Traditional festas populares (saint's day festivals) from May through September are very important to the Azorean people and are a testimony to a deep religious faith of the people. The number of emigrants from around the world arrive to participate in these festivities. A few of the festivities are unique to one of the Azorean islands, but most are celebrated throughout the islands with only minor differences.
The most popular is Festa do Espírito Santo (Holy Ghost Festival). The festival is rooted in medieval traditions and is generally held seven weeks following Easter. It includes lively parades, dancing and large feasts. As part of the tradition, sopa do Espírito Santo and sweet bread known as pão doçe is served.
Festas de Santo António are held a second week of June in Santo Espirito. One of the most beloved saint of the people is São João (St. John) and around the time of São João on the 24th of June, the famous festivities take place in Vila do Porto. I was lucky to visit Santa Maria at this time so I could attended the festivities one night. The largest festival on the island, Festas de Nossa Senhora da Assunção, with traditional and religious characteristics, is held in Vila do Porto on the 15th of August in honour of its patron saint.
Santa Maria has been hosting the Maré de Agosto world music festival since 1987, attracting national and international artists to perform under the Azorean stars. The festival takes place on Praia Formosa the third weekend of August.
The island is characterized by its charming rural white houses that remind of the continental regions of Algarve and Alantejo. This is where the first settlers of the island originally came from in the 15th century, applying here the same tradition. Glimmering white houses are scattered in little clusters or in small villages. Almost all of them are surrounded by a garden, hardly ever built together in streets and squares, and nearly all scattered in the green landscape. In a world of green, white shapes with colourful stripes call ones attention to fairy rectangular or cylindrical chimneys. These are the traditional houses of Santa Maria.
The walls of these picturesque houses are white and their window and door borders are painted bright blue, green or yellow. But it is the white chimney, born onto a truncated pyramid with a lace-like finishing that stands out and makes the houses of Santa Maria so unique.
more pics in the travelogue
The August Tide Festival takes place in an open-air space near the Formosa Beach, one of the main bathing zones of the island, between the 22nd and 24th of August.
Already a sort of tradition, the August Tide Festival is undoubtedly one of the most important of the Azores and has taken there many famous singers and musicians, both Portuguese and foreign, over the last years.