Travel Blog: Festa de São João do Porto

Festa de São João in BragaCETRA´s CMO Angela Wende traveled this summer with 103 members of the Keystone State Boychoir and the Pennsylvania Girlchoir from Philadelphia through the north of Portugal. They collaborated with choirs in Aveiro, the Venice of Portugal, Esposende, Braga, Guiamaraes, Tomar and performed at Batalha Monastery. There are so many stories to tell that it would burst the limit of this blog – so we focus on the St. John Festival.

In Porto and Braga they experienced a glimpse of the famous annual Festa de São João do Porto (Festival of St. John of Porto).  The festival starts early in the afternoon of 23 June and usually lasts until the morning of 24 June. Traditional attractions of the night include street concerts, dancing parties, bonfire jumping, eating barbecued sardines, Caldo verde and meat, drinking wine and releasing illuminated flame-propelled balloons over Porto’s summer sky.

At midnight, partygoers take a short break to look at the Saint John’s firework spectacle, which now includes multimedia shows. The party has Christian roots but is also mixed with pagan traditions, including rituals with people hitting each other either with garlic flowers or soft plastic hammers, with the fireworks embodying the spirit of tribute to the sun.

The fireworks mark the end of the official festivities. It is common for citizens of Porto to keep celebrating until the first hours of the morning. They walk from Porto’s riverside core – Ribeira (for instance the parish of São Nicolau) up to the seaside in Foz (parishes of Foz do Douro and Nevogilde) or in the nearby suburb of Matosinhos where they wait for the sunrise near the sea, and sometimes, take a bath in the ocean.

From Lisbon the Keystone State Boychoir and Pennsylvania Girlchoir flew to Casablanca where they collaborated with the CasaSwat choir and orchestra under the direction of Adnane Matrone. On July 1 they performed at the US Embassy in Rabat as part of the July 4th celebrations at the embassy.