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Unraveling the Meaning of Newark's Holy Ghost Festa

Community celebrates its 89th festa this weekend.

A festival dedicated to the Holy Ghost begins Thursday night.

But what is a Holy Ghost Festa?

Newark Patch sat down with Melissa Correia, president of Portuguese Fraternal Society of America No. 16, to learn more about the festival that has been held in town for decades. Correia was charged with coordinating this year’s festa.

As part of the celebration, one woman will be presented as Queen Saint Isabel, and three others will be crowned as senior queen, junior queen and little queen. Each queen, with the exception of Queen Saint Isabel, will be accompanied by two sidemaids.

Editor’s Note: This interview is edited to reflect answers from Correia and the event’s program, which details the story of Queen Isabel of Portugal.

Q. How long has the Holy Ghost Festa been going on in Newark?

A. This is the 89th year.

Q. What is a Holy Ghost Festa?

A. It’s the celebration of Queen Isabel of Portugual. The story is she was devoted to giving to the poor. She would hide food in her robe and sneak it out of the castle to give to the poor. This made her husband, the king, upset. When she was stopped by her husband and asked what she was carrying under her robe, she responded “roses,” which were out of season at the time. But when she opened her rope, the bread in her robe had changed into roses. The incident is known as “The Miracle of Roses” and Queen Isabel was deemed the “Queen Saint Isabel of Portugal.”

Q. How is the Holy Ghost Festa celebrated here in Newark?

A. We stick to the basics of the tradition. There will be 12,000 pounds of beef that will be blessed. Part of that will be given to 12 needy families, to give them food to put on their tables and the rest will be used as offerings to the public throughout the event. The number 12 was chosen to represent the 12 disciples of the Catholic faith. On Saturday and Sunday, we will offer sopas – meat, cabbage and bread – to anybody and everybody. Queens will be presented on Saturday and a parade will be held Sunday.

Q. What is the purpose of the celebration?

A. To honor the Holy Spirit. A lot of us who come here have strong faith. We’re here to serve the Holy Spirit and continue to serve Him because that’s what we’re here to do. The thought we have is the more you give, the more you will receive.

Q. What do the Queens represent?

A. The girls symbolize Saint Isabel. They will take bread and roses to the church and give the bread to the children who attend the event. Each crown (they wear) is blessed. They will receive the blessing (of the bread). It’s not just about getting dressed up in a beautiful gown on a Sunday…they represent Saint Isabel giving to the needy.

The event is free to the public. Funds from donations and fundraisers held throughout the year make the event possible. For more information about the Newark Holy Ghost 89th Annual Festa, . To see when each event is held, see the attached PDF.


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