One of Europe’s liveliest festivals, yet one of the least known, is Jao Joao Festival which is in Portugal‘s second largest city of Porto. Saint John, the patron saint of lovers, watches over as the town gets all lit up, decked out, and the good food flows like sweet Port wine.
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. An interesting tradition among the people of Porto during the ‘Festa de São João’, with roots in pagan courtship rituals, is to hit each other either with garlic flowers or soft plastic hammers.
The event starts early in the afternoon of June 23 and usually lasts until the next morning. The traditional attractions of the night include street concerts, popular dancing parties, jumping over flames, eating barbecued sardines and meat, drinking wine and releasing illuminated flame-propelled balloons over Porto’s summer sky.
At midnight the partygoers make a short break to look at the sky at Saint John’s fireworks. The event has sacred roots but is also mixed with pagan traditions, with the fireworks embodying the spirit of tribute to the Sun. You can also order grilled sardines on the street among other fabulous food delicacies.
Photo credit: QuirkyGuiide.