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São Gonçalinho: Celebrating Aveiro’s Patron Saint

São Gonçalinho: Celebrating Aveiro’s Patron Saint

by Mario and Nuno

Many know Aveiro as a Portuguese coastal city permeated by a saltwater lagoon, its picturesque moliceiro boats, and the famed traditional sweets called ovos moles. Yet, very few people are familiar with the odd but surely entertaining São Gonçalinho festivities.

This one-of-a-kind annual celebration that starts every January 10th, is natural to one of the oldest neighborhoods in town: the Bairro da Beira-Mar. It was right here that in the XVIII century the local fishermen, salt pickers, and fishmongers witnessed the construction of a chapel in honor of their patron saint São Gonçalinho.

Locals describe São Gonçalinho has a saint with a good sense of humor to which young couples pray for fertility, and single older women plead for a husband.

Nowadays, once a year the Bairro da Beira Mar gets lit up with arches of colored lights, popular music and countless sweet stalls along the streets. The 5 days of celebrations are filled with daily concerts, cultural events, and fireworks over the ria at night. But what makes it unique, is how locals honor their vows to the saint: by throwing tons of cavacas from the top of the chapel.

What Are Cavacas?

Cavacas are dry-hard cakes covered with a white sugar icing that are thrown like frisbees from the top of São Gonçalinho chapel as a token of faith.

Cavaca sao goncalinho

Around the chapel attracted by the ringing of bells, hundreds of people gather to catch them — mainly because they’re said to bring good luck. While some people catch the cavacas with their hands, others use umbrellas or shrimps nets for efficiency, and every year new catching contraptions seem to come up, like bowls, safety nets, and hockey goals.

aveiro gancalinho chapel

If having free cakes falling from the sky didn’t whet your appetite to visit Aveiro, you might want to check the Complete Aveiro Travel Guide.  But if you’re sold on the idea of visiting the town during São Gonçalinho festivities, you’re guaranteed to have a great time.