Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Weddings Around the World: Portuguese-American

Blogger, reader, and friend Catlin of the GIS Lounge. In this post she writes about her wedding in the Portuguese-American community in New Jersey. If you wish to submit an article about your culture/country's wedding traditions just comment below and we will make it its own post!

My husband and I were married back in his hometown of Newark, New Jersey in a heavily immigrant section called the Ironbound. The area gets its name from the railroad tracks that surround the neighborhood and is home to many Portuguese immigrants. It’s estimated that about 50-75% of the area is Portuguese. The area is densely packed with Portugese shops and restaurants, particularly along Ferry Street. Every summer, a huge festival called "Dia de Portugal" (Portugal Day) attracts over half a million people to the community.

Both sides of my husband’s family emigrated from Portugal to the Ironbound in the 1960s so it was only fitting to celebrate with a Portuguese wedding. Our wedding Mass was celebrated in the Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church in Newark. Our Lady of Fatima was built in 1955 and was one of the first churches built in the United States to serve the Portuguese immigrant population. The Mass was celebrated in both English and Portuguese.

Our wedding reception was held at Iberia Peninsula Restaurant on Ferry Street, one of the main Portuguese restaurants in Newark. One of the most important things when hosting in the Portuguese culture is to make sure your guests are NEVER hungry. That means food, and lots of it. At the reception was a table called the “Mesa Típica”. This is a table set up that holds the old traditional food of Portugal such as salted cod (Bacalhau). Eating from that table is more for the hard core Portuguese and is more intended as an homage to the old days than for actual eating. For the guests, there were multiple courses with enough food to feed five times the number of people actually at the reception. Note the leitão (suckiling pig) in the photo - a must have offer at all major Portuguese gatherings.

The night of celebration was capped off with lively dancing. Once of the popular dances at a Portuguese wedding is a group dance called “Bate o pé”, which means “Stomp your foot”. Everyone gathers in a circle and dances to this song:

Bate o pé, bate o pé, bate o pé, faça assim como eu.
Bate o pé, bate o pé, bate o pé, foi assim como a minha amor me prendeu.

Stomp your foot, stomp your foot, stomp your foot, and do it like me.
Stomp your foot, stomp your foot, stomp your foot, that's how my love got me.

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