone gets some.' Grace

Every festival and celebration begins with a march displaying the club's banner accompanied by musicians playing traditional Portuguese instruments.

All the costumes worn for the folkloric dances at each celebration are handmade and represent all the different areas of Madeira. Some of the costumes must be worn with bare feet.

Portuguese bread baked in the club's oven is an essential part of every celebration.



It is full of meaning to see parents dancing with their children

'As a five year old I did sewing with my grandmother: embroidery, tapestry, crochet. This was done by the women and all sold. Women would sit on homemade benches - in summer they would sit outside, sewing while the food cooked. Sometimes the women would be up until 1 or 2 in the morning, finishing embroidery to have it ready to be picked up.

‘Madeira is a tropical island - there are stands of fruit and flowers everywhere. Even the poor homes in Madeira always had fresh flowers. Here we grow flowers to remind us of home - snapdragons, calla lilies...' Grace

'I have a garden and flowers. I love flowers - carnations, gerberas, roses, antirrhinums (snapdragons), birds of paradise, orchids. The flowers are like the ones at home.' Angie

'Music is an important part of life. Some of the musical instruments used by the musicians are handmade from sugar cane or other local Madeiran materials.' Angie

Whether in costume or not, dancing is part of the celebrations.

Many of the Portuguese community in Wollongong come from the island of Madeira, where flowers are an important part of everyday life. Their folkloric costumes always feature flowers.

One of Angie's hand stitched tablecloths showing folk costumes of Madeira. The embroidery was done by Angie's cousin Marcelina in Madeira while she was waiting for her husband in Australia to send for her.

Sometimes Portuguese folkloric groups visit from Sydney to add to the festivities.