On November 1st 1755 Lisbon was hit by a very large earthquake that brought down a large part of downtown Lisbon. The Great Lisbon Earthquake. Today, that area of Lisbon is known as Baixa Pombalina (named after the Marquis of Pombal, famed architect that designed the reconstruction of downtown Lisbon.) On that day, a new tradition started in the region. Many people lost everything in the earthquake and they had no choice then beg for food, so they went from door to door (doors of houses still standing) and begged for bread in the name of God. Pão Por Deus means Bread by God. From then on, in Lisbon and suburbs children started doing this every year early morning on the 1st of November and going from house to house carrying bags and reciting poems and asking for “Pão Por Deus” I remember well going with friends and knocking at my neighbors’ doors, who usually gave us fruits, nuts, sometimes a few coins, candy, chocolates, cakes or sweet biscuits.
This tradition ended up spreading throughout the country and even the then Portuguese colonies overseas.
This is one of the poems we used to recite:
Ó tia, dá Pão-por-Deus?
Se o não tem Dê-lho Deus!.
Aunt, give Bread in the name of God?
If you do not have it, may God give it to you!
Esta casa cheira a broa
Aqui mora gente boa.
Esta casa cheira a vinho
Aqui mora algum santinho.
(This house smells like rustic bread; here lives good people; This house smells like wine, here lives some little saint) – Of course in Portuguese these verses rhyme.