The origin of the Maios or Mayas (1st May) tradition is lost in time and can have several explanations. Nevertheless, these festivities have their origin in the festive rituals associated with the arrival of Spring – Tradition dictates that on the night of April 30th to May 1st, people decorate doors, windows and other places with flowers and yellow brooms and, in some places, also with straw dolls. Our Portuguese ancestors already did this to mark the end of winter and to ask for protection and fertility for the land.

The houses were decorated at night, so that they would all be full of flowers when the day broke. In this way, “the evil spirits” were driven away.

Naturally, the initiative relies on the participation of the population, which exhibits, throughout the town, rag dolls, made by hand, dressed in typical costumes and decorated with flowers, in some cases portraying everyday scenes. The works in competition are on display in windows, doors, balconies, courtyards of houses and streets, in the city and in various towns in the municipality.

In 1958, the ethnologist Ernesto Veiga de Oliveira described “May Day, which is Mayan Day”, as being celebrated throughout the country, and “generally speaking” with this custom (whether broom or other flowers), although “in the interior Beiras and in the southern provinces (…) along with other practices, which are independent and perhaps of different origin, but of convergent meanings”. “Doing the Mayans”, regardless of the form they took, which until a few decades ago was an omnipresent tradition throughout the country, as a private act of protection and exorcism, is now an exception. Who’s going to “do the mayans” tomorrow night?

Algarve Imaterial. (2022). Maios. Accessed on 17th February, 2022. URL:

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