Candomblé, Ubanda, Espirita, Christianity and The Universal Church of God’s Kingdom. These beliefs and religions come to our minds when we think of Brazil. It is funny because most of Brazilians are Catholics, and just a fraction of Brazil’s population follow the religions mention above. And, although, the African slaves and indigenous people left a very strong cultural legacy, so did the Portuguese and other European countries that set foot in Brazil during the colonial period: France and The Netherlands.
Carnival is the greatest Brazilian celebration, or so we thought. However, what Brazilians enjoy the most and is commemorated from north to south happens in June, not February: the festivities honoring Saint Anthony, Saint John and Saint Peter. In Portugal each Saint is celebrated in different regions: Lisbon honors Saint Anthony; Saint Peter in Seixal region; while Saint John is honored in the regions of Porto, Almada and Braga. Other European countries like Ireland, Spain, and the Scandinavian nations also have these festivities honoring Saint John’s Eve and the summer solstice.
As in Portugal, each of the Saints is celebrated in different Brazilian regions: The festivities of Saint John happen in Northeast; while Saint Anthony is honored in Southeast and South for Brazil. Dishes like canjica and pamonha (both are sweet corn meal) are traditional during the festivities. In Paraná region (south Brazil) Pinhao (Pine nut, edible seeds of the Araucaria Pine Tree) and Quentao (a sweet hot wine) are very popular, too.
Music and fire are very important aspects in this Festas Juninas. Everybody will dance to the rhythm of Forro (one of the many typical Brazilian music) or Quadrilha (a ballroom French dance) while there is a huge bonfire going on, coinciding with the June solstice or midsummer. Yeah, in Brazil is winter in this time of the year, but let’s not forget that these festivities were brought by the Europeans. During these festivities, masses would gather on the streets dancing, drinking and enjoying for several days, celebrating the Saints with an unrivalled intensity.