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Photo of children of Madeiran descent
American children of Madeiran descent dressed in traditional Madeiran outfits in preparation to march in the Feast of the Blessed Sacrament parade, August 1, 1999

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Feast of the Blessed Sacrament
A Local Legacy

Have you ever heard of a place named Madeira?

Madeira is a semi-tropical island in the Atlantic Ocean approximately 600 miles southwest of Portugal. As far back as the late 1700s, whaling ships from New Bedford, Massachusetts, visited Madeira for supplies and to hire skilled crews for long whaling voyages. Whale ships returning to New Bedford brought the Madeiran sailors with them, and many settled in the area. Today, New Bedford has the largest population of people with Madeiran ancestry in the United States.

Because of this connection to Madeira, New Bedford is home to the largest Portuguese feast in the world. The Feast of the Blessed Sacrament is an annual four-day event that begins with the Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, a medieval rite of devotion, followed by a parade that lasts two and a half hours. Traditional Portuguese food is served and music is performed. The original feast was a strictly religious celebration begun in 1915 by four immigrants from Madeira as a re-creation of the feast celebrated in their home villages.

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