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The Rooster
A Symbol of Portugal
Contributed by Sandy Sakai

The Rooster has long been the symbol of Portugal, as the eagle is for the United States of America. A delightful moral tale is traditionally credited with the selection of the rooster.

The story is set in the era of the early regional kings of Portugal. It tells of a humble villager who is accused of theft and sentenced to death.

The man loudly proclaimed his innocence and demanded to be set free. His jailors paid him no mind and laughed at his cries for freedom. As his execution day neared, however, hi constant insistence on his innocence impressed one of the jailors who promised to speak to the king on his behalf.

The jailor had no opportunity to approach the king until the day of the execution. The jailor carried the condemned man’s plea to the king during a large banquet. In good humor due to the festive occasion, the king granted his request for the audience and the villager was brought before him.

“So you are innocent, are you?” laughed the king.
“Yes Sir, I am. Before God, I swear it,” answered the villager.
“Ah, but you have been accused and sentenced to death, and I can’t change the sentence on just your word without proof. How do you think you can prove your innocence, my good man?”
“But Sir, I swear that I am innocent,” the man insisted. He looked around the banquet room in desperation, seeking some way, some help. His eyes fell on a servant carrying in a large platter of fowl, steaming with seasonings. He fell to his knees.

“Lord God,” he prayed, “as Peter, your servant, denied you at the cock’s crow, would that you show my innocence as your humble servant by this rooster’s crow…”

All eyes turned to the platter of steaming cooked fowl and widened in wonder and amazement as the rooster got up, ruffled his feathers and crowed loudly.

“The Lord has indeed spoken,” the king said softly, and raising his voice, he proclaimed, “Let this be a lesson to each of us never to sit in quick judgment of our fellow man. The rooster, henceforth, shall be a reminder to us and to our children after us, of this, the Lord’s message. So shall it be in our land forever!”

The rooster, gaily decorated with bright designs, remains Portugal’s symbol and can be seen in almost every home and on every festive occasion, shaped in loaves of holiday bread and stamped on children’s candies. It has come to be considered by the Portuguese as a symbol of faith in the greatness of God.

Obtained as a handout at Festa by the Hawaii Council on Portuguese Heritage

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