If you’re in Rio de Janeiro in June, then you’re in luck! It may not be Carnival, but this month it’s time for the next biggest and most traditional event in Brazil. It’s known as Festa Junina or June Festival in English. For those that want to have a true Brazilian experience whilst in Rio and get a glimpse into what it means to be a local here, then spending some time at the Festa Junina parties is a great way to embrace that festive and participative spirit that Brazilians are so well-known and loved for. Here’s the lowdown on everything you need to know about Festa Junina and what we enjoy the most about this jubilant event.
You may have heard of the Festa de São João held in Porto each year to celebrate midsummer and to honour Saint John the Baptist. It is one of Europe’s liveliest street parties and has been celebrated for over six centuries there. This energetic festival was one of the cultural traditions that were brought along with the Portuguese settlement in Brazil many years ago. Nowadays in Brazil, it is known as Festa Junina and whilst the fundamental aspects of the event remain the same between the two countries, Brazil’s take on this harvest celebration has influences from its indigenous and African cultures to create a whole new experience.
Traditionally, the festival starts around mid-June and last the whole month, yet the northeast of the country takes it a few steps further by celebrating until the end of August in some places! The main day of celebration is 24th June, which is the most important day in the Festa Junina calendar – the day of São João or Saint John the Baptist. Often, many of the main celebrations of Festa Junina is centered around this date.
There are so many reasons we love Festa Junina. Firstly, the participative atmosphere that spans across all generations from inquisitive babies to the senior, experienced crowd. It doesn’t seem to matter how many times the latter population have experienced this festival – they still get involved with celebrations! Secondly, the traditional costumes are a snapshot of rural, countryside life with everyone wearing checkered shirts, some enthusiastic men use braces to hold up their shorts and children have adorable freckles painted on their cheeks. Thirdly, the music and the dancing is so contagiously cheerful that even the shyest of dancers walk around with a spring in their step. The traditional music of Festa Junina is forro, a popular Brazilian music genre that comes from the northeast of the country and is capable of lifting the darkest of moods. A type of Brazilian square dancing known as Quadrilha is the most popular and traditional dance of the celebrations and drives the cheerful energy of the events.
Finally, our personal favourite part of the celebrations is the wonderfully rustic and homely food that is present at every moment. Food such as corn cake, canjica, corn-on-the-cob, cake with white cheese and guava, cassava with dried meat, cuscuz, pé de moleque, and paçoca, can be washed down with glasses of mulled wine or cachaça.
In Rio de Janeiro, the celebrations take place across the city yet the biggest one is at Feira Nordestina in São Cristóvão. This huge indoor market is dedicated to the promotion of products from the northeast of the country and when Festa Junina comes round, the place explodes with music, dance, food, and colours. The best time to experience the celebration there is on June 24th, the official day of Saint John the Baptist. The weekend celebrations start at 10 am on Friday and go right around the clock until 9 pm on Sunday. For a list of the Festa Junina parties throughout the cities, check out this link here. Some of our favourite events throughout the city are the following:
- Arraias do Beco das Sardinhas in Centro on June, 11th, 18th, and 25th starting from 10 am
- Clube dos Macacos in Jardim Botanico on June, 10th starting from 9 pm
- Arraia do Arpoador at Arpoador over a 4-day period from June, 15th to 18th. Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday from 12 pm to 10 pm. Friday from 5 pm to 10 pm.
- Arraia do Sambastiao in Gloria on June 17th from 3 pm to 10 pm
- Carioquissima na Roca in Praca Maua on June 16th, 17th, and 18th from 12 pm to 9 pm
- Festa Junina da Catedral de Sao Sebastiao in Centro on July 1st and 2nd
Pack your dancing shoes and stamina to be ready to dive right into this charming part of the Brazilian cultural calendar.
Love it? Pin it!