More anticipated than Christmas by the North-easterns, June’s season shows all the colours, diversity, the best food and the rich culture Brazil’s Northeast has to offer.
Last year, I had the privilege to celebrate São João in Aracaju (in the state of Sergipe): the city where I was born and enjoyed many of June’s parties. I will show you now why this is the best season there!
São João (portuguese for St. John) festivities happens every June and it is the time for pé-de-serra, baião and forró music, bonfires, square dancing (Quadrilha) and good food. Balloons, thatch and little colourful flags decorate the streets, houses and events.
The saints and the rain
Brazil’s Northeast is a region where drought is a serious problem, killing people and animals of thirst, hunger and heat. So North-easterners use the festivities to be thankful to the catholic saints of the month (St. John, St. Peter and St. Anthony) for rare rains that happen during the season.
The festive and grateful vibe enchants and unites all, no matter the religion. People light up bonfires in front of their houses (in smaller cities and calmer neighborhoods) to roast corn, potatoes, warm themselves (it’s winter). The sense of community between neighbors is strong and everybody celebrates together.
Brazil’s Northeast food
Due to the rain, June is the time of the corn harvest. Because of that, many of the sweets, cakes and salty food related to the festivities are made of corn. Pamonha, Munguzá, boiled corn, roasted corn, Canjica, couscous, popcorn, corn cake are just a few examples. (Vegans: Pamonha, Munguzá and Canjica all have milk in it, but it can easily be made with plant-based milk).
Besides the recipes with corn, you can find sweet rice, peanut cake, cassava cake, cooked peanuts (my favorite!), cornbread, Cocada (coconut candy), Quentão (boiled Cachaça with spices), and way more. Don’t forget to try the fruits: cashew fruit, jackfruit, pitomba, jabuticaba… so many options that leave no doubt that the Northeast is a paradise for the palate.
Tourism and culture
This holiday also represents an important economic moment, since many tourists visit cities in the Northeast to accompany the festivities. Hotels, shops and tours increase profits and generate jobs in these cities. Although most visitors are Brazilians, it has been common to find European, Asian and North American tourists who go to Brazil to follow these festivities closely.
São João is celebrated in the four corners of Brazil, but in the Northeast region the celebrations are huge and more expressive. Known as the original ones!
And here are some sneak peeks of the dances:
Other traditions of São João
At the Sertão of Brazil’s Northeast, the formation of party groups is very common. These groups walk and sing along the city streets. They pass by the houses, where the residents leave at the windows and doors a great amount of food and drinks for the crowd.
In the Southeast region of Brazil, it is common to perform Quermesses. These are popular festivals held by churches, schools and businesses. They have stalls with typical foods and games to cheer the visitors.
So, what about exploring Brazil’s Northeast and its culture next year?
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