June and July are festive months in Brazil. Throughout the country, festivals are made to celebrate saints and new plantation seasons, following a tradition that started in Europe even before Brazil was discovered.
Festas Juninas, or June Festivals, are Catholic traditions that were brought to Brazil in the 16th century, when the country was a colony of Portugal. These festivals were made to celebrate the days of four saints: Saint Anthony, on June 13; Saint John, on June 24; Saint Peter and Saint Paul, on June 29. Festas Juninas were called joaninas due to the name of the only saint celebrated, originally: São João (Saint John).
More than that, the festivals happened to celebrate the rituals of the people who already lived in the continent before the colonizers arrived. The celebrations were made for the preparation of the new plantations and harvests. Many places in Brazil face drought from June to September, so this period is used to clear the grounds, fertilize them, and then start planting in them.
Food and Drinks
June Festivals are known to be composed of quermesses, which are bazaars where people go, dressed with checkered clothes, play games to win small prizes, as well as eat different types of food and drinks, such as special dishes made with corn (canjica), and a drink made of wine, sugar, ginger, and spices, like clove and cinnamon (quentão). There are many other food options that people can eat, such as pamonha, pinhão, pé-de-moleque, paçoca. These are usual items of everyday life that can be found at any grocery store, but it is in June and July, at the festivals, that they are more common.
Festivals offer diverse types of games to the public. One of the most common is correio elegante, or elegant mail, in which a person sends, anonymously, a card to another person. There are also the “jails”, or cadeias, where people get “arrested” by other people, being obliged to stay “behind the bars” for a determined amount of time, usually 5 or 10 minutes, or to pay a “bail” to be set free. Jails can be easily made in an isolated place surrounded by chairs.
Bingos can also be held at the festivals - and, do not worry, these are allowed by law. Fishery with fake plastic fish is another common game, in which people get small gifts according to the number that is written under the fish - which cannot be seen until the fish is caught.
The festivals also have the traditional dances, known as quadrilhas, in which people pair up and dress like farm men and women - men wear suspenders and farmer straw hats and women wear dresses, with ponytails and painted gap teeth. This dance originates from Holland and was introduced in Brazil during the Empire. There is usually an announcer, calling out the dance steps to typical songs of festas juninas.
Quadrilhas may have a fake wedding, made by people dressing up as bride, groom, and the priest.
Most of these parties happen in churches, schools, clubs, institutes, and even museums, which are places that can receive a considerable amount of people. These sites are usually decorated with small coloured flags, which may be made of a single type of cloth or patchworks.
The traditions of Festa Junina vary greatly in Brazilian states. In the Northeast, for instance, other musical genres were incorporated into the dances. The festivals may happen on the streets as well, and there is a tradition of lighting bonfires - a practice that has led to many accidents over the past years. Other traditions that have caused incidents are hot air balloons and fireworks.
Some June Festivals also have concerts of Brazilian artists and bands. The prices of tickets differ greatly - some can be bought with BRL 10.00, while others can cost at least BRL 100.00.
The size of the public in the festivals also varies. While school’s June Festivals tend to have students and their parents and relatives, larger festivals may reach 1 million people.
The June festivals may be extended to July. Festas Julinas are less common than Festas Juninas, but they have the same aspects as the June festivals. Churches and clubs usually hold July festivals as well. July Festivals are usually seen as a second chance to participate in the festivals, as both of them have the same meaning. June and July parties are usually held at weekends, but they can also happen during workdays.