June 24 - Festa Junina in Brazil

Posted on June 24, 2018

Not ALL of Brazil is south of the Equator,
but most of it is!
A bunch of countries in Europe are celebrating Midsummer or St. John's Day (today is considered the Feast Day of John the Baptist). But, as you know, European nations colonized and spread their languages and cultures to nations around the world. So it makes sense that a Midsummer type of celebration might evolve into a Midwinter celebration in nations in the Southern Hemisphere.

And so: today.
And so: Brazil, once colonized by Portugal.
Today is June Festival, also called by some Festival of St. John, in Brazil, and it is a Midwinter holiday, a thanksgiving-for-the-rain feast, and a celebration of the END of the rainy season, as well.

It's also a great excuse to play music and dance.

And this celebration is pretty darned BIG. There was a Festa Junina in 2011, held in a city I've never even hear of - Caruaru, that attracted about 1.5 million people and was the Guinness Book World Record holder for the largest festival in the world!

Apparently the origins of the festival in Brazil were in rural areas, with farmers (caipiras) doing the celebrating. There was a kind of square dancing called quadrilha and several other special forms of dance. Men dressed up as farm boys with big straw hats, and women dressed up as stereotypical girls with pigtails, painted-on freckles, painted gap teeth, and red checked dresses. 

Back then, the festival was not just to give thanks for rain and to celebrate the end of all that rain, it was also to honor farm life. Special music played on accordions, with accents provided by triangles, talked about nostalgia for farm life; nowadays Festa Junina music often incorporates guitars, drums, and fiddles. 

Now Festa Junina is celebrated more in cities than on farms. Kids play games in carnivals in school yards, fundraising for school programs as well as having fun. The usual kind of games, such as a 3-legged race, ring-toss, dart game, and hopping races, are popular. 

One of the most popular kids' game is the Pescaría,
where kids get to fish for prizes.

Kids are encouraged to dress up like adult caipiras in straw hats and colorful clothes, to talk in funny ways, to use incorrect grammar, and to act foolish.

But farmers point out that these stereotypes of farmers as stupid country bumpkins are both inaccurate and hurtful. Hopefully that portion of the celebration is undergoing some change now!

And at night: the bonfire. This is a Midsummer tradition; the Portuguese brought it to Brazil, way back when.

Decorations for Festa Junina tend to be really colorful, with flags and strings of lights and lanterns and such!

It's all so much fun, apparently, that the June festivals last much of the month - and maybe even run into July!

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