We have a bit of a joke running with friends who took us to visit the quaint village of Alferce near Monchique … that no-one actually lives there! It’s a tiny village, with a population, according to Wiki, of 441 people in an area of 96.12 km² .. however when we visited we didn’t see a soul and nothing was open!
So when we saw their annual Magusto – or Chestnut – Fair advertised – we thought it would be fun to visit and see if anybody turned up. Well .. what a suprise we had! The village certainly comes to life on the 1st November, and we had a fantastic day out – alongside several hundred other people!
Admittedly when we arrive at midday – it was a bit quiet .. even if the village’s church did tell us it was 4.40pm … glad to see it wasn’t just us that couldn’t get the hang of the clocks changing last Sunday! Most of the stalls around the main square were just getting set up .. but that gave us a chance to have a wander around this pretty little village.
We had Kat the dog with us … and we can’t begin to tell you how excited she was to walk down a little lane and come across a whole farm full of free-range ducks and geese …
Her excitement at seeing them all wandering around the lane was almost palpable .. it was lovely to see them all – and aren’t they beautiful too!?
After a lovely exploration of the village – which is surprisingly larger than it looks as you approach it from the main road – it has some excellent facilities for such a small village, including a fabulous open-air swimming pool and sports facility … it was time to wander back to the square where most of the stalls had set up and were ready for business.
There was a lovely selection of stalls, with home-made cakes (which were delicious … well we had to try some!!)
and more cakes .. and figs …
And Kat’s favourite stand .. the presunto and sausages stall .. complete with medronho and honey liquers …
And a fine looking hog roast … the roast pork sandwich in a roll was delicious …
There were crochet and craft stalls, including these basket-weaved bottles:
And a great plant stall – the friends we were with were most impressed and bought several new fruit trees and plants .. and the prices were extremely reasonable too …
Kat and I had a quick rest whilst they were busy choosing their new plants!
Then it was time to witness the main event .. the Chestnuts!
We already knew that the St. Martins Day festival, held in late Autumn each year, is a celebration of the harvest; and that the Dia de São Martinho on the 11th November is the day to celebrate the maturation of the year’s wine production, and is also the day when the bonfire is built, and the recently-harvested chestnuts are roasted. This festival is known as a magusto (which is believed to come from the Latin magnus ustus or “great fire”) … so we were expecting chestnuts at the Alferce fair …
What we hadn’t experienced before was the fabulous spectacle of a traditional chestnut roasting ceremony! Giant purpose-built ’tiles’ were laid on the ground, and dried pine-scented kindling laid onto it. A full sack of chestnuts were thrown into the centre, more kindling was added – and then it was set alight …
Pitchforks were at the ready .. to stir the flames and carry a lighted bundle of kindling across to the next stack …
And boy did the flames go up! The air was soon filled with the smell of the bonfire kindling .. then as soon as the flames went out .. the people rushed up to grab a handful of scalding hot scorched chestnuts .. it was fabulous watching it all happen, and to see the amazing array of ‘suitable’ containers people used to collect their chestnuts .. including plastic pots and bags that soon melted in the heat. Several enterprising people had even brought gloves to wear to help them shell the charred outer casing of the chestnuts … and one lady even had her oven gloves on!
There also appeared to be a local tradition of smearing the charcoal over your face .. we have no idea why .. but it was reminiscent of Ash Wednesday!
It was also lovely to see the traditional costumes being worn too with older ladies dressed in the traditional peasant’s clothing, wearing a headscarf and hat .. although the modern day iPhone somewhat spoilt the overall effect!
And then it was time for music – and dancing! Lots of dancing!!
We sat with our friends enjoying the music and spectacle of it all, and all agreed that it was such a treat to be there .. watching families, children of all ages and the older generation genuinely enjoying themselves in such an engaging and traditional way.
The main staged area of the village has some fantastic blue and white tiled murals on the walls, and we had commented before that one of the scenes depicted was of the Magusto Chestnut Fair .. and we joked that maybe in another hundred years’ time, someone will create another tiled mural and perhaps we will all be there in the picture, sat on a bench, eating hot chestnuts and enjoying the fair.
We left about 5pm, and the visitors and cars were still streaming into the village – we went off to our friends for dinner and left them all dancing, drinking, eating and enjoying the event – and we promised that we will definitely go back there again next year on the 1st November – it was one of the nicest afternoons we have enjoyed out here, full of life, colour, tradition, flames and food!
Just a footnote – if you enjoyed seeing the plants for sale in this post .. you might also be interested in the 1st Algarve Plants and Seeds Exchange which is happening on the 12th November in Almancil – click the poster below to visit the Facebook page for the event for full details:
And for more information about the pretty village of Alferce – click the logo here to visit their excellent website:
Excellent post Alyson and Dave! Thank you.
you’re welcome! glad you enjoyed it
We really enjoy your photos and posts. Thank you so much.
thank you! And thank you for taking the time to comment too .. we always appreciate feedback 🙂
I had no idea they did it like this, Aly! 🙂 I’ll have to try and catch it next year. I imagine it’s a bit like Querenca which is empty every day except for the sausage fair.
yes I think it is! however apparently they have a rather impressive présepio de Natal which will be up soon so we are going to go back there again!
We’re out on the 2nd January. It should still be up then?
ooh I don’t know ! I think so as I think they keep them up for the 6th Jan Day of the Kings …
I checked online and they’re on the first couple of weeks of January too 🙂