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.


  1. I had no idea today was “International Women’s Day!” Thank you for that heads up, Nicola, and I think it is brilliant that you are choosing to celebrate the day by honoring Lara’s achievements. That’s a keen way to blend two memorials into a shared purpose.

    The first image of Lara is captivating. You show us her joy and her achievement. It’s a perfect encapsulation of a moment in time!

    1. She is a remarkable young lady whom I am very honoured to know.

      I love to be able to take our history and our traditions forward and to honour the past whilst reaching for the future.

      1. Well done, Nicola! Your next task is to get Lara onboard an writing for this blog!

        I saw what was written on the black folder she’s holding — along with her full name (I box blurred it all) — but I am not letting her go! SMILE!

  2. What a lovely custom! I was alerted to it being women’s day by google’s doodle of all things! Glad you honored it this way.

    1. I love the custom and I am loving learning about all the customs here and how they weave into the fabric of life.

      Being a woman and having been something of an activist in the past I knew the date – just wanted to approach it differently. The google doodle is quite a nice one for this event – one of the better ones.

  3. Laras has asked me to write this message here for her

    “First of all, sorry for my terrible english. But it was impossible, after this, dont try to write something and send a big kiss to sweet Nicola. Are women like her that make me want to be better, who make me a woman. Its a proud for me call her “my family”.

    P.S.: I’m much prettier live! terrible pic. ahahahah

    Beijinhos, Lara”

    1. Oh, she’s so much fun and full of pep! Thanks for sharing that fantastic response from Lara.

      I love the line about being prettier in person — As If! SMILE!

      1. She will say she is prettier now – 18 months later – and out of the dreaded required dress for the day !

  4. Great peek into Lara’s life for those of us who were woefully ignorant of Portuguese culture! I’ve never heard of a Ribbon Ceremony (or Tuna Societies, for that matter) and they sound so interesting– especially against the beautiful backdrop of that building!

  5. Every time I wrote Tuna I was thinking tunafish ! I inend to return to Lisbon to take a long look at the city and its treasures. Most of the time I have spent there so far has been for music and we have collapsed after the concert and then driven home the next day. It will most likely be August as that is when the rest of Lisbonites go on holiday and there is room to move around.

  6. Wonderful article Nicola! I love how you broke down the ceremony for us. I can just picture everyone raising their folders in the air and how proud everyone there must have been.

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