As many as half a million visitors are expected to throng the highways and byways of our small city which is famously associated with the Knights Templar and their successors – The Order of Christ.
The inhabitants of the narrow mediaeval streets of the historic centre compete to present the most colourful decor with garlands criss-crossing to balconies from which hang duvets displaying all manner of decoration while below flowers are strewn on the pathways. In the squares, parks and public places this decorative design is repeated to enhance the presentation of exhibitions of arts and crafts, street markets, competitive games (such as the tug-of-war) and live performances of popular music.
Traditionally, this harvest festival dates to pagan times when the summer solstice and the goddess Ceres were celebrated by the presentation of both agricultural produce and the virtues of a nubile local populace. It was adapted by Catholicism and now covers the first week in July with a series of processions and church services which culminate on the eighth day with an assembly in the grand square of two thousand participants attired in white and black with crimson banderoles and ties. Of these, six hundred girls will be carrying as headgear an individually designed baker´s tray carrying bread rolls intertwined with paper flowers and surmounted by a metallic crown. Each of these weighs about 18 kg. and will finally be blessed by the diocesan bishop before the bread “Peza” will be distributed with baskets of produce to the local needy.
The whole programme of events can be seen on the official website of the Câmara Municipal which also lists where to park, stay and eat. We Tomarense hope that you may be able to visit our beautiful city and take part in a truly Portuguese “festa”.
by email Roberto Cavaleiro, Tomar