Portugal’s Caretos Tradition: Mischief and Mayhem Before Lent

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

I posted a few videoclips yesterday of the caretos, these loudly-dressed masked characters that run up and down the streets of Podence ‘terrorizing’ the townsfolk. This street entertainment is a tradition from Celtic days called Entrudo Chocalheiro (carnival rattling?) that takes place in the days before Lent — not to the scale of Rio de Janeiro’s Carnival atmosphere, but for a tiny village in the mountains of northeastern Portugal it’s a shake-up. The streets of Podence come alive with the sounds of cowbells and shrieking, drums and bagpipes. The population multiplies during this time, busloads of visitors arrive and the local fields are littered with vehicles, all to see the caretos in their devilish glory.

Official website for the Caretos de Podence (PT): http://caretosdepodence.no.sapo.pt/
Visit Portugal (EN): The Caretos of Podence
Azibo.org (EN): Caretos Tradition

High-quality video from the local TV station’s Facebook page (you can actually see us in the video at 0:50 and 1:49):

[video link]

This is definitely the most bizarre thing I’ve seen in Portugal yet. (Remember, it’s not São João for another few months, when Porto goes crazy.) If I hadn’t read up on Entrudo Chocalheiro the day before we left, I wouldn’t have had a clue what was going on. If you’re an uninitiated English speaker like me, I’ll direct you to Julie Dawn Fox’s website where she explains the events in greater detail.

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

Basically, on the Sunday before Lent, these caretos unleash pranksterish behaviour on the public for about an hour. During this time a group of males of all ages — from little caretos-in-training (called Facanitos, or “little knives”) to veterans — wear what looks like a colourful head-to-toe fringed rug, some with long hats (all the better to clobber with), some with long sticks (all the better to poke with), and each with belts from which cowbells hang and make a racket when they walk and run. You would think the cowbells make it harder for them to sneak up on the unsuspecting, but caretos move pretty fast and I witnessed a lot of stealth attacks in the crowds.

Traditionally the targets of their attention are supposed to be young women (this is a tradition related to fertility, after all), but these days the caretos are easier on their victims and will chase after pretty much everyone who is looking the other way. They will grab you, rattle their hips against you, try and frighten with loud noises, knock their cowbells against you, that sort of thing. The idea is to keep on your toes and watch out for them, especially if you’re anywhere near the middle of the street. Unlike the Celtic days, however, the Portuguese witness this display with cameras and video recorders, and the caretos actually spend more time posing for pictures than practicing mischief.

For more pictures, check out the full-screen slideshow [Caretos de Pondence] (opens in new window).

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

March 2, 2014
Album: Carnaval 2014 Portugal
Full-screen slideshow: Carnaval 2014 Portugal (slideshow)