By Levi Michaels, 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.
As they coincide with the end of the rainy season, these holidays are more observed within the arid region of the Northeast, but every city and state has its own celebrations, and Rio de Janeiro is certainly no exception.
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.
While one can find an arraiá in almost every neighborhood in Rio, one of the more famous is the Arraiá da Pérola da Guanabara on Ilha da Paquetá.
Now in its third 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 fest will be held on Saturday, June 15th at 6PM in Praça de São Roque, and entrance is free. Ferry tickets to Ilha da Paquetá are available for R$4.50 at Praça XV in Centro. For more information, check out the Arraiá da Pérola da Guanabara website.
What: Arraiá da Pérola da Guanabara
Where: Praca de Sao Roque- Paqueta
When: June 15th at 6PM
For a larger more multifaceted festas juninas experience, look no further than the Feira de São Cristóvão. 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, quite simply, 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.
The fair will host festival events every weekend in June and July starting at 10AM on Friday until 9PM on Sunday, although the venue stays open all night long. Entrance is R$3 on most days, but for a detailed schedule of events, visit their website.
What: Feira de São Cristóvão
Where: R. Campo de São Cristóvão – São Cristóvão
When: Weekends, June-July from 10AM to 9PM
For those who prefer to stay closer to the action, Fundição Progresso in Lapa will host their own Arraiá de Fundição, featuring Pernambuco-born composer Alceu Valença and local favorite Sargente Pimenta, a Beatles cover band that hosts their own bloco during Carnival.
“Sargente Pimenta are really famous here in Rio,” said Michael Vossen, an American English teacher who works at UFRJ. “Seeing them perform the quadrilha [should] be a great time.” The show is on Saturday, June 15th and tickets are available on the Fundição Progresso website starting at R$33 for students and R$66 for general admission.
What: Alceu Valenca and Sargente Pimenta
Where: Fundicao Progresso – R. dos Arcos, 24 – Lapa
When: Saturday, June 15th, doors open at 10PM
Tickets: R$33 (students) and R$66 (general)
*This show is recommended for eighteen and over