Monday, August 26, 2019
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Preparations for the Festa start early in Tomar.

As winter draws in on the previous year, the Festa Dos Tabuleiros in Tomar the following July seems a long way off.  But work is well under way by late summer, early winter in preparation for the big event, which takes place every 4 years. 2015, 2019, 2023 etc.tabuleiros 3

The biggest challenge is the making and storing of 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 main Parade on second Sunday in July.  The largest parish is Santa Maria Dos Olivais, they have 170 Tabuleiros to prepare and they usually begin 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.

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 tabuleiros 3.1of 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 in the big parade around 700 of them will carry them through the historic streets of Tomar.

There are 2 more articles in this series that will find interesting. Part 1  and  Part 2.

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