Porto, also known as Oporto is the second largest city in Portugal and located along the Douro River in Northern Portugal and probably most famous for the port wine.
On the 23 June each year, the city of Porto holds one of the liveliest European festivals. Thousands of people come to the city centre and more traditional neighborhoods to pay a tribute to Saint John the Baptist, in a party that mixes sacred and profane traditions. The Festa de São João do Porto has been held for over 6 centuries. The party begins in the afternoon and continues through the night with dance parties, street music and the release of sky lanterns and balloons. A midnight fireworks show is followed by more partying, until young people walk to the seaside at dawn and watch the sunrise.
While the festival is in honor of Saint John the Baptist, it also has a more unusual side. Elements of the festival lead back to pre-Christian traditions, and this is what leads us to one of the strangest Portugal facts − partygoers engage in Pagan-style courtship rituals. The tradition is that young men seek out attractive women, and proceed to hit them with garlic flowers or soft plastic hammers!
The party starts early in the afternoon of 23 June and usually lasts until the morning of 24 June. The traditional attractions of the night include street concerts, popular dancing parties, jumping over flames, eating barbecued sardines, Caldo Verde (a popular green soup made from potatoes and collard greens) and meat, drinking wine and releasing illuminated flame-propelled balloons over Porto's summer sky.
At midnight, party-goers make a short break to look at the sky at Saint John's fireworks spectacle. The show is increasingly sophisticated, with the fireworks being associated with themes and multimedia shows.
The party has Christian roots but is also mixed with pagan traditions, with the fireworks embodying the spirit of tribute to the Sun, which is the climax of the event and mark the end of the official festivities.
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Lene H. Minyard