One of the feasts most cherished by the people of the “Beira-Mar” quarter is on the Sunday falling nearest to the 10th of January.
The feast is in honour of Saint Gonçalo, known in that quarter as Saint Gonçalinho. He is supposed to have been born in 1190 in Arriconha, near Guimarães, achieving fame of matchmaker saint when he preached in the parish of the Aboadela of the Marão where, as a good parish-priest, he wanted to administer sacraments to the couples who lived in an immoral situation.
St Gonçalo is supposed to have died in the middle of the XIII century. His cult expanded, quickly reaching Aveiro, more precisely the “Beira-Mar” quarter.
In this quarter, it is attributed to him the power to cure osseous illnesses and to solve matrimonial problems.
The sympathy of the local population to their patron Saint is such that the way they refer to him is very particular. Expressions such as, for example, ” our little saint”, ” our boy “, as well as the use of the second person of the singular (“you “) to address themselves directly to the Saint, are used.
During the days of the feast, promises are paid to St Gonçalinho, by throwing kilos of “cavacas” (sweet wafer biscuits) from the dome of the chapel, while on the street a crowd of people tries to catch them. The “cavacas” are sweets covered with sugar, which can be of two types: round and relatively soft (to be eaten), or long and very hard (to be thrown from the platband of the chapel).
The custom of throwing “cavacas” is a feature of this peculiar feast, transforming it in an original manifestation of tribute, cult and veneration given to the Saint by the pilgrims.
Another ritual of the feast, carried through at the end of the afternoon in the interior of the chapel, is the “entrega do ramo” (delivery of the branch). This is a branch of artificial flowers, kept for many years with religious care. The St Gonçalinho feast still includes the Dance of the Cripples, ritual also carried through inside the small chapel. This dance is performed by a group of men who, pretending to be cripples and physically disabled, move themselves circularly, limping and dancing to the sound of the singing that echoes in the chapel.