March 8th is International Women’s Day

Today, March 8, is International Women’s Day, and there are many reports of today’s worldwide celebrations; there are lists of famous women who are remarkable for many reasons, women past and present who lead their chosen field in one way or another.  I thought I would salute one particular woman of the now and the future and share a unique piece of Portuguese Culture at the same time.

Shortly after I arrived in Portugal I was invited to attend the “Ribbon Ceremony” for the final year students at ESCS- Escola Superior de Comunicação Social, to watch Mr Ps youngest daughter, Lara, having her “Ribbons” being blessed.

Families and friends of the student are invited to write blessings on special ribbons for the student, which are then collected and placed in a special folder. These are then blessed in a Church Ceremony in front of friends and family.  I loved this idea; it is similar to a Pagan naming ceremony where friends and family are invited to write blessings and wishes for the child to be named on ribbons which are then kept in a special box for the rest of their lives. I like the idea that his happens in the final straight before final exams and graduation — everyone comes together to support and encourage the student in that final run up to the finish line.

The ceremony was held at Basílica da Estrela one of Lisbon’s most beautiful buildings.

As is usually the case, these buildings are never quite large enough, and we were all crammed in like sardines — quite appropriate really as sardines are one of the national dishes of Portugal.

The Celebrant greeted us all, and gave thanks to God for friends and family and access to education.  He then went on to praise the virtues of hard work, diligence, responsibility and service to mankind.

The students were then asked to raise their folders of ribbons in the air and they were blessed.

The service was then concluded and we all poured outside to join the celebrations — the most notable of which was a special performance by the University Tunas Society.

Tunas is the collective term for music performed by the Tuna — a group of university students in traditional costume using traditional instruments. You can only be part of these groups while you are at university — once you graduate you are no longer part of the group.

The energy created by these young people and their music was incredible and really was a great thank you to all their guests on such a memorable day.

So today, let us celebrate the women of the future, our daughters and granddaughters, our students and our teachers.