As part of an annual celebration of life in the Portuguese village of Vale de Salgueiro, parents encourage children as young as 5-years-old to smoke cigarettes.
But if you ask these parents why the heck they’re giving youngsters cigarettes, they have no clue.
According to AP:
Locals say the practice has been passed down for centuries as part of a celebration of life tied to the Christian Epiphany and the winter solstice — but nobody is sure what it symbolizes or exactly why parents buy the packs of cigarettes for their children and encourage them to take part.
Guilhermina Mateus, a 35-year-old coffee shop owner, cites custom as the reason why she gives her daughter cigarettes.
“I can’t explain why. I don’t see any harm in that because they don’t really smoke, they inhale and immediately exhale, of course,” Mateus said Saturday. “And it’s only on these days, today and tomorrow. They never ask for cigarettes again.”
Jose Ribeirinha, a writer who has published a book on the Vale do Salgueiro festivities, said the roots of the tradition are unknown, but may have to do with celebrating the rebirth of nature and human life. He said the village is in a region that adheres to many traditions dating back to pagan times, and that since Roman times, during the winter solstice period villagers here have taken the liberty to do things that would be out of the norm in the rest of the year.
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