Festas Juninas – Brazilian cultural celebrations held throughout the month of June – are considered to be the biggest national event after Carvaval and date back to the seventeenth century
Despite having origins linked to pagan worship, the festas juninas have been strongly influenced by the Catholic Church over time, and today are celebrated in the honour of St. Anthony, St. John and St. Peter. The largest festivals take place in the Northeast of the country and culminate in an intriguing mix of local food, dance and decoration, representative of local rural traditions and Brazil’s African, European and indigenous heritage.
One of the most striking aspects of the festas juninas is the food and drink, most of which centres around one principal ingredient: corn. It is used to make curau (custard-like dessert), corn cake, canjica (creamed corn), pamonha (sweetcorn paste), and many other treats. But there are other flavours and delicacies on offer too, such as pé de moleque (peanut brittle), hot dogs, quentão (hot alcoholic drink made with ginger, cinnamon and cachaça) and candy apples, all of which are feasted on whilst watching the children dance the night away and enjoy a range of fun games and fairground activities,
Many of the musical instruments used to liven up the parties – such as the cavaquinho (small guitar), the accordion, the triangle and reco-reco (metal scraper) – form the basis of popular Portuguese folk music and were introduced to Brazil by the early settlers and immigrants.
Another tradition is known as simpatias and promessas, whereby festival-goers make pledges to the aforementioned saints as a way of appealing for good fortune – usually in a romantic or professional capacity – as well as protection from envy.
The parties are vibrant and kaleidoscopic. The bunting, fireworks, bonfires, balloons and colourful “country” costumes ensure that a traditional Brazilian Festa Junina is an unforgettable experience!