While the rest of the world is deeply entrenched in finding solutions to infantile tobacco consumption, it would appear that a small Portuguese settlement lives by the motto ‘if you cannot beat them, join them.’ During the Epiphany Festival, a Christmas-associated tradition which goes back to pagan times, children are encouraged to smoke tobacco by their parents or other adult participants.
Epiphany Festival – Religion, Joy, and Tobacco
Traditionally, the Epiphany Festival, also known as Little Christmas or the Day of the Three Kings celebrates the arrival of the three Magi in Bethlehem. More than that, the Epiphany Festival symbolizes the moment when God took corporeal form through Jesus Christ.
This 12-day jocular event is observed in many parts of the globe, such as India, Ireland, Latvia, Lebanon, and Mexico, each with its particular traditions. Vale de Salgueiro, a picturesque village in eastern Portugal, has one of the most peculiar traditions related to Epiphany – children of very young age are encouraged to smoke tobacco.
During the last two days of the festival, amidst the pipers playing soothing tunes and people locked in dance around bonfires, parents can often be seen passing down cigarettes to their children.
As reprovable this act may appear, given that most countries wage a continuous war against smoking, the tykes have no problem sharing a smoke with their parents. When approached, most of the participants stated that they don’t see any issue with children smoking one or two cigarettes for the duration of the Epiphany Festival.
One mother declared that she often lets her child smoke and that this gesture isn’t habit-forming since her kid doesn’t go for seconds.
As for the official position, it would appear that the authorities are quite permissive when it comes to the jocularities of this Christian festival.
Interestingly enough, the act of encouraging children to consume tobacco products has had a symbolic connotation, but its meaning has long been lost. Jose Ribeirinha, an anthropologist and book writer, declared that even though smoking is encouraged during the Epiphany Festival, the rate of adult smoking is now higher compared to other Portuguese villages.
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