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Easter in Portugal - Burning Judas, Burying The Cod

The hunt for chocolate eggs, eating “folar” and offering almonds… That’s how Portuguese enjoy Easter. So, not that exciting? How about buying Judas? Right, if you travel to historic Portuguese villages you can take part in centuries-old traditions. The Enterro do Bacalhau (Cod Burying) and Queima do Judas (Burning Judas), are two of them that would make the Easter Bunny hop a bit faster.

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Queima de Judas – “Burning Judas”

On Holy Saturday (the one before Easter Sunday), some celebrate the rite of Burning Judas, originally a pagan spring rite representing the end of the old year and the arrival of the spring. The tradition still remains in places like Montalegre or Travassô (Águeda) and has the symbolic theme of evil being cast out and purification through fire.

In this Christian representation version, the traitor Judas is condemned to the fire, as his will is read out loud to the people. This will includes a set of advices and social criticism about the county and the country.

Enterro do Bacalhau “The Cod Burial”

On the same Holy Saturday, but a couple of miles down the road, Constantim (Vila Real), Góis and Pampilhosa (Fatima) enjoys another ritual: The Cod Burial, a popular end to the fasting of Lent. As no one could eat meat during this time, people would eat cod - as it is easy to preserve without any special care. With the end of the Lent and the finishing of this restriction, people would bury the cod and satisfy their desire for meat.

This ritual is experienced in many ways. While some regions a huge cod made of cardboard is buried and submitted to a “real” trial - with executioners, judges and lawyers - in other regions people "hang up" the Cod spine - suspended in a branch of a tree - as symbol of the end of the fasting. The Cod Burial has no usual time, as it only happens depending on the people’s will.

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