Young Men´s Festival
It is also known as the Festa dos Caretos (Masked Devils´ Festival, in the village of Aveleda), Festa da Mocidade (Youth Festival, at Montesinho and Gimonde), Festa dos Reis (Festival of the Kings, at Baçal and Rio de Onor) or, just simply, as the Festa de Natal (Christmas Festival, at Varge and França), with slight variations being noted in the dates of the festivities.
Young unmarried men are the main protagonists in this event, for they are the ones who prepare and organise the festival, consisting of rondas (house visits), masses, collections, dances and loas (Christmas tales).
The young men gather together at the Casa da Festa, a house specially loaned to them for the occasion, where people can only enter if they have permission from the mordomo (major-domo or steward), who decides when the various activities should begin and end. It is here that the group make their meals and prepare themselves for the various stages of the festivities.
Of all the different events that take place, the most notable are perhaps the rondas and the loas.
The rondas may involve young men calling round at people´s houses at night, or at dawn, either to wake them up or to wish them Merry Christmas, depending on the time of day or the particular aim of the visit.
The young men, who are masked or dressed as caretos (devils), wander around the village accompanied by musicians and the mordomos, asking the local inhabitants to make a small contribution towards the festival. The most important moment is when they call round door to door giving everybody in the village festive greetings and continuing to make their collection.
The Missa do Galo or midnight mass is an integral part of the festivities, in which the young men station themselves in a prominent place close to the altar and are the first to "kiss the Baby" and also the first to leave the mass so that they can go and put on their masks and dress up as devils, in order for the festivities to be able to continue.
After the ceremony, they direct the population to the site where the loas or Christmas tales are to be told. Loas is the term used to describe the moments when the young men satirically recount, in four-line rhyming stanzas, strange episodes that have taken place in the village over the previous year, most of them spiced up with a heavy dose of social criticism.
At the end of the festival, physical competitions are held to see who will be nominated as the mordomos for the next year´s event.