Tuesday, August 22, 2017
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Festa dos Tabuleiros Chapter 3

As winter draws in next summer’s spectacle of the Festa Dos Tabuleiros in Tomar seems a long way off.  But work is already under way in preparation for the big event next July (3rd - 11th)

The biggest challenge between now and July will be the making flowersinstoragesmallof hundreds of thousands of crepe paper flowers needed for the Festa.  The first task is to design , cut, and shape the flowers that will adorn the Tabuleiros, the trays that women will carry on their heads through the streets of Tomar.

There are 16 Freguesias (Parishes) that participate in the Festa and each will be represented by men and women of the parish who will take part in the Festa events culminating in the Parade on July 11th.  The largest parish is Santa Maria Dos Olivais, they have 170 Tabuleiros to prepare and they began work on preparing the flowers in October.

Based in the Parish Offices, a number of women are working away cutting out the flowers.  The women are mainly volunteers but some are working for their state benefits.  The flower making room is a happy friendly place where the women laugh and joke with each other.  They enjoy their work and take pride in their contribution to the Festival.typicaltabuleirossmall

The flower makers bring their own designs for flowers to the Festival organisers.  There are a variety of designs but the traditional one is a combination of a white daisies, red poppies and ears of corn.  Once the flowers have been made they are put onto a two meter length of wire and hung in a cool dark room where they will stay until two weeks before the festival.  This preserves the flowers and keeps them looking fresh for the festival.

Eventually four strands of flowers will join four strands of bread threaded through bamboo canes inserted into a wicker basket at the base of the tray.   Once the height of the tray has been agreed short pieces of cut bamboo will be pushed across from one bread roll to another to give a firm structure for the tray. The strands of flowers cover the cross pieces and help give the Festival parade its glorious colour.

At the top of each tray is a crown symbolising the parish from which the women come.  On top of the crown is placed one of three emblems.  A dove representing the Holy Ghost, a Knights Templar Cross or a Cross of Christ. Each tray weighs about 21kg and before the parade many of the women will practice carrying the trays in the months before the Festival.  Then on July 10th in the big parade around 700 of them will carry them through the historic streets of Tomar.

Meanwhile how is Rene Spits our indomitable Dutch, renexmassmallAustralian, owner of 'Just For You' preparing for the Festa?  “To be honest the town’s traders are concentrating more on Christmas right now.  Times are tough and the Christmas trade is vital for us.” he told us.  “But I have been talking to the other traders in my street and once Christmas is over we start planning for the Festa.  We will have to think about the design for our street and what stock we will need for the Festa.  With hundreds of thousands of extra visitors coming to Tomar next summer we see this as an opportunity to help us all keep going.”

If you missed Part 1 click here, or click here for Part 2.  

For a Map of the Route and Parking click here

For an article about Fernado Fereirra who was instrumental in bringing the Tabuleiros Festa to Tomar, click here.

Researched and written by Sylvia Anginotti and Peter Moore

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