The Portuguese Rooster and the Christmas pine tree




During my childhood in Braga, a city located just a short distance from Barcelos, where the famous Barcelos rooster originated, my father used to venture into the forest to fetch a pine tree for our Christmas tree. My mother possessed resilient glass Christmas ornaments that, regrettably, no longer exist today. These decorations included pine cones, baubles, ribbons, and cotton balls. I have vivid memories of trying to balance holiday cards on the pine needles, enduring the occasional prick on my hands. As I created the illustration of the pine tree, it transported me back to those moments and the beautiful churches I encountered in Barcelos.

This festive and colorful rooster, following behind the wheel of his blue car, is Portugal's unofficial national symbol, representing virtues such as honesty, faith, justice, and luck. To comprehend why, one must be acquainted with the legend of the Barcelos Rooster. While there are various versions of the tale, they all share a common essence.

Once upon a time, the residents of Barcelos were rattled by a crime: a valuable piece of silver had been stolen from a prominent landowner. Suspicion immediately landed on a stranger hailing from the neighboring Spanish province of Galiza. He was merely passing through on a pilgrimage to pay homage to St. Tiago of Compostela, following a sacred path known as the Way of St. James, which continues to be traversed by devout Christians today. Despite his assertions of innocence, no one believed him, leading to his imprisonment and a death sentence by hanging.

As a last request, the accused asked to meet with the Judge once more to plead for his life. When he arrived at the Judge's residence, he found him feasting with guests. Once again, the magistrate dismissed his pleas, ridiculing his claim of innocence. The pilgrim insisted he was blameless, vowing before God. His eyes met those of every guest, yet none displayed any sympathy. All his protests fell on deaf ears.

Then, he noticed a servant entering with a platter carrying a roasted rooster. Falling to his knees, the pilgrim implored, "As surely as I am innocent, so will this rooster crow!" The Judge sentenced him to death, but nothing happened immediately. It was only when the man was on the brink of execution, hanging from the gallows, that the dead rooster miraculously rose up and crowed, signifying God's intervention.

The Judge declared that a lesson should be learned from this incident: never to rush into judgment of our fellow human beings. The pilgrim was promptly set free, and from that day forward, the rooster became a symbol of honesty, faith, justice, and good luck.

Years later, the pilgrim returned to Barcelos and carved the Cruzeiro do Senhor do Galo, which now resides in the Museu Arqueológico in Barcelos.

The Barcelos rooster represents:

Honesty: As the pilgrim was proven innocent, the rooster signifies God's provision of a miracle.

Faith: The pilgrim's steadfast faith in God led to his salvation.

Justice: Justice prevailed, emphasizing the importance of avoiding snap judgments or accusations without evidence.

Luck: The rooster brought good fortune to the innocent pilgrim.

This is why the Barcelos Rooster is also referred to as the "good luck rooster" or "lucky rooster." It is believed that if the rooster brought good luck to the pilgrim, it might bestow some luck upon us as well. Consequently, this symbol has gained immense popularity in Portugal, and you'll encounter it frequently when you visit the country.





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