The Childbirth Masses are a tradition of the Autonomous Region of Madeira, and also take place in Porto Santo. They commemorate the nine months of pregnancy of the Virgin Mary and begin nine days before Christmas, when the birth of Jesus is celebrated.
These masses are celebrated at dawn, around six o'clock in the morning, with several ancient Christmas hymns.
The Mass of the Rooster is a mass which is held at midnight from 24th to 25th December and is celebrated after Christmas Eve dinner.
It’s called Midnight Mass due to the legend of a rooster, believed to have been the first animal to witness the birth of baby Jesus, causing the rooster to crow, announcing the birth of Christ every Christmas.
Porto Santo's windmills are emblematic constructions that characterize the landscape and history of Porto Santo Island.
One of the main expressions of traditional popular architecture in Porto Santo is the Casas de Salão.
One can still find a few of these rare, centuries-old constructions there today.
They are humble looking houses with roofs covered with "salão", one of the available natural resources, which was particularly suited to the island’s weather conditions.
"Salão" is a peculiar kind of clay, of highly adhesive sandy composition, that enables buildings to fit perfectly into Porto Santo’s rural landscape.
These houses are very cool in summer, because of very small roof cracks that appear in the "salão" when it is dry, causing the air to circulate. In winter, this mixture absorbs the rain and becomes spongy and impermeable.
Dressed in formal garb, with rajão (ukelele-like stringed instrument) or a simple tambourine in hand, cheerful groups of friends and family, gradually growing as the evening passes, sing popular folk songs with lyrics whose origins are lost in time. The festivity, which is a cultural heritage, only ends at dawn.
The feasts and pilgrimages of Porto Santo are currently an attraction which bring more tourists to the island every year. These festivities, some of which are religious in nature, follow the same lines as the ones in Madeira island.
The area surrounding the Church is decorated with colourful flags raised on wooden masts ornamented with greenery.
One typically finds wooden stalls, where various products are sold, such as sweets, toys, beverages, and varieties of food, among other things.
Of all the festivities of Porto Santo, the most representative is dedicated to St. John, the patron saint of the island, and whose feast is celebrated between 23th and 24th June, as part of the Municipality
Festival. These festivities are considered one the island´s biggest promotional events, given the large number of tourists from many parts of the world who visit the island at that time.
The highlight of this magnificent event is experienced on the night of 23th June, with the Popular Parade. With honour of being broadcast on television, participants displaying their typical costumes and choreographies, parade through the main streets of the city.
The Our Lady of Grace Festival is one of the largest festivals on the island. This Festivity is for Porto Santo what the Monte Festivity is for Funchal. 14th August calls for a visit to the Graça Chapel, for an meeting of faith and tradition.
The lighting runs down the mountain for approximately 500 meters. The paved road is covered with stalls selling traditional food and drinks.This feast gathers not only residents but also hundreds of people who are on vacation on the island in August. The Eucharist is celebrated the next day, followed by the Procession.
The Our Lady of Mercy Festival normally takes place between 30th and 31st August, in the centre of Porto Santo's village. This festival attracts many tourists to the island and is very intensely lived.
The religious part of the festivities, which include the procession, is followed by food and drink and a lot of music entertainment. There is always music and many spontaneous groups give life to these festivities.
The Wine Harvest Festival has increased in fame over the years. During the last three days of August, in the city centre, all those who visit Porto Santo are introduced to the different wines produced in the island.
A public press, wine tastings and the demonstration of the production process, an exhibition of tools related to vines and even musical entertainment with traditional folk groups, make this event essential among Porto Santo's Festivities.
The oldest known songs are dances: the Charamba and Meia-noite, the meia volta e ladrão and retirada. The lyrics speak of Agriculture and its tools, of sea and love. The love themes were sung in the moonlight near the yards of homes, specifically on the threshing floors, where the grains were threshed in Porto Santo.
The diverse repertoire rooted in popular culture is distinguished by folk music and traditional challenge singing groups, trying to keep the traditional music alive.
The folklore of Porto Santo began with the songs “Cantai e folgai” [Sing and Have Fun], “Ladrão” [Thief] and “Moinhos de Vento” [Windmills]. The instruments commonly used in playing traditional songs are the bass drum, wire guitar, rajão, braguinha, violin and accordion.
The most typical dances of Porto Santo are: “Baile da Meia Volta” [Half-turn Dance], “Baile do Ladrão” [The Thief’s Dance], “Ciranda” [Circle Dance], “Padeirinha” [Little Baker Girl], “Ceifeiras” [Harvesters], “Moinhos de Vento” [Windmills] and “Baile Sério” [Solemn Dance].
Nowadays, Porto Santo's music and folklore survive through two musical groups, the Porto Santo Folklore Group and the Porto Santo Traditional Singing Group, which interpret and disseminate the island’s traditional songs.