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  • Mariana Monteiro

São João in Oporto

Do you know the beginning of the Celebration of Saint John?

Saint John is a popular festival that takes place between July 23rd and 24th in the city of Porto. Officially, St. John is a Catholic festival that celebrates the birth of St. John the Baptist, but the festival in Porto has its origins in the summer solstice and was initially a pagan festival. People celebrated fertility, associated with the joy of harvest and abundance.


Saint John's is a festival full of traditions, with leeks and plastic hammers used to hit people on the head, lemon balm or citronette branches used by women to hit passing men in the face with them, and the launching of hot air balloons. Initially, only leeks and lemon balms were used, the leeks representing male fertility and the lemon balms representing female pubic hair. Plastic hammers were introduced in the 1970s, which have the same appearance as leeks, but curiously enough, a phallic appearance.


Firework to celebrate St. John's

There are also the famous bonfire jumps, usually held in traditional neighborhoods. They are also a landmark of São João, the pots of basil accompanied by verses and popular rhymes, and fireworks, traditionally held near the D. Luís bridge and the Douro River. The fireworks last for more than 15 minutes, being launched from boats on the Douro River, accompanied by music from shows that take place during the night. In addition, there are festivals, especially in the neighborhoods of Fontainhas, Miragaia and Massarelos, and there are usually concerts with the presence of popular singers, accompanied by food, especially sardines, roast kid, and grilled meat.

It is not known precisely when the festivities of Saint John of Porto began, but it is known that they already existed in the mid-fourteenth century, since Ferdinand Magellan, in one of his visits to the king, arrived on the eve of St. John, and leaving written in the Chronicle, that the day he arrived was the day that festivities were held, describing them as a party lived by the people.

Celebrations during the current situation

This year, due to the pandemic situation, the São João of Porto will be celebrated without concerts and fireworks, but three fun zones were created, approved by the DGS, which are installed in Fontainhas, Rotunda da Boavista and Lordelo do Ouro. These entertainment zones will work until June 30th.

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