Saturday, 23 June 2018

Let's celebrate São João!

Credits: Meus Escritos
Every year, on the night of 23rd June, my city - Porto - becomes lively and crazier than ever. Thousands of people come to the centre and to the most traditional neighborhoods to pay a tribute to São João Baptista, in a party that mixes sacred and profane traditions.
The festivities have been held in the city for more than six centuries, yet it was during the 19th century that Saint John's day became impregnated in the city's culture and assumed the status of the city's most important festival.
In fact, the party starts early in the evening of 23rd June and usually lasts until the morning of 24th. The traditional attractions of the night include street concerts, popular dancing parties, jumping over flames, eating barbecued sardines and meat, drinking wine, vases of sweet basil  (manjericos) with meaningful stanzas of four lines, releasing illuminated flame-propelled balloons over Porto's summer sky and hitting people in the head with small plastic hammers (martelinhos) or with wild leek (alho porro). Manjericos in particular are a a very dear family tradition for me. My
Grandmother used to buy a vase of manjerico and take care of it, most of the times until Christmas! The plant is very delicate and smells deliciously, but has a short period of life. This one will probably last for a couple of months, so you can see how my Grandmother really knew how to do it! I miss her so much and not only because of the plants.
But let's get back to the celebration topic. At midnight the partygoers make a short break to look at the sky at Saint John's firework spectacle. The show is increasingly sophisticated with the fireworks being associated with themes and multimedia shows. The party has sacred roots but is also mixed with pagan traditions, with the fireworks embodying the spirit of tribute to the sun. One could expect the firework to be the climax and mark the end of the festivities. Yet, it is quite common for us to keep celebrating until 3 or 4 in the morning. Younger people take it even a step further. They walk from Porto's riverside core - Ribeira (for instance the parish of São Nicolau up to the seaside in Foz or to Matosinhos where they wait for the sunrise near the sea! 
Now, it's time to go because we are expecting this weekend to be memorable! Catch a glimpse of what is going to happen tonight with the video below...

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