Festa de São João do Porto (Festival of St John of Porto) is a festival during Midsummer, on the night of 23 June (*Saint John’s Eve), in the city of Porto. Festivities have been held in the city for more than six centuries. During the 19th century Saint John’s day became the city’s most important festival.
A tradition with roots in pagan courtship rituals is for people to hit each other either with garlic flowers or soft plastic hammers. Traditional attractions of the night include street concerts, dancing parties, jumping over flames, eating barbecued sardines, Caldo verde and meat, drinking wine and releasing illuminated flame-propelled balloons over Porto’s summer sky.
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In June 2004, a journalist from The Guardian commented that “Porto’s Festa de São João is one of Europe’s liveliest street festivals, yet it is relatively unknown outside the country“.
São João festival originated has a pagan festivity back in the 14th century as a celebration and thanks to the sun god for a good harvest and abundance. It was later christianised as a celebration to São João by the Church, but many of the pagan customs persist even to this day, like the usage of wild leek, basil and the bonfires.
All in all, in its many incarnations, this festival has been celebrated in Porto for about 700 years and it is truly part of the city’s identity.