By Jay Forte, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The June holidays known as Festas Juninas have arrived, originally a European pagan celebration of summer solstice, today it is celebrated in the name of three Catholic solemnities: Saint Anthony (São António) on Thursday, June 13th, Saint John the Baptist (São João) on Sunday, June 24th, and Saint Peter (São Pedro) on Sunday, June 29th.
The hallmark of the Festas Juninas is the arraiá; a tent made of colorful flags under which people dressed as caipiras (peasants) perform the quadrilha (square dance) to the tune of traditional Brazilian music like forró, xote, and xaxado. Food also plays a feature role with tributes to the agrarian lifestyle, including mulled wine, popcorn, and many corn-based dishes.
In Rio de Janeiro one of the most popular locations to understand and enjoy Northeastern culture is in the Feira de São Cristovão at the Centro Municipal Luiz Gonzaga de Tradições Nordestinas. The fair with its approximately seven hundred tents, including shops selling souvenirs, dry goods, as well as Northeastern cuisine restaurants, usually hosts Festas Juninas parties every weekend during the months of June and July.
A Brazilian, Aline Pommer, who is from the south but now lives in Rio de Janeiro explained the appeal, “The food, the music, the energy, the food and the food [laughs] … for me is the best celebration of the year. It is all of Brazil extolling the warm northeastern culture.”
While one can find an arraiá in almost every neighborhood in Rio during the Festas Juninas month, some recommend events this year are as follows. The first is held at the Feira de São Cristovão mentioned above.
São João da Feira
Also known as the Feira dos Paraíbas, this massive structure in the Centro is the epicenter for all things related to Brazil’s Northeast in Rio and is by far the biggest arraiá in town. Between their Festival da Quadrilha (Square Dance Festival), Festival de Brincadeiras (Festival of Games) and various religious services offered throughout the month, the Feira de São Cristóvão spares no expense to bring the authentic Northeastern experience to Rio.
What: São João da Feira
Where: Feira de São Cristovão
When: June to August. Tuesday to Thursday, from 10AM to 6PM. Weekends 10AM to 9PM.
Entrance: From Tuesday to Thursday, for free. From Friday to Sunday depends on performances, but usually around R$10.
Tiradentes Cultural Edição Junina
Considered by some to be one the coolest street events started in Rio last year, the Tiradentes Cultural Occupation is hosting a special Festas Juninas edition this first Saturday of the month. The program will have customized “hick” costumes, a forró show, a sack race, musical chairs and other games. There will be 42 food stalls offering dished for just R$22. Among the delicacies advertised there will be cheesecake with guava, cassava cookie with dried meat, sweet pumpkin and banana, grits, couscous, paçoca, Chikki , portions of spiced stuffed sausage, corn fritters, and Queijadinha.
What: Tiradentes Cultural Edição Junina
Where: Praça Tiradentes, Centro (Nearest metro station: Carioca)
When: Saturday, June 4th, from 1PM – 8PM
Arraiá the Multibloco
One of the coolest of Rio’s Carnival blocos, the Multibloco also decided to prepare a Festas Juninas to call his own. The Arraiá the Multibloco takes place on June 17th in Lapa Arches, which means it will already have a built in audience. In addition to the multiblock’s own music, the event will also feature presentations of a forró trio, the Vem Cá bloco, Minha Flor and two DJs MA and Marlon Nunes.
What: Arraiá the Multibloco
Where: Praça at Arcos da Lapa
When: Friday, June 17th, from 8PM
Arraial Pérola da Guanabara
Now in its six year, this celebration attracts thousands to the otherwise sleepy island, where panoramic views of Guanabara Bay make for a picturesque scene to enjoy the music and traditional food like sweet corn (pamonha), fried banana (bananas fritas) and heated cachaça (quentão).
This year’s festival date has not yet been announced but it will be held in Praça de São Roque, and entrance is free. Ferry tickets to Ilha da Paquetá are available at Praça XV in Centro. For more information, check out the Arraiá da Pérola da Guanabara website.
What: Arraiá da Pérola da Guanabara
Where: Praça de Sao Roque- Paqueta