135 year festival in half moon bay

queenback.jpgI thought it was called the Chamarita Festival, but after doing some research I have it right now. It is actually called the Holy Ghost Festival that happened this weekend in Half Moon Bay, Ca.  “Charmarita” is the name of a Portuguese folk dance that people do during the festivities that go on for four days in HMB.

The Holy Ghost Festival traces its origins to the 13th and 14th centuries. At that time a violent earthquake and volcanic eruption shook the Azore Islands, located 1000 miles away from the Lisbon home of Portugal’s Queen Isabel. Following the natural disasters there was drought, crop failure and finally a cruel famine that shook the faith of many. They gathered together to pray to the Holy Ghost for help.

Their prayers were answered, and a miracle occurred. A ship arrived at Port of Fayal on Pentecost Sunday, laden with food that fed the famished and restored the people’s faith.

queens.jpgWhen the good news reached Queen Isabel, she organized a solemn procession in honor of the Holy Ghost. Accompanied by her maids, the Queen carried her Crown through the streets of Lisbon to the Cathedral, placing it on the altar as an offering of thanksgiving for the favors the Holy Ghost had bestowed upon her people.

I’ve only attended the parade, usually hanging out at the front window of M Coffee on Main St. The parade is a re-enactment of the crown being brought to the church in honor of the Holy Ghost. Included in the procession are the HMB high school marching band, a bagpipe band, representation of Portuguese groups from different communities like Mt View, Santa Cruz, and more. There are young junior queens that come through first and finally the big queens follow. Gorgeous capes and crowns glitter through the streets of HMB.

ring.jpgI haven’t attended all the festivities during the four days, but I’ve heard that in addition to auctions and dancing that there are free barbecue beef sandwiches. This year they made 7,000 pounds of meat.

This was the 135 year Holy Ghost Celebration in HMB. Next year I’ll make it to more of the festivities and dance the Chamarita!

the crown


14 thoughts on “135 year festival in half moon bay

  1. I remember when i was growing up in half moon bay .i remember going to the chamarita every year .I would love to find the recipe for the beef they cooked. This was in the 50s 60s and 70s we always called it chamarita meat.

  2. My family is sponsoring the parade for our Holy Ghost Society in Stonington, CT and have researched other society’s and noticed the beautiful capes warn. Does anyone know where these capes can be purchased?

    Thank you!

  3. I grew up in H.M.B but had to move to the valley because it got to expensive to live there. But every year I make it a point to return with my family to enjoy that famous meat. I’ll always remember the time I was a side maid or when I walked down Main St. holding the rosary. Can’t wait to eat those great sandwiches.

  4. Oh, How I remember the Charmarita in HMB> My parents were Anthony and Norma (Picchi) Bettencourt, both raised in HMB. My grandparents were Joseph F. Bettencourt and Cecilia (Bernardo) Bettencourt. I was told that she was the first HMB Chamarita queen, born at Pidgeon Point Light house. I remember the Chamarita festival; my grandfather would give me a silver dollar, each time I found him to spend at the fair, and he usually could be found at the Past Time club with my aunts, Aileen and Mary (Maggie). I loved the Chamarita meat and have tried for 40 years to duplicate, with no success. I would love to have the recipe.

    1. Hello Donna,
      I am John Ribera. Joseph and Cecilia were my great grandparents. I am very interested in genealogy and am anxious to connect with any and all others who ancestry goes back to the Azore Islands.
      (435) 512-0898

  5. Chamarita Meat
    Nana (Adelaide Amaral) Nunes, Portuguese Pot Roast

    4lbs chuck roast, 2 marrow bones salt and pepper. Place in a covered roasting pan with enough oil to cover the bottom. Slice 2 cloves of garlic place over the meat with a sprig of fresh thyme, sage, rosemary and ½ tsp cumin. In a cheese cloth place 1 cinnamon stick broken into pieces, I tablespoon whole mixed pickling spice, 1 dry bay leaf crumbled.
    Add1 cup of red wine and tie up the cloth and stick with a fork and place in pan with the roast. Cover roasting pan and bake in 300degree oven for 4 to 5 hours.
    I like to cook the meat the day before serving. When cool remove all the fat and strain liquid so spices remain.
    Slice meat when cool and then put them back in the gravy and heat. I make a clear beef broth or Swanson beef broth and add to meat if more liquid is needed.

    Serve over sliced French bread and put fresh mint leaves on top.

    Happy Chamarita

  6. I am told this is the original recipe for Chamarita Beef. I was born in the Half Moon Bay area (El Granada) and spent many Chamaritas eating this wonderful meat.
    I’ve made this recipe and it does indeed taste exactly as I remember it, but all the recipes here would make an acceptable rendition of it, I think. The Alves and Bettencourt names are VERY old HMB names, and my parents (Al and Janet Tiura) knew many of them well as my father was a bartender in town for many years and our family knew pretty much everyone there in the 50’s and 60’s.

    This came from the website that used to have a blog for the smokehouse that used to be in El Granada. I love to share it when I get a chance. It is a REALLY, really good recipe!

    5 lb Chuck Roast
    2 bottles of McCormick’s Pickling Spice (tie contents into two cheesecloth bags for easy removal)
    6 Garlic Cloves
    8 Bay Leaves
    4 Cups of White Wine (Sauterne if you can find it)
    4 Cups of Water
    2 Onions (chopped)
    4 Cans of Beef Broth
    Combine 1 cheesecloth bag of pickling spice, chopped onion, 4 bay leaves, 2 cups of white wine, 6 cloves of garlic, 2 cups of water, 2 cans of beef broth and pour over meat. Cook in slow oven 325 degrees for two hours. When top of roast is browned, turn over and cook an additional two hours.

    While roast is cooking, place in a pot the following items: the other cheesecloth bag of pickling spice, 4 bay leaves, 2 cups of water, 2 cans of beef broth, 2 cups of white wine and simmer uncovered on low for 2 hours. Strain and put in a bowl.

    When meat is cooked, remove to cutting board, let cool. Remove excess fat from meat if desired. Strain juice from pan and pour into the bowl with the other broth. Refrigerate until cool. Once cooled remove the excess fat from the top of the juices. Then pour all the juices over the meat in a large pot or broiler pan. Refridgerate 1-4 days. On serving day, heat on simmer for 3-4 hours. Add salt and pepper to taste.

    It is very important to let this sit at least 2 days for the pickling spices to mellow out; however the longer the better. (Five days works perfectly for this recipe!)

  7. Wonderful history!!! My mother’s family were Joe and Cecelia Bettencourt and they grew artichokes and Brussel Sprouts on the land from Kelly Ave. along Hwy. 1 to Hwy. 92, and up around the back of the Catholic Church. The houses that were on the corner and next door, across fron the Dairy were a part of their ranch. It is all shopping centers now. The state bought the west side of the ranch to add the second northbound lane of Hwy. 1.
    We pronounced the Holy Ghost Festival as the “Sham-a-rita”. My mother Aileen Bettencourt was the Queen in about 1925-1930. As a child we attended the festival all through the1950s. Stew meat meal was called soupas.

  8. Turns out my niece discovered this older blog while looking up my grandfather. Two of those who posted previously, Donna Bettencourt and John Ribera are cousins I had lost track of over the years. I think I remember the last name of Alves as the Dairy owners.

  9. Please send me an email address where I can send a photo of my mother as a HOLY GHOST FESTIVAL QUEEN. i also have lots of historical photos of the BETTENCOURT family. Others are welcomed to contact me.
    Judy Rinehimer — coolrvers [at] gmail.com

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