Every year, there’s a special Thursday in May – special in Portugal, that is. It has to do with flowers and it is a Christian festivity, although pre-Christian in origin. Dia da Espiga (loosely translated as Wheatstalk Thursday) used to be one (if not the most) sacred day of the year.
No working was allowed on that day, not even making bread or cheese, and at noon people would go to the fields to collect ears of cereal, wild flowers and olive branches – each with a specific meaning. Small bouquets were made which, depending on the local custom, were kept for a whole year behind the door or on top of the highest shelf of the house, until it was time to replace it with a new bouquet one year later.
Today, on the Feast of the Ascension you go to work as usual (no going to the fields to pick flowers, oh bu-hu) but every city, town and suburban area will have people selling these bouquets on the street, prices usually ranging from 1€ to 2€. This year’s Dia da Espiga fell on May 29th.
So what’s the meaning of each one of the elements in this “country style bouquet”? White and yellow flowers stand for “silver and gold”, i.e., money; the wheat stalk (or anything resembling one) stands, obviously, for bread; poppies mean joy and life; and, last but not least, olive branches mean nourishment/food, but also peace and light (remember the old oil lamps, before electricity was around).
Do you have any similar tradition in your country? I’d love to hear about it! Please share it in the comment section bellow.