Ascension Thursday

Why are tiny bouquets of plants and wild flowers sold on this day?

40 days after Easter Sunday, Catholics celebrate the ascension of Jesus Christ. According to the Catholic tradition that considers this day as the holiest of the year, one should not work but, curiously, in Portugal it is not a public holiday. There is, however, an old tradition that, in recent years, has been renewed: gathering a small bouquet of plants and wild flowers that will, over the coming 12 months, protect our home and brings us everything that we need to be happy.

Dia da Espiga

ramo de espigaOn Ascension Thursday, the consecration of spring is also celebrated and possibly due to the pagan tradition associated with the goddess Flora, people were in the habit of going for a walk in the countryside and picking various wild plants to make a bouquet that would serve to protect their homes and bring them luck and prosperity throughout the year.

This bouquet is made up of wild flowers and plants that are easily found along country roadsides, but people decided to associate each of them with a meaning:

  • the wheaten spike represent bread and therefore the sustenance of the family and abundance
  • the red poppy means love
  • the white and yellow wild daisies represent gold and silver or wealth and prosperity
  • the small olive stems symbolises peace
  • the rosemary branch means health
  • the vine leaf means wine or joy

According to the tradition, this small bunch should be placed behind the front door of the house until the next Ascension Thursday/Dia da Espiga when it is replaced by a new one.

The Portuguese version of this text is available here.