Personal Stories and Folk Customs of the Azores

Here are a few short articles that have been contributed by others about various customs or traditions they have had or have participated in regarding the Azores or their Portuguese heritage. All posts were used with permission from the various authors and they each include their email address so that you may contact them if you wish. If you have a story you would like to share with others through this web site, please contact me. 

Christmas in the Azores

Killing of the pigs


Here is a story of Christmas in the Azores contributed by Maria Carty (

"Today I asked two friends in their 60s, one born in Pico and another in Teceira, your question about Christmas in Portugal. They pretty much corroborated my experience in Sao Jorge. Both said they got dried figs as presents. They received two or three figs each, which made them luckier than some. I know a guy from Sao Jorge who had to share one fig with three other siblings. This is not a joke. Rather, it was the reality of many in the islands even into the very early nineteen sixties.

As for Christmas day food, most people might eat a little bit better, but not much. Instead of kale soup, they might eat rice and chicken soup, with lots of rice, and much less chicken. Maybe some "papas d'arroz" rice pudding. But you would have to be relatively well off for this meal.

No exchanging of cards. Absolutely no Christmas trees, and no decorative lights of any kind, as in those days there was no electricity in most of Sao Jorge. Large cities in larger islands, did however, have electricity.

Starting about three weeks before Christmas, families placed moistened wheat in saucers. By Christmas day the wheat would have grown to about six inches, assuming it was watered periodically. This makes for a pretty decoration, which they placed by the baby Jesus' figurine--if they had one. I still do this every year. Families who had time, and inclination might also build nativity scenes out of natural materials. Little houses and animals out of clay, and for greenery, lots of moss, and foliage. Children of all ages participated in gathering the moss, and helping out.

If the local priest hand any creative spirit, he might build a nativity scene in the church, which would come particularly alive at Midnight Mass. One year the priest of our church built a nativity scene in the center of a side room in the church. He built a dome over, and a wall around the little nativity village, with stars cut out at various heights so that children of all ages might view it by walking around the miniature village. I still remember the candle-lit houses glowing below the scattered clouds painted on the blue dome, and the little waterways glistening, as they meandered through the fields.

After Mass everyone filed up to the alter to kiss the figurine of the Menino Jesus. I remember lots of incense, beautiful music, and the church bells ringing. I never forgot that magical night, as the family, alongside our neighbors, walked home by moonlight on a crisp, cold night. When I hear Silent Night today, I always think of that night.

Although only my experience, I hope that it is of help to you. 

Feliz Natal 

Maria Carty

(contributed 13 Jan 2005)

This little story was contributed by Susan Vargas Murphy ( It was told to her in 1991 by her grandmother, who was then age 91.

"My father always raised pigs and would kill them every year, but we didn't have a party. We always had bacon, lard, linguisa, morcella, vinho d'alhos, turresoms (don't know the spellling on that....but it is the skin fried)...and ribs for the oven. Three or four men would help my father, his brother always came and they would kill the pig.....put the knife in the heart (I wonder about this knife placement, but that is what she thought???). We would shave him off to make torresoms. We would hang the pig up. We would put a garden hose to the intestines and turn them inside out.....we would wash them out and scrub them with baking soda and salt and vinegar.....we needed to get all the jelly like substance out of the inside of the "trepas" it would stay smooth. I looked forward to playing with the bladder when I was small. We would blow it up and let it dry and then played with it as if it was a ball.....sometimes we used it as a punching bag. We would cut the intestines about a yard long for the linguisa. We would pickle the meat first with garlic and wine and use the small instestines for linguisa. We would cut the intestines shorter for the Morcella and use larger intestine. We would make the morcella that same day....we would have the onion and ingredients ready the day before." (Contributed 22 Nov 1998)

This was contributed by Don Saulnier (

My grandparents (surname Henriques) came from the island of Flores. I was born in New Bedford, Massachusett which has a large portuguese community. I grew up in that culture and was delighted to find your sight on the internet. The part about folk customs brought back many fond memories.. The chamarita, the festa do espirito santo and also the killing of the pig which in our area was done when the grapes were ripe. Every one had grapes in their backyards and made wine. I also remember the festas that had. each island had a festa and names were drawn at this time and the lucky ones got to have the Holy Ghost in their home for a week. An altar was built and then the Holy Ghost was brought to that house led by a young girl dressed in white who carried it on a velvet pillow into that house There was also a small band that accompanied them playing music. These festas went on all summer until all the islands were represented. Then they had the final one which was the feast of the Blessed Sacrament and it lasted for three days,. They had auctions of things which the people donated, such as fruit baskets and bottles of wine and the money was donated to the church. They danced the chamarita and I also remember that they cooked carne asada and favas. Thank you for bringing back old memories. Don Saulnier (Contributed 5 February 1999)

© Kathy Andrade Cardoza 2022