Yesterday was my kids' school's Festa Junina party. The boys dressed in jeans with patches, plaid shirts, boots and straw hats. The girls wore ponytails or braids and flouncy be-ribboned "peasant" dresses. I put the "peasant" in quotation marks because I have never seen a Brazilian peasant or anyone wearing such a dress in real life here in Brazil. Some of the girls paint on freckles, some of the boys have drawn-on mustaches.
The kids dance traditional country ("caipira") dances like quadrilha (square dance) with traditional music. Then they play games to win prizes--fishing, throwing potatoes at cans, etc. One of my kids refused to play the games and simply ran around the school after changing back to "normal" clothes. The other one threw so many potatoes that he could trade in his points for lots of tiny erasers. Hmmmm. Foods include the traditional paçoca (peanut treats), popcorn, corn on the cob and cocada (coconut candy). And hot dogs and meat on a stick. Possibly the latter has a nicer name.
So what's it all about? The festa junina (once upon a time "festa joanina") comes from the feast day of São João (St. John the Baptist -- realize I am on shaky ground here as I never learned about saints as a Presbyterian). It started out in the northern hemisphere as a Midsummer Festival. Here in the southern hemisphere, we ignore the issue with midwinter and just let her rip.
For kids, I think it is a fun, pretty and sweet celebration. It is always fun to see your kids dressed up out of their usual soccer uniforms or grubby t-shirts. While the music is not my favorite (usually involving an accordion), the actual lyrics are funny like country music lyrics in the US.
Ten years ago and before kids, I went to an adult Festa Junina party. It was my first Festa Junina party and I had no idea what to expect. It was held out in the countryside, there was a hole dug into the ground in order to fit the pig roasting on the spit, and a huge bonfire in the yard. It was all good until someone said I should try the "Quentão" (best translated as the "big hot"). It was warming up there on the stove and I could smell the cloves and cinnamon and yum, it smelled great. I had 2 mugs full. My friends neglected to mention that quentão is basically a full bottle of cachaça (rum), 2 pounds of sugar, lime and orange peels, plus ginger and spices. Delicious -- and I don't remember anything else from that night. Apparently I sang "Country Road" with a friend from West Virginia (with microphones--thank you God for not inventing the smart phone until after this) and drank cachaça from a petrified cow foot. I try not to think about it. That was, in fact, my last adult Festa Junina. I need to hold on to the brain cells I have left after having twins.
One of the game tents (think US state carnivals, but downsized)
Quentão (aka Evil Brew)