Images commissioned by Culture Trip. 

This local custom is typical of the whole Trás-os-montes region, and specifically of the village of Podence. For three days, the caretos can be seen running around the village causing raucous mayhem: raiding taverns, shouting and ringing their bells as they go. Aside from stealing wine, the caretos’ main goal was to bless women by hitting them with their bells, granting them fertility – a ritual much aligned with the coming of spring. The only women who were safe from the caretos were the matrafonas. These women donned masks made out of layered clothes, resembling old rag dolls, and walked the streets throwing ashes at anyone within their reach – another ritual linked to fertility and renewal. This parade culminates on Shrove Tuesday; as part of this ancient ritual, the caretos, each of them carrying a torch, surround a giant careto effigy made out of wood and set it ablaze, sending sparks into the night sky.

Words by Francisco Henriques 

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