While speaking with a friend about the São Brás Easter parade — a friend who is a lifelong resident of the town — I learned about another, lesser-known tradition of the day. Apparently, the men who carry the flower torches and cry out the traditional chant during the parade are known for, shall we say, wetting their whistles as they go. By the end of the parade, many of them are quite soused, after which they retire to various bars and cafés to get even happier.
This year I watched for signs of the secondary tradition, and once I knew what to look for, they were everywhere. Seemed like every group of men had one or two small water bottles that were passed around, and when one man went by me with his water bottle uncapped, I distinctly smelled aguardente, a Portuguese firewater that is conveniently clear. Another group didn’t even pretend to have water in their bottle — their liquid of choice was a light brown, which probably meant one of the Portuguese brandies. Yet another didn’t even bother with the water bottle, and instead passed around a silver flask.
Watching for the tippling men provided a whole new layer of fun to this festival. We had the church dignitaries, the heavy religious pageantry, the youngsters growing up in the tradition, the band…and the men in their Sunday best, waving flower torches and taking sips on the side.
A flower bearer caps his “water bottle” in the center of the photo. (Click to embiggen.)