Accepted paper:

Festival of the Boys


Pierre Primetens

Paper short abstract:

Aveleda, a far-flung village of Trás-os-Montes, is slowly loosing its inhabitants. But when the winter solstice arrives, the bachelors that live and work in the nearest city, Bragança, but also in Porto, in Lisbon, and abroad, return. They come to celebrate the village and their ancestors, perpetuating the initiation rite: the Festa dos Rapazes (Festival of the Boys).

Paper long abstract:

The Festival of the Boys is an ancestral Portuguese pagan ritual, marking the passage into manhood, which still exists in the little village of Aveleda, in the rural region of Tras os Montes. Young men guide a teenager into manhood through numerous rituals, spread out over November and December. The first ritual consists of chopping wood in the forest. This is a test of his strength. The wood is then sold in the square to pay for the festival. Another ritual consists of leading the youngster in a circle around the village at night, in noisy proclamation of the forthcoming festival. The young men and the teenager must also live isolated in a small stone house outside the village for a week. It's a time where anything goes, where alcohol flows freely. And at the end of December, all these young men disguise themselves as devils and come out to roam the square, scaring everyone away and swatting at the girls with a dried, inflated pig stomach. Aside from the strangeness of these rituals and the isolated geographical situation of the village, there is a fascinating aspect to this festival, all the more so because each year the festival is threatened: more and more people are leaving the village. The few young boys left in Aveleda still doggedly carry out the festival, but the necessary conditions, it's symbolism, the perpetuation of the community, seem to no longer exist. There is something fragile and moving about this rite of passage.

panel W401
Ethnographic film screening