Because hitting someone on the head is the only way to show love.
For the longest time, six centuries to be precise, the night of June 23 is reserved for a very special occasion in Porto, Portugal. Festa de Sao João is a festival celebrated in Brazil, Quebec and Newfoundland but the celebrations in Porto are the best. The gorgeous city holds a festival to celebrate St. John and ancient paganistic rituals by celebrating love, albeit in an off-beat manner.
What the festival is all about
During the festival, locals follow a tradition where they beat their loved ones with plastic hammers, leeks, and cloves of garlic. The festival includes lavish feasts by locals all over the city, with every house and building decked up in colourful buntings to add to the festive fervour. The beautiful city centre is the perfect backdrop for the parties to take place.
Preparations for this relatively unknown festival begin days earlier, with every corner displaying ornate models representing everything from religious figures to whole townscapes, with a prize given for the best one. The evening usually starts off with some a great festive spirit, which culminates into a full blown party mood later. This is also the time when people bring out their hammers and garlic, all set to make their love (or lust) public by hitting the other party with these items. So it’s pretty simple, you like someone? Hit them up (literally) with your plastic umbrella and you just might be sailing off into the sunset in some time. Usually, the hitting is kept to a slight brush, but some people take the ritual seriously to do a little harm. No one really knows where this ritual emerged from and it doesn’t seem to matter, as the town is more than happy celebrating it.
As mentioned earlier, the city centre, now a Unesco world heritage site, is where the party is. The area is filled with adorable pubs and bars where you can pop in for a cold beer. But during the festival, they are almost outnumbered by barbeques, stalls selling Superbock beer and makeshift stages blaring out live music varying from pop and rock to anything else. That the city comes alive and thrives in this energy is to put it lightly.
Midnight is usually ushered in by a breathtaking collage of firecrackers, but the night is far from over. As the night advances, the party advances to the west, to the beach of Praia dos Ingleses at the Douro estuary. Here, the partying continues with no bounds. Usually filled with youngsters, a common sight is to see them jumping over bonfires and challenging each other to do better. Fortunately, no fatalities are extremely rare. The whole area transforms into one large beach party with dancing until the sun comes up. Revellers traditionally bathe in the ocean the next morning, nursing hangovers with a chill day roasting in the sunshine and daydreaming of lights and love.
The city has loads of different parties happening all over, so don’t be afraid to party hop until you find something you like.
The day after
After a hard night of abundant partying, the locals keep it low-key for the next day. You can have a relaxing day watching the famous wooden boat competition, the barcos rebelos, on the Douro River. You can also use this chance to indulge in the local cuisine by visiting the local eateries and bake shops.