By the time the celebrants arrived at the Portuguese American club on Saturday for the Feast of the Holy Ghost, the soup was hot, the chicken was cooking and the ice-cold drinks were ready.
Chefs Brian Patrick Hall of Oak Bluffs and Dylan Estrella of Edgartown were stirring their inaugural sopa, made with fresh linguica, beef and cabbage. Last year the pair had helped Portuguese Society elders Paul and Barbara Humber and Chef Lanie Bonito.
But this was their first year on their own and they’d come prepared, cooking more than 250 gallons that would be served through the weekend.
“We started bringing it together yesterday [Friday],” said Mr. Hall. There was plenty of cutting: cabbage, onions, potatoes and tomatoes. Endless cutting.
“We went the way of tradition, to make a more traditional sopa,” said Mr. Hall. “Plenty of cabbage, no kale.”
The Feast of the Holy Ghost has many ingredients, and just as many reasons to attend.
For some, the festival is a poignant reminder of Azorean Portuguese history, and a chance for to celebrate multiple generations of Islanders who have shared in that heritage of preparing food for the feast. For others, it is a spiritual event, one that honors 13th century Portuguese Queen Isabella, who legend has it offered up her crown as thanks for the Holy Ghost saving the famine-ravished poor. And still for others, the event is primarily a fundraiser, an opportunity to raise money for the Holy Ghost Associations’ many causes while enjoying music and food.
“Hey, I am Greek,” said Mike Delis, who has auctioned the Portuguese feast for four years. This event and the organization is more about connecting with the community than ethnicity, he said. “A lot about what is going on is people giving back to the community. This is one of the most charitable organizations on the Island. They do a lot.”
“This is about people getting together. It is Island life, part of the fabric of Island life,” said Art Bailow of Oak Bluffs.
“I see multi generations here,” said Catherine Deese of Oak Bluffs, who was busy selling tickets. “I’ve been working at the feast for 35 years,” she said. “There is tradition here.”
As the heat of the day dissipated, more people arrived at the club’s Vineyard avenue headquarters. The music grew louder, the lines for fried dough, raw oysters and clams, and shish kebabs longer.
“It sure all comes together. There are moments when you don’t think so. But a lot of work by different people makes this happen,” said Tricia Bergeron, seven year president of the Holy Ghost Association.
The feast goes late into the evening Saturday, but late Sunday morning offers another key ingredient to the feast and its observance: a parade from the P.A. Club to Our Lady Star of the Sea Catholic church on Massasoit avenue.
The task of carrying Isabella’s crown in the parade — one of the most recognizable symbols of the Feast and itself a symbol of the presence of the Holy Ghost — was given this year to Mia Jeffers and Emma Williamson.
Father Augustine Bangalie held the silver crown over their heads while members of the Bay State Band stood at attention, surrounded by puddles from an earlier shower.
Solemnity gave way to celebration as fire trucks representing all three down-Island towns blared their horns. Portuguese folk dancers and musicians from New Bedford took to the streets. The P.A. Club filled with cheers as the tight-knit group made their way home.
For more photos, see the gallery Feast of the Holy Ghost Celebrated in Oak Bluffs.