At Vila Boa, a village in the municipality of Vinhais on a slope of the Nogueira hills, the masks, bagpipes and all the things common to the pagan festivities of the Northeastern Portugal can also be found. There a festivity that initially was set to take place in the later days of the year slowly moved to happen a few weeks later, closer to the end of Winter. What was an ancient celebration of the Winter Solstice become the Carnival or Shrovetide that it is today.
This is the reason why there are similarities with the other winter festivities that take place not far from there, starting with their central characters: the “caretos”, or “máscaro” as they are called here. They are demonic figures, hooded, usually dressed in red, and wearing masks of wood or tin; a long time ago they would to hide everything they were going to wear in the surrounding woods, so they could change clothes in a hidden place and return to the village already transformed, and thus be able to play all the tricks under total anonymity. These other masked figures will join them, some more traditional, such as the “madamas” and the “marafonos”, others not so much and it is normal to see a child in the superhero costume of that year’s blockbuster. Along with the musicians and lots of unmasked people, a chaotic procession goes from house to house, eating, drinking, singing. All those not wearing masks are expected to have flour being thrown at. But in the midst of all this revelry there’s something special: fire.
There is a huge symbolism of fire in pagan rituals: it is a purifying element that cleanses sins and eliminates bad things, especially when it’s the party precedes a solemn time of discipline like Lent. So it is normal these Winter Solstice and Shrovetide festivities have fire as an important element, it is normal to end with a bonfire where everyone gathers around, it is normal to jump over that flames, it is normal to burn a “demonic figure” that owns all evils. But in Vila Boa the fire is bigger and more present, the bonfires are more central to the chaos that is the day of Entrudo, one is lit in the square of the village, still early in the afternoon, and all the “máscaros” jump over it, regardless of how young they are. And the day ends with other bonfire, but larger, which will burn at dusk, in the place where the party ends and at the highest point of the village, in plain sight of everyone.