Every year in June, the Eurasian community comes together to celebrate the feast of San Pedro. The descendants of the Portuguese pay homage to St Peter, the patron saint of fishermen once a year in extravagance with decorated boats, neon-lit parades, colourful outfits and folk dances. It is not only an occasion for religious devotion but also a practice to keep traditional rituals dating back to several centuries ago when the Portuguese once ruled Malacca.
While it has been a global celebration carried out in countries with a Portuguese presence, the feast of San Pedro only became an integral part of the local community in Malacca during the early 1930s. It was also when Portuguese Settlement was established and their ancestors started fishing again in the area. It was also during the British governance, which made religious ritual slightly more restricted in those days.
Today, although fishing is no longer the main occupation of people living here, the Kristang community continues to keep the tradition of having these festivities and feasts live on. The cultural event is now part of the major festivities listed on Tourism Malaysia’a yearly calendar — allowing visitors to truly immerse in a generational cultural experience unique to the Kristangs in Malacca.
“Amidst the nostalgic crossover of cultures and priceless traditions, we are proud to celebrate the feast of San Pedro. Being able to keep traditions alive in this modern day and age is extremely crucial, in Kristang we say ‘konservah tradisang’ which translates to conserving traditions.”
If you’re planning to head south to Malacca to experience the Feast of San Pedro happening on 29th June 2019, here’s everything you need to know about this cultural celebration.
Blessing of boats
The cultural event features the blessing of boats which is a ceremony that dates back over 500 years to the Age of Exploration when Prince Henry the Navigator launched Portugal on a seafaring crusade to various parts of the world. It is undertaken to seek God’s blessings for a better and bigger catch. The statue of St Peter will be taken out to sea with offerings and blessings taking place by priests and religious leaders. This usually takes place in the evening during dusk at the golden hour where the skies are dark purple with lashes of deep orange — a beautiful sight if you’re a first timer to this ritual.
The Portuguese community will also take the opportunity to play dress up and perform sketches of scenes involving St Peter. Decorated boats will be adorned with colourful lights as they parade around Portuguese settlement.
Food and Merriment
No celebration is complete without food. From comforting stews to fiery sambals and fragrant curries, you’ll be able to enjoy a harmonious blend of flavours from Dutch, Portuguese, Malay, Indian and Chinese influences. Enjoy classic Kristang dishes like Soy Limang Terung and Kari Debal sold at food stalls at the festival or head over to The Majestic Malacca to enjoy the unique cuisine in a more comfortable setting.
Folk Dances and Performances
The Portuguese folks certainly know how to host a festival with lots of folk songs, dancing and performances. It is also a way for them to preserve the Kristang language that is becoming less prominent amongst its community. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to witness the Corridinho dance with the ladies and gents dressed in traditional costumes.
Immerse in Local Cultures
Like any parade or cultural events, it is where you ‘do like the locals do’. Participate in the blessing rituals and walk the parade with the locals. If you’re feeling jolly, join in the dance troupe and sing along to the classic ‘Jingkli Nona’, a folklore song that is very easy to pick up.