São João: Brazil’s Northeast best season

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 flower section at the Central Market of Aracaju, Sergipe.
The dancers of Quadrilha (square dancing)
St. John’s Church at Cedro de São João city, Sergipe, traditionally decorated during the season.
Clock tower at the Aracaju’s Craft Market.

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.

Fresh cashew fruit. Very popular - and delicious. Curiosity: the portuguese name for this fruit is Caju, that's where Aracaju city gets its name (land of the Araras - macaw bird - and Caju).
Fresh cashew fruit. Very popular – and delicious. Curiosity: the portuguese name for this fruit is Caju, that’s where Aracaju city gets its name (land of the Araras – macaw bird – and Caju).
Roasting corn at the typical stove from the Northeast's Sertão: handmade stove, built with clay and lit with wood.
Roasting corn at the typical stove from the Northeast’s Sertão: handmade stove, built with clay and lit with wood.
Cooked – and salty – peanuts. I have no shame to admit that eat this obsessively.
The variety of food and handmade liqueurs (from typical fruits)
“Quebra-queixo” a hard candy made of coconut

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!

Orla de Aracaju during June’s festivities. Music and dance performances happen every day.

And here are some sneak peeks of the dances:

“Quadrilha Asa Branca” presenting at Orla de Aracaju, Jun. 2018. ©TheUrgeToDiscover
“Bacamarteiros” group presenting at Orla de Aracaju, Jun. 2018. ©TheUrgeToDiscover

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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  1. Bruno B
    June 13, 2019 / 6:31 pm

    So colorful! And the food looks very tasty =)

    • July
      June 15, 2019 / 12:18 pm

      Couldn’t agree more =)

  2. mamawritesreviews
    June 15, 2019 / 5:29 am

    What beautiful colors! I am adding Brazil to my list of places to travel!

    • July
      June 15, 2019 / 12:19 pm

      I hope you get to see this party! <3

  3. June 15, 2019 / 11:00 am

    Brazil is in our bucket list and we must visit it when we visit our family in Peru. A country rich in culture, color and traditions!

    • July
      June 15, 2019 / 12:20 pm

      Ohh this is so nice! Have fun!
      Make sure you visit the Northeast. Best beaches, culture and food <3

  4. June 15, 2019 / 3:24 pm

    Wooow…so beautiful colorful event, and all the food looks tasty. Amazing! Thank you for sharing this culture.

  5. June 16, 2019 / 4:27 am

    Your pics are so lovely and colorful. I would love to visit the Flower and Craft market. This is an co-incidence the Portuguese name “Caju” resembles to one of Indian language in which Cashew is called as “Kaju”.

  6. June 16, 2019 / 10:56 pm

    Your pictures are incredible. You captured the culture so well with words and pictures. I dance Zouk so Brazil is in my top 5 list for places to visit.

  7. June 17, 2019 / 4:25 pm

    Awww…. It’s so colorful in there! I always wanted to visit some Southtern American countries, and after seeing your pictures and reading the article Brasil is a no. 1 country to visit in South America.

  8. June 17, 2019 / 6:51 pm

    I love how colorful everything is! I’m sure it is a beautiful event to experience!

  9. happylittletadpole
    June 18, 2019 / 8:32 pm

    São João looks like a ton of fun! It looks like a fantastic (not to mention) fun holiday to attend and learn more about a culture different than my own! Thanks for sharing – I especially enjoyed the photos!

  10. June 19, 2019 / 8:51 pm

    This looks like a great time to visit Sao Joao. I love the vibrancy of the colors and can imagine the music and dancing.

  11. June 23, 2019 / 3:13 am

    What a wonderful and vibrant culture! I love the way the North-easterners come together every year and use the festivities to thank to the catholic saints for the rains. I’ve never been to Brazil, so it was nice to learn more about the country, the people, and the food. Thanks for the informative post!

  12. June 24, 2019 / 2:43 am

    I enjoyed your info in Brazil! It’s akways good to know when the best time to travel and must do activities. Thanks!

  13. Natasha
    June 25, 2019 / 3:13 am

    Gorgeous photos! Thanks for sharing!

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