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Folders  |  PAO POR DEUS: A Portuguese tradition
PAO POR DEUS: A Portuguese tradition
Juliette Dejardin
PAO POR DEUS: A Portuguese tradition
1 November – PAO POR DEUS: A Portuguese tradition

Since the 2nd century Christians have prayed for their dead loved ones by visiting their tombs, and it was during the 5th century that the Church put in place the liturgical calendar to allocate  one day per year to each saint in order to honour the lesser-known ones.

Over time, this calendar became overloaded, so the Church decided to honour all souls on 2 November, as 1 November was the day dedicated to all saints. This happened in the 15th century. In Portugal, a tradition still exists from that time that is called “Pão do Deus”.

This time-honoured tradition reminiscent of Halloween does not, however, have the same supernatural connotations nor origins.

In villages throughout the land, on the morning of 1 November children gather together and then go from house to house reciting poetry and asking for “Pão por Deus”.

For example:

"Pão , pão por deus

à mangarola ,

encham-me o saco,

e vou-me embora."

(Bread, bread of God, fill my bag and I’ll be on my way).

In exchange, the villagers put bread, cakes, pomegranates, dried fruit or other sweet treats into their bag (about ten or twenty years ago the children even had the choice – sometimes – between sweets or a stiff drink!)

If someone does not want to give them something, they say:

"O gorgulho gorgulhote,

lhe dê no pote,

e lhe não deixe,

farelo nem farelote."

(May your rice rot and may you lack bran in your pot").

In some villages, the villagers would offer a "Santora" cake, in others, this day is known as the "day of the small cakes" or even "pedir os Santos".

Times have changed, and now the children even receive money, sweets or chocolate.

This tradition still survives in the outskirts of Lisbon, and harks back to the terrible earthquake of 1 November 1755  that destroyed the town. On that day, many of the destitute were seen begging to those more fortunate, saying "bread, please give me bread, for the love of God”.

In times of famine, this day was one when children could quash their hunger. This was a gesture of love and solidarity shown to others, particularly children to whom the morning would be devoted before starting the afternoon with a family lunch and a visit to the cemetery

NB: In Lisbon, children can relive the Pao por Deus tradition at the quinta Pedagogica dos Olivais


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