Boneca de Massa & Arraiais

Boneca de Massa & Arraiais

Arraiais da Madeira

Madeira lives according to the rhythm of its Romeiros and Arraiais during the Summer months. These traditional festivities of Madeira are a jolly mixture of the religious and the profane. There are masses, processions and celebrations around the church.  The streets are decorated. Food and drink stands flourish left and right, serving the traditional bolo de caco, espetada or poncha amongst others. Music resonates everywhere in the village. The two most famous arraiais of Madeira are in Monte and in Ponta Delgada.  During these important festivities, children look forward to receiving a sweet fancily decorated edible dool, a “Boneca de Massa”.

Arraial Ponta Delgada
Arraial Ponta Delgada

A Boneca de Massa

These madeiran dough dolls date back as early as the 18th century.  The exact creation date is however unknown.  The dough figures have different shapes and dimensions.  They mostly represent a man or a woman, sometimes a rooster or a hen.  Interestingly, the number of necklaces around the dough doll indicates whether it portrays a rich boneca with 5 necklaces or a poor boneca with only 3 necklaces. The rich bonecas also wear more detailed and elaborated skirts. The primary intention was to sell them during the festivities as a way to earn money.  Nowadays these bonecas de massa are part of tradition.

Bonecas de Massa Arraiais Madeira

Salomé Teixeira and Family

The most famous “Boneca de Massa” maker was Salomé Teixeira. She lived in the parish of Caniço and dedicated her entire life to making these dough dolls.  Her mother taught her the delicate trade and it continues now in the family as her cousin and nieces are taking over.

All the stages of manufacture require a lot of skills. It goes from the preparation of the special dough, model the figurines, decorate delicately with more and with silk paper and finally bake them.  The dough resembles bread dough but egg yellow or yellow dye is added.

Source: Hugo Reis

In 2018, the Portuguese postal services produced a stamp collection about emblematic sweets in Portugal.  The Bonecas de Massa de Caniço are obviously part of this series.

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