Saint Stephen Feast in Ousilhão

4 min read by Paulo Monteiro. Published in Essays, Stories.
Ousilhão, Vinhais. A “máscaro” takes a photo of another “máscaro”. Leica R5, Elmarit 35 mm, Kodak Tri-X

The region of Trás-os-Montes and Alto Douro is located in the northern interior of Portugal, bordering with Spanish Galicia. In this Marvelous Kingdom, as the writer Miguel Torga called it, we find a landscape of wild beauty and a people proud of an ancestral culture, of which it is a faithful depositary.

Ousilhão, Vinhais. A group of “máscaros” travelling through the streets of the village. Leica R5, Elmarit 35 mm, Kodak Tri-X

Every year, on 25th and 26th December, the inhabitants of Ousilhão, municipality of Vinhais, celebrate the feast of Saint Stephen.

The party has the presence of a king, two vassals, four “moços”, a piper, a drummer and a group of “máscaros”, young people who wear handmade masks representing wild animals and diabolical figures. In the past, only men were allowed to join the group of "máscaros", but nowadays, women also participate in the party. The masks are made of wood or cork. These figures run through the village, enlivening the party with tricks and mischief, spreading chaos between the population and the visitors. The inhabitants of the village receive them in their houses, with a table well stuffed with food and drink.

The feast of St. Stephen is part of the Christmas cycle or the winter solstice. These rituals are of pagan origins, Roman and Celtic, who celebrated the Sun and Saturn, the god of the agriculture, and the “Juvenalia”, the festivities of the young people.

Ousilhão, Vinhais. A “máscaro”, the king and the vassals in front of the church. Leica R5, Elmarit 35 mm, Kodak Tri-X
Ousilhão, Vinhais. Three “máscaros” travelling through the streets of the village. Leica R5, Elmarit 35 mm, Kodak Tri-X
Ousilhão, Vinhais. A “máscaro” disguised as a wolf. Leica R5, Elmarit 35 mm, Kodak Tri-X
Ousilhão, Vinhais. A “máscaro” to visit a village house. Leica R6, Summilux 50 mm, Kodak Tri-X
Ousilhão, Vinhais. A “máscaro” interacts with the photographer. Leica R5, Elmarit 35 mm, Kodak Tri-X
Ousilhão, Vinhais. A boy, disguised as a “máscaro”, travels trough the streets of the village. Leica R5, Elmarit 35 mm, Kodak Tri-X
Ousilhão, Vinhais. Two “máscaros” arrive to the center of the village. Leica R5, Elmarit 35 mm, Kodak Tri-X
Ousilhão, Vinhais. A boy, disguised as a “máscaro”, rides his bycicle. Leica R5, Elmarit 35 mm, Kodak Tri-X
Ousilhão, Vinhais. Two “máscaros” arrive to a meeting point at the village. Leica R5, Elmarit 35 mm, Kodak Tri-X
Ousilhão, Vinhais. The “moços”, the piper and the drummer travel trought the streets of the village. Leica R5, Elmarit 35 mm, Kodak Tri-X