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Carnival Traditions at Portugal with Celtic religous origins!

Updated: Jul 23, 2020

Masquerades at Podence recently classified as World's Cultural Heritage!

Traditional Caretos masks in Podence, at Portugal
Caretos masquerades at Podence, Portugal

The tradition of Caretos is the remain of an ancient Celtic religious ritual still practised in some villages of northen Portugal.

Inserted in the winter festivities, so characteristic in the region of Trás-os-Montes and Alto Douro, the Caretos represent diabolical and mysterious images that every year since times lost in time come to the streets in carnival festivities. Interrupting the long silences of each winter, as if leaving secret and unpredictable podian nooks, hissing the 'Caretos' and their frantic rattles well crossed in the colorful fringes of thick blankets.

Caretos in Podence, a Celtic origin festivity
Caretos in Podence, a Celtic origin festivity

The younger boys who follow and imitate the caretos are called facanitos and ensure the continuity of the tradition.

The Caretos symbolize the life that is renewed in spring, the entry into a fruitful and prosperous time, the passage from puberty to adulthood and ancient fertility cults. The community revitalizes itself and reinforces ties in these parties organized by boys where even excesses serve to purge evils. The people still see them as if they were the devil himself.

The Podence Caretos, mark Carnival revelry in the Northeast of Portugal with colorful and rustling suits, rattles at the waist and a stick to support the throngs. There are also masks, angular leaves topped by a pointed nose, often in zinc, but sometimes also in leather, usually red or black with a painted cross on the forehead.

Traditional Carnival masquerades in Portugal
Traditional Carnival masquerades in Portugal

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