If you’re planning to visit Porto on the 23rd and 24th of June, consider yourself lucky because you will experience the biggest celebrations in the city!
São João in Porto – Origins:
Let’s go back in time to understand the origin of these festivities.
It’s known that the 24th of June is the summer solstice, and it used to be a pagan holiday. We found out that in the old times, in Porto, local people used to celebrate the good harvest and the soil’s fertility on that day.
But Porto became a very religious city. At the end of the 14th century, the Catholic Church Christianized the pagan holiday into the commemoration of São João (known by St. John Baptiste).
São João in Porto – How do we celebrate:
São João’s celebrations take place throughout Europe and in Brazil, but it is in Portugal that you’ll find a bigger expression.
The two main Portuguese cities to see the festivities are Braga and, of course, Porto. The festival happens on the 23rd of June and São João became Porto’s main festival.
If you have the chance to visit Porto during these days, you’ll see why it’s the best place to celebrate São João.
From the youngest to the oldest person, everybody come outside of their houses to celebrate Porto’s major street festival. This popular party gathers locals with visitors and the city center streets are obviously filled with happiness, music, food, drinks, colorful fest decorations, and so on…!
Locals grill sardines on the streets, which is the typical dish at this time of the year. The smoke coming from the barbecue becomes the typical smell on the streets that night (delicious!)
People eat sardinhas with boiled potatoes, pepper salad, and a Portuguese cornbread, called broa. There’s also a very Portuguese typical cabbage soup, the Caldo Verde. And, of course, to help the swallowing this delicious food and the dance moves, São João’s celebrators will drink Portuguese good wines! (Click here for our Wine Tour Porto)
During this night, you can listen to our popular Pimba songs in Porto streets.
São João in Porto – the symbols:
You will find the significant symbols in the city over these days. The ancestral cult of flora brought to this attractive celebration two different and meaningful plants. The sweet basil, usually offered to the beloved ones with messages, can be found in every corner of the street. It’s sold in ornamented pots and with popular rhymes about the saint, the festival, or even lubricous intentions. They say the plant dies if you smell it directly with your nose. So it’s told that you should smell it using your hand.
The other plant is the leek, a plant that smells really bad. It’s mainly used to annoy people, by rubbing them in people’s faces.
Also used for head hits, in the 20th century, the Portos’ plastics factory owner invented the plastic hammer and you can find them all over the city. Try to run away from the crazy locals with the plastic hammers!
During the night, people release hot air balloons into the sky which provides a very beautiful scene in the air.
Around midnight, there’s a spectacular fireworks display over the city’s river, Rio Douro, that lasts about 15 minutes.
This is considered the best night in Porto! We hope you can join us someday.