Back in May, 1971, Victoria’s Portuguese community feasted in celebration of Our Lady of Fatima, around a borrowed statue of the saint at the Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church in Saanich.
In October of the same year, they celebrated with their own statue, blessed by Bishop Remi De Roo. The feast featured traditional foods, folk dancing and Portuguese music after each mass.
Since then, every May and October, the local Portuguese community has upheld the tradition.
This month, in order to welcome the larger community, the parish is hosting a “A Taste of Portugal” Valentine’s dinner and dance, with non-religious elements of Portuguese culture taking centre stage.
“I think that sometimes people think (a Portuguese celebration) is just for our community,” said Jan Paulo from the Our Lady of Fatima parish office on Elk Lake Drive. “But it’s not. It’s for everyone.”
The Feb. 12 dinner features Papo-seco (Portuguese buns); galinha guizada (Portuguese-style Chicken); caçoila (pork ribs); fletes de peixe em molho verde (basa fillets in green sauce); and Chouriço (chorizo) specialties prepared by Casa Nova catering. The food will be followed with music selected by DJ Paulo Sousa.
“It would be nice for people from outside the Portuguese community to come and see what it’s like,” Paulo said, adding that events have always been public, though mainly attended by the 3,500 people who make up the region’s Portuguese community.
“When they come to experience the Portuguese culture, we’re hoping we will be able to entice them into our other festivals. Whether they practise religion or not, that’s not important,” added Arthur Paulo, Jan’s husband, who is coordinating the dinner/dance.
A Taste of Portugal starts at 5:30 p.m. at the Portuguese Hall, 4635 Elk Lake Dr. (near Saanich Commonwealth Place).
Money raised will go to Our Lady of Fatima, a registered charity. The evening includes door prizes and a silent auction.
Tickets are only available in advance for $40 per adult, $20 for children aged six to 10, and free for children up to five-years-old. Contact Jan Paulo at 250-658-1587 or Helder Ponte at 250-727-0623 for details.