We arrived at Corvo island without any big hopes about the celebrations of the Holy-Spirit. We were in the middle of a pandemic, and the rumours were that again this year all public celebrations would be cancelled throughout the archipelago. But, as we learnt later, this was Corvo, and in Corvo things happen according to the Corvinos’ wish.
We arrived on a Saturday, went around the village and did not see much movement, besides some tables and chairs piled at the side of the square, next to the municipality. The atmosphere of the village was quiet, as if the village were at sleep.
But on Sunday, we woke up to the sound of the brass band playing and immediately understood that the party was about to happen. We set down our tent and ran to the old parish church in honour of Our Lady of Miracles, where the Corvinos were agglomerating. The church wasn’t big enough to host everyone, and many stood outside in the church’s square.
We were curious about what was happening inside the church. Was it a regular mass? Something else? We entered the porch and found out that, inside, the ceremony included rituals we were unfamiliar with. We counted at least six girls standing in a line, opposite the altar. They were all wearing white robes and royal mantles sewed in scarlet velvet. The priest was praying and blessing crowns which he then put on their heads. The girls were being coronated with crowns!
This coronation was the end ritual of the religious celebration, and soon, everyone came out of church, with the newly coronated girls standing in a prominent place. A procession began being organised, with the girls at the head, the priest in dark sun-glasses following them from behind, and later the brass band. The rest of the people followed behind, in two columns, in silence and with a respectful attitude. We followed the procession, which went through tiny streets until it reached its final point, the Império. The Império looks like a small chapel, where the holy spirit crowns and insignias are kept from one year to the other. There, the girls removed the crowns and became commoners again.
With the band playing its final theme, a dramatic one that created a kind of an apogee, we thought the celebrations were over, but that was not so. The religious celebrations are followed by profane festivities, which include a shared lunch! That was the reason why everyone was now heading at large steps towards the municipality square. Lunch was waiting!
Where the day before we had seen piled chairs, now, tables had been spread and covered with plates, cutlery and drinks. There was room for all the Corvinos to come and share a meal! This special meal is called Bodo which is a Portuguese word that means the solemn distribution of food through the ones that need it.
The preparation of the Holy Spirit Bodo started the day before. Every year someone else offers the meat needed for the Holy Spirit Bodo, and a crew of volunteers spends the entire night cooking it, so that next morning, on Sunday, at lunch, the meat is tender and ready to be eaten. The dish served is a soup, and is known as the Holy-Spirit soup.
We were looking at the Corvinos, as they were approaching the tabes for lunch, and were preparing to leave the square, as we were approached by the major. ‘Everyone is invited to join our meal and eat the Holy-Spirit soup. Would you like to join?’ Of course we did. As soon as we sat, the volunteers started approaching the tables with big metal tureens and platters filled with the cooked meat. Each table received one such big tureen with the bread soup and one platter of meat.
The Holy-Spirit soups is only about bread cut in slices and covered with cinnamon and leaves of mint. The broth used to cook the meal for hours is poured over the bread before it goes to the table. That’s it! The secret of this recipe is this broth rich in flavour after having spent hours cooking the meat.
In addition to the soup, the meat is also served, and can be added to the same plate where the soup is served. Traditionally, you can either share the meal with the population in the square, or, if you are a Corvino, you can also come with a tupperware and take some of the soup home.
- The Holy-Spirit celebrations occur after Easter, on Pentecost Sunday
- On some islands, the celebrations occur not only once but throughout several weekends