One of the most famous traditions of Madeira is the “Arraiais”.
These events include a spiritual side, celebrated in religious parishes through masses and processions. But the real “Festa” happens in the vicinity of the churches, with a lot of music, folklore and typical gastronomy.
This tradition is always a time of friendship between buddies and families.
Chains of lights decorate the churches, running through the surrounding streets, accompanied by colourful laces of flowers, flags and wooden tents. You can buy regional beverages such as “Poncha” and traditional products such as dough dolls, colourful candy necklaces, lupins and bread (garlic butter) with garlic butter. Also try the “typical arraial” drink, an unusual combination of wine and carbonated orange soda, “Vinho com Larajanda”. The tradition says to cook your own “espetada”; Buy the meat in the tents, cut into cubes and roast in skewers of Laurel, on public cookers available.
1. Arraial de Nossa Senhora do Monte, in Funchal
This feast of devotion to Our Lady of Monte begins on August 5th. Legend says it is related to the appearance of Our Lady to a shepherdess, in this location. Tradition demands the celebration of nine masses, one per day, in different parts of the region. On the night of August 14, thousands of locals and visitors climb the stairs to Monte Church. Between eating and drinking, music and dancing, the party lasts the whole night. Many take the opportunity and reach Monte by cable car, which in this evening extends its opening hours. A unique chance to “fly over” Funchal at dawn.
The next day, after the 11 a.m. Mass, there is a procession that runs along the paths of Monte. Often people are seen doing penances for their sins on their knees or holding wax candles as a thank-you signal.
2. Arraial de São Vicente, on the North Coast of Madeira
The Arraial de São Vicente means “party time”! It happens on the last weekend of August and mixes the profane with the religious.
It is one of the local’s favourite party, especially the younger ones.
The streets around the Church of São Vicente close to traffic, to receive thousands of visitors. You’ll find dozens of stalls selling food and drinks, and music all night long; from “traditional singing contests”, to popular concerts and parties with electronic music. Booking your stay in São Vicente in advance because usually it gets full booked.
3. Arraial do Bom Jesus, in Ponta Delgada
On the first Sunday of September locals celebrate the devotion to Bom Jesus, in this picturesque place on the North Coast. In the past, thousands of pilgrims travelled along the paths that connect the south to the north of the island, while others arrived by boat. Today is one of the most typical “arraiais”, a feast of spirituality, faith and togetherness. Listen to the sound of traditional instruments such as braguinha and “brinquinho”!!
4. Arraial of Nossa Senhora da Piedade, in Caniçal
On the third weekend of September, there is a party in the Chapel of Nossa Senhora da Piedade. According to legend, some fishers in distress, in the bay of São Lourenço, promised to build this chapel if they survived. This “arraial” has a particularity; The procession is by sea. On board the boats of the fishermen, the party follows with food and drinks. Enjoy tasting the local fish, like tuna and skipjack.
On Saturday, fishing boats reach this chapel to collect the image of Our Lady of Mercy and take it to Caniçal church. It remains there, until Sunday, when the image is placed back again in the chapel. It’s filled with exciting moments, of exceptional beauty!!