“Balamento” or “belamente”, as it is popularly called, is a traditional Madeiran game, which takes place between two people, 8 to 10 days before the end of Easter and is one of the traditions that tend to fall or even disappear.

It is a game with simple rules. The first one who, during these stipulated days, says the word “balamento” wins. The score goes from 8 to 10. In the event of a tie, the players must agree on the last day (Holy Friday) a certain time, to return to play and thus dictate the winner.

The loser is obliged to offer the traditional “torrões” (cubes of sugar) or, more recently, almonds or other sweets.

According to the historian Alberto Vieira, “balamento” means the act of making “bullets”, and it may be as old as our golden age of sugar production, during which there were Madeirans who went to Brazil and started that industry with mills also built by Madeirans. Therefore, whoever lost the game would have to make "balas" (“bullets”). For this reason, the winner said loudly: “balamento”, usually pointed the finger - a sign of obligation.

Museu Etnográfico da madeira
Texto: João Carlos Terra-Boa
Fotografia: Florêncio Pereira

Credits: Museu Etnográfico da Madeira


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