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Procession members carry statue of Virgin Mary, honored during 2nd Dominga
Procession members carry a statue of the Virgin Mary, honored during the 2nd Dominga, 1999.

Portuguese Holy Ghost Festival and Traditional Practices

Though half a world and a century removed from Portugal, Portuguese-Americans in Hawaii have kept their heritage alive through traditions passed from generation to generation. One such tradition is the "Feast of the Holy Ghost," which originated centuries ago in the Azores. The sixth Queen of Portugal, Isabel, had unsurpassed devotion to the Roman Catholic Church and great faith in the Holy Ghost. Feasts of the Holy Ghost have been held in Hawaii ever since the first major immigration of Portuguese in the late 1800s, who came to work in Hawaii's sugar cane fields. Hawaii's first Feast of the Holy Ghost was held at the Holy Ghost Chapel at Punchbowl in 1901.

The feast is a Catholic celebration that proclaims the faith of the Portuguese and their devotion to the Holy Ghost, or Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Holy Trinity. For each of the seven Saturdays leading up to the Feast, known as "Domingas," a different historical or religious figure is honored. In the early years of the Feast, members of Hawaii's Portuguese community were chosen each year to sponsor each Dominga. As the weeks passed, celebrations for each Dominga were held in the home of its sponsor. A small wooden chapel containing the statue of the Holy Trinity was delivered to the home, which was then decorated with flowers and prepared for guests. Special prayers in honor of the Holy Ghost would be said, and then the festivities -- music, dancing, refreshments -- would begin. At the end of the week, the celebration would move to the home of the next Dominga sponsor.

The highlight of the entire observance is a three-day festival that begins on the Friday night just before the Seventh Dominga, the "Blessing of the Meat and Bread," in which a portion of beef and bread -- the "Pensao" -- is blessed by a priest and distributed to each member present. Following the tradition of charity and feeding the poor, a bowl of soup or stew is served to everyone. On Saturday night, the sponsors of many Domingas decorate their respective statues in preparation for a Sunday mass held at the Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church, which is converged upon by a procession of Domingas holders and their decorated statues. A woman is chosen to represent Queen Isabel, and she and her court join the procession. At the conclusion of the mass, the priest crowns the Holy Ghost Queen and the procession makes its way back to the Holy Ghost Punchbowl grounds, where lunch is served in the chapel. An auction is held with each item representing a "promise" made to the Holy Ghost for the granting of petitions. The final event is the drawing of names for those who will be next year's Dominga sponsors.

Project documentation includes a five-page written report, a news article, a booklet entitled "Punchbowl Holy Ghost Centennial," and ten 8 x 10 color photographs with captions.

Originally submitted by: Daniel K. Inouye, Senator Daniel K. Akaka, Senator Neil Abercrombie, Representative (1st District) & Patsy T. Mink,Representative (2nd District).

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The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.

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