São João in Porto:
If you’re planning a visit to Porto and you happen to stay here during the evening of the 23rd to the 24th of June, consider yourself lucky.
You will experience the wildest and biggest celebration of the city!
São João – The Origin:
To understand the origin of these festivities we need to travel back through time, this celebration was originally the celebration of the summer solstice, a pagan commemoration.
Only later, at the end of the XIV century, the Catholic Church Christianized the party in commemoration of São João (St. John), one of the popular saints of Portugal.
How we celebrate São João:
St John is celebrated throughout Europe and in Brazil, but it is in Portugal that you’ll find the biggest expression of this celebration. The two main cities that take it very seriously are Braga and, of course, Porto. Commemorated on the evening of the 23rd of June, São João became Porto’s main festivity.
You can still see that by yourself if you have the chance to visit the city during these days.
From the youngest to the oldest, everyone will come outside their houses to celebrate Porto’s major street festival.
This very popular festivity gathers locals with visitors and the city center streets get obviously filled with happiness, music, food, drinks, colorful festive decorations, and so on…!
Locals will grill sardines, which is one of the celebration’s typical dishes, on the streets so you will smell it all over the places. Mostly, people eat the “sardinhas” with boiled potatoes, pepper salad, and cornbread, called “broa”. There’s also a very Portuguese typical cabbage soup, the “Caldo Verde”.
And, of course, to help down the food and, also the dance moves, St John’s celebrators will drink very good Portuguese wines, such as “Vinho Verde”!
All over the city, we will listen to folklore Portuguese music, also known by Pimba Music.
São João – The Symbols
You will find other significant traditions in the city over these days.
The ancestral cult of flora brought to this attractive celebration two different and meaningful plants. The sweet basil used to offer to the loved ones, can be found in every city’s corner and are sold in ornamented pots and with a popular quatrain about the saint, the festival, or even lubricous intentions. They will supposedly die quickly if you smell it directly with your nose so it is told that the proper way to smell it is: lay your hand on the plant then smelled it. The other plant is the leek, which is mainly used to smack everyone’s head, even the strangers!
Also used for the head-smacks, is a little plastic hammer that makes noise. In the 20th century, the owner of a plastics factory in Porto invented the plastic hammer that you’ll find all over the city.
During the night, people launch hot air balloons into the sky which provides a very beautiful scene in the air, and around midnight, there’s a spectacular firework display, that lasts around 20 minutes.
Come to Porto and join us on this crazy night!