Honoring Saint John

São João in Piraí, Rio state. Photo by João Vicente/JVC, via Flickr

Saint John’s festival, celebrated today, is a delicious fake celebration of rural lifestyle, with all the surreal stereotypes that this entitles.
It has, almost inevitably, the following elements:
1 – A mock wedding of a shy pregnant freckled bride in pigtails and a bridegrooms in shabby suit, straw hat and missing teeth.

2 – Several snacks that are almost exclusive to this party – pamonha, paçoca, curau –, most of them made with peanuts or corn. You will find in Flavors of Brazil recipes of pamonha, bolo de fubá and curau (which he calls canjica, although, in my understanding, this is another dish also made of corn, but white and with the whole kernels, but I suspect the names vary in different regions).

Curau, by Giselli Carvalho/Flickr

3 – The drinks are, basically, hot (very low quality) wine and quentão (a mind blowing mix of cachaça, fruit, ginger, clover and other spices). Try this recipe from The Brazilian Foodie.

4 – Decoration composed of strings of paper flags all over the area, firecrackers, paper baloons, wooden stands where you can buy food or play games (“fishing”, shooting,…)

5 – Quadrilha, a Brazilian version of the square dance where the couples react to a series of “incidents”: “the rain!”, “a snake”…

See below a great example of quadrilha, filmed last year in Ceará by musicologist Michael Silvers:

Viva São João! from Mike Silvers on Vimeo.

3 thoughts on “Honoring Saint John”

  1. I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Porto Grande, Amapa, in the late 1960s and everything you describe was part of this celebration there. We also did the Boi Bumba one year as part of Sao Joao festivities. The food was just as you said. This was nice remembering those times. And the bonfires– did you mention them? also very traditional.
    Betsy

  2. Indeed, Betsy, I forgot the bonfire!
    Your comment is pretty interesting – I didn’t have a clue São João is celebrated that way in the Amazon. Thanks.
    I hope one day I will read something about your experience with the Peace Corps in our frontier with “Europe”.

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