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Brazil, the Country of Carnival or the Country of The June Parties?

Updated: Jun 28


Brazil is known as the country of Carnival, this is the Brazilian party with the greatest repercussion in the world, however, what most the world don't know is that there is another party that also marks the culture of the Brazilian people: it is the June Parties, which celebrate the feast days of three Catholic saints, Saint Anthony (June 13), Saint John (June 24) and Saint Peter (June 29).


 As it couldn't manage to completely eliminate the traditional pagan parties in Europe,Catholic church instead attempted to include them on its calendar. Therefore, the harvest rituals around the summer solstice were changed to the feast days of saints celebrated in the month of June. Upon reaching Brazil, these parties incorporated additional themes, distinct from European culture, adding African and Amerindian elements, and becoming progressively more festive and colorful as they evolved into their current form. At first, the festivals were called Festas Joaninas, in reference to Saint John (João in portuguese), then they became known as Festas Juninas because they take place in June.

What's the party like?

The party, typically organized by a local church, sometimes has a kermesse, which is an outdoor fair with many food stands and fun games, usually with proceeds going to charity. There are also competitive games between the participants. The most common are fishing, the sack race, the egg-and-spoon race, the tallow stick and the love mail. The locale is adorned with small, colorful flags, fireworks are set off and people jump over pretend, paper bonfires. The tradition of lighting a bonfire is in homage to the story of the biblical character Elizabeth who, to alert her cousin, built a bonfire, with the smoke acting as a signal of the birth of John the Baptist.

The Quadrilha

As it is a celebration of the harvest, the June festival is notable for its themes on traditional farm life (this place is also called roça in portuguese). People “dress up” as a caipira – a term used for someone who lives in a rural area and is not familiar with urban life. The participants wear plaid clothes that are always very colorful and filled with patches, and straw hats. The girls braid their hair. They also may apply makeup that gives the appearance of freckles, mustaches and even gapped teeth.

The music played is forró, a genre that, primarily using accordions, zabumba and triangles, gives light to the life and struggle of the rural people. Forró, along with samba, are the most common rhythms in traditional Brazilian culture. The highlight of the June festival is the quadrilha, or square dance, which originated in the ballrooms of Paris. In Brazil, it took on a comedic effect and became a kind of mocking imitation of the behavior of aristocrats. Couples dressed up as hillbillies imitate palace folk by dancing the quadrilha in a rehearsed choreography, interspersed with funny, joking moments.

In honor of the "the saint of weddings", Saint Anthony, a classic story (which was very common in the conservative past) is played out during the performance of the quadrilha. It's a shotgun wedding starring the priest, the sheriff and the bride and groom. As the story goes, a boy gets a girl pregnant and tries to skip town, but her father, afraid of the shame of having a pregnant, single daughter, calls the sheriff who captures the boy and forces him to marry her. In some versions of the quadrilha, an ex-boyfriend of the bride appears and tries to stop the wedding, but fails. In the end, everyone is happy and celebrates the union.

Typical foods


The harvest festival is notable for its typical foods, which vary greatly depending on the region of the country, but the majority are made from corn or peanuts. The most common sweets are corn cake, pé de moleque (a candy with sugar and nuts), and candy apple (an apple covered with caramelized sugar with red coloring). The drinks are quentão (a drink made from red wine, rum, cinnamon, cloves and ginger) and liquor.


June festival across Brazil


The June Parties are popular in all of Brazil, but more so in the North and Northeast of the country. They are celebrated in gigantic proportions, with some being bigger than Carnival itself in many states. In these regions, the June Parties are more commonly celebrated as Festas de São João, and Saint John's Feast Day in particular is a public, government holiday. Frequently, entire families that reside in large cities travel to the interior. In these places, the festivities are larger and more traditional. The city that is considered to have the best of these is Campina Grande in the state of Paraíba, and the biggest of all the parties takes place in São Luís do Maranhão.


June Parties in the current world


Recently, some June Party traditions have suffered criticism. One of the complaints is in relation to the use of stereotypes about the rural population. In the past, the distinction between country people and city was very clear. There was some degree of prejudice from city folk towards rural people who lived in isolation and with less access to information. As this is no longer true, a portion of the rural population criticizes the hillbilly stereotype that makes up a significant part the party.


Another criticism is the growing "carnivalization" of the tradition. Increasingly, the June festival, long considered a part of Brazilian cultural heritage, has been losing its emphasis on religion. Instead, it is being replaced by large festivals, with an emphasis on performances by music groups, many of them using different, non-forró rhythms.

Finally, we currently see criticism from followers of Pentecostal churches. Protestantism have grown rapidly in Brazil. And their followers do not allow their children to participate in the festival that takes place in the school, as they consider it a celebration of Catholic saints not recognized as sacred by Protestants. To prevent these students from feeling excluded, some schools are changing the name of the celebration or simply removing them from their schedule.

The Country of Carnival?


Now you know about the Festa Junina, the biggest party in Brazil not including Carnival. Or could we call it the winter Carnival? What we can be sure of is that the country of Carnival is also the country of the June Parties, as no other Catholic country earns as much money on the festival as Brazil. According to the Ministry of Tourism, in 2023 R$2 billion (400 million in USD) in revenue was generated. In São Paulo alone, the party created 15,950 jobs. The celebrations also fill hotels across the country. The occupancy rate in some cities reaches 95%. The fact that this is a country that knows how to throw such great parties, shows it is an expert in the art of overcoming the daily burden of a society with so much social problems!

By: Professora Núbia


Amerindians: one of the ways of calling the people who already inhabited the Americas before the colonization of Europeans.

Fishing: a game during the June festival where you catch toy fish that are partially inserted into a space with sand and that have a hidden number. The player catches this fish and then finds out which prize corresponds to its number.

Tallow stick: An attractive amount of money placed on top of a log covered with a slippery substance. The player who manages to climb wins the prize.

Love mail: In the June Party we have a stand that offers delivery of message for a secret admirer.

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