Malacca Portuguese Festivals

Malacca Portuguese Festivals

The festivals celebrated by the Malacca Portuguese descendants are spectacles of colour and highlight their traditions of devout faith.

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The close knit community spirit that has kept the Malacca Portuguese descendants together is undoubtedly rooted in its cultural traditions. These traditions, which are based on Catholic Christainity, are very much alive and are celebrated during festivals that bear important religious significance to the community. The most famous of these festivals is undoubtedly Festa San Pedro, which is now a week long festival in June that also incorporates Fiesta San Juang.

Fiesta San Pedro, or the Feast of Saint Peter, is a festival that is highly important to the Portuguese Settlement, which has traditionally been a fishing community. Saint Peter, the patron saint of fishermen has a special place in this fishing community and they have not failed to honour him every year with this festival. The festival has been held by the settlement ever since its founding in 1930s and is a colourful affair involving prayer, thanksgiving and plain simple fun. The festival begins with Fiesta San Juang, or the Feast of Saint John on the 23rd of June, when most if not all the homes of the settlement are brightly adorned with lit candles. The candles are said to symbolise the Light of Christ that guide the community through life's storms towards safety. This symbolism is well understood well by fishermen, who experience stormy weather while out at sea.

The actual feast day, which falls on the 29th of June, is marked by Mass in honour of St Peter and followed by the blessing of the village's fishing boats. Although the number of fishermen in the settlement has dropped due to a disappointing catches, the blessing still takes place, with the decorated boats adorned with candles taking centre stage. The blessing is done in hopes that God will grant the community a bigger and better catch for the year. and takes the form a procession of the boats, with the statue of St Peter at the head, through the streets of the settlement.

The Portuguese descendants celebrate Lent with a unique water festival called Inturdu. Akin to the Thai water festival, the inhabitants of the settlement celebrate on the streets by drenching anyone in sight with water. The festivities is believed to mark an end to all gaiety before the start of Lent, a period of purification and contemplation.

The inhabitants of the settlement also celebrate feast days of other Catholic saints, most notably St Anne's Feast, and frequently journey to various places in Malaysia to take part in the festivities. These journeys are, in their own way, modern day pilgrimages undertaken by the pious and faithful of the Malacca Portuguese community.

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