Saturday, June 23, 2018
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Carnaval in Portugal is a colourful and fun way to shake off the winter blues in the knowledge that spring is on its way. 

No less excitement and fun was had in the small town ... well, big village really ... of Ferreira do Zêzere, set about 15km East of Tomar in Cenral Portugal.carnavalfig1

If you happen to pass through the village the week before Carnaval you will notice that their festivities included a bed race!  if you have attend festas and events in Portugal in the past then you know they are usually well organised (yes really, but that doesn't include being on time) and fun, so we went to see what it was all about.  We arrived too early, as we always forget as foreigners, and had the time to have a coffee and watch the crowd gather. 

Dressing up was not just the preserve of children here, many adults joined in the sillyness and the best I saw amongst the crowd was a man with, what I can only hope was his wife's, silver coloured handbag on his head using the gold chain handle as a decorative addition.  The children were of course dressed in a diverse range of outfits from princesses to bullfighters, chinese maidens to creatures of unknown names with masks, with plenty of pooh bears, bombeiros and colourful wigs. 

The festivities started with the bed race.  The main road through the village was closed with cones down the middle and a big oil drum placed at opposing ends and two beds on wheels waiting for the participants.  Each team had 3 members and the aim was that they started in the middle of the course and headed in opposite directions, running the full course and ending up carnavalfig2on the opposite side of the road from their starting point.  Only 2 teams competed at a time, leading to preliminary rounds, heats and then the final.  One person started on the bed with two people pushing/pulling and at each end (while passing the drums) there was a change of 'bed participant' so everyone got a chance to participate in full.  The corners around the oil drums saw some slick turns but mostly participants were flung in all directions and changes were not as smooth as perhaps practiced (if at all).  The worst team was a group of 3 ladies (we think), well disguised as old ladies with bags and dresses and wigs who seemed unable to manage the bed with any control and finished well after the winning team had overtaken them but they, and the supporters, had a great laugh.  It wasn't hard to differentiate the 'serious' contestants from those who were out to have some fun! 

We do note for the Health & Safety conscious amongst you that bicycle helmets were issued to all participants to ensure that head injuries were not incurred but I think there were some grazed knees and elbows on the tarmac at those bends.

In between rounds the usual carnaval procession took place and for a small village like Ferrecarnavalfig3ira do Zêzere we were impressed by the turnout of participants.  Bands of sheep, forest creatures, trees and fruits participated, not to be outdone by blue smurfs with their working water windmill on wheels and the 2 bands to mention a few. 

My personal favourite was the environmentally friendly car driven by a child, assisted in steering by his father walking alongside.  The car had no engine and was 'driven' forward by 4 bicycles with cyclists on top of the roof and a backup team in the trailer at the rear ... with the price of fuel going the way it is I think it got serious consideration, except where would I find that backup team? 

The rain held off and the crowd was in festive cheer with food and drink to keep us warm although the sun did present itself ... put the bed race in your diary for next carnaval in Ferreira do Zêzere it is well worth the outing.

If you are not in Central Portugal you will still see this type of Carnaval parade in many towns. What is also noted, especially in hte larger towns is many satirical takes on public and political faces.

Carnaval is about having fun and the Portuguese do this particularly well. So watch and enjoy and in a few you years will probably find your self dressing up and joining in the frivolities.