Whoever has traveled to Brazil during the month of June, has already found out that Brazilians celebrate the month with parties that can be even bigger than Carnaval in some cities. Those parties are called Festas Juninas and they celebrate saints Anthony, John and Peter with lots of traditional foods, drinks and a theatrical dance inherited from the French called quadrilha (a type of square dance).
However, the origin of this party is much older than Brazil itself. It began in Europe. The month of June being the beginning of the summer, bring crops that the population celebrated with parties and ceremonies. All over Europe, people used to make bonfires on hilltops and plains to dance around and jump over. Part of the ceremonies also was to offer the fire some of the crop and even live animals to bring luck for the next crop season. From this old practice, came the tradition of bonfires in Festas Juninas as well as all the beliefs related to the fire such as " kids cannot play with the fire", "you cannot push the firewood with your feet", and similar expressions.
Even older were the June celebrations throughout the Roman Empire. There were celebrations to the god Juno. These festivities were brought to Europe by the Greek, and goddess Juno, who is known as Hera in the Greek mythology, was celebrated in June throughout Europe, at the same time that Europeans were thanking the crop. Juno was married to Jupiter (Zeus in Greece) and she was the symbol of fertility, love and fidelity.
Juno was considered the Roman supreme goddess, married to the ruling god, Jupiter. She is believed to watch and protect all women and was called by the Romans "the one who makes the child see the light of day". To this day, many people consider the month of June, which is named after the goddess who is the patroness of marriage, to be the most favorable time to marry. With the spreading of Christianity throughout Europe many ancient traditions were eradicated but some were incorporated to the Roman Catholic Church and the marriage abilities of Juno were passed on to Saint Anthony. To these days, Saint Anthony is believed to help with marriage.
Nowadays, Brazilians do not thank for the crops because in South America this is not the crop season. As for the celebrations they extend throughout the month, commemorating Saint Anthony on June 13, Saint John on June 24, and Saint Peter on June 29.
Saint John is the most celebrated in the northeast region of Brazil. Saint Peter is known to protect fishermen and homes besides being one of the founders of the Catholic Church. Some cities also include Saint Paul in the festivities.
Every Festa Junina has a tall pole with a Saint John image hanging on it. Tradition says that Elizabeth, Saint John's mother, used a tall pole to announce the son's birth to Saint John's aunt, Mary who was expecting Jesus. In Brazil, this pole was transformed into a special attraction; it is the so-called pau-de-sebo (greased pole). The pole is covered with grease and money or any other kind of prize is placed on its top.
The Portuguese brought the Festa Junina from Europe to Brazil. Like in Brazil, Portugal celebrates June every year, with the difference that in Portugal people give more attention to Saint Anthony than to Saint John. In the big melting pot that Brazil is, Festa Junina was also well accepted by the native habitants and many more beliefs, traditions and costumes joined the party.
When the French missions came to Brazil they brought the quadrilha, which is a theatrical dance that tells the story of a marriage in a small town. Due to its origin, even today you still see some French words in the quadrilha lyrics, terms like anavam, anarrié, granche, balancê, travessê, devaiê and tour. And the quadrilha became the official dance of a Festa Junina as you can see in the quadrilha script below.
Another aspect of Festas Juninas that blended with local culture was the food. All over Brazil, the celebrations for saints Anthony, John and Peter happen June, but the food that goes along is different in each region of the country. Tasting the variety of Festa Junina's food we can experience even far away from Brazil a little flavor and feeling for this most traditional Brazilian celebration.
Starting with the Amazon, in Manaus (the capital of Amazonas State), Festa Junina is celebrated with cassava cake, sweet tapioca with coconut. The Amazonians also enjoy the podre cake, and peanut brittle, which has Brazil nuts in it. Amazonians had a strong influence from indigenous peoples who brought to the Festa Junina the tacacá (porridge of a wild cassavatucupistarch and shrimp served hot in a bowl), fried pocovã bananas, caruru, vatapá, cocada and aluá (pineapple peel juice).
Campina Grande, in Paraíba state, and Caruaru, in Pernambuco, are some of the most famous northeastern cities where Festas Juninas are a huge celebration, rivaling Carnaval. Instead of samba, they have 'forró', though.
Forró is a ball dance used to celebrate Festas Juninas and the music for the dance is also called forró. One of the most popular bands of forró is 'Mastruz com Leite'. One explanation not accepted by some experts for the name forró is that the word originated at the time the British were constructing railroads in the northeast region. During the weekends they used to promote outdoor balls to entertain the local workers. And to let everybody know they were welcome to the ball they used to post a sign saying 'For All'. Time went by and 'For All' became forró and the ball became a Brazilian tradition. During Festas Juninas you can find tents selling many different dishes such as canjica, pamonha, corn on the cob, mugunzá, cassava cake and peanut brittle.
Going down to the southeast region you'll also find traditional Festas Juninas in the states of São Paulo and Minas Gerais. There you will find canjica seasoned with roasted peanuts and coconut, soups made with beef, cassava or smoked beans, popcorn, peanut brittle and lots of sweets such as milk fudge, crystallized fruits and cajuzinho (a candy made with ground peanuts). In the south of Brazil, Festas Juninas have roasted pine nuts, popcorn, roasted peanuts, and a variety of cakes. But the most traditional is the corn cake.
Brazil celebrates its Festas Juninas with different foods, but to drink everybody has quentão. This is a hot drink made with cooked ginger in water, sugar, cinnamon, cloves and cachaça (sugar cane liquor). The name quentão literally means the big hot one and reminds us that the infusion warms you up in the chilly nights of June. To drink, Festas Juninas also have quentão made with red wine and the traditional caipirinha (margarita-like potion). By the way, another way to warm yourself up is to jump the bonfire that stands in the middle of the party. You also can climb send love letters and dance quadrilha.
Even if you don't get the chance to join Festas Juninas you still can have some of the food. We selected three of the most traditional dishes found in a Festa Junina: quentão, canjica and sweet corn pudding.
4 cups water
1 cup granulated sugar
2 oz chopped ginger
1 tbs. cloves
2 cups cachaça (can replace with vodka)
2 cinnamon sticks
In a large pot, melt the sugar with ginger, cloves and cinnamon in medium heat to become caramel colored.
Pour water and cachaça and boil the mixture for about 20 minutes.
Pour quentão through a strainer and serve hot. Makes 6 servings.
1 package white hominy (1lb)
1 qt gal milk
1/2 cup grated coconut
1/2 cup roasted peanuts (unsalted / chopped in a food processor)
1 cup granulated sugar
1 pinch salt
Wash and drain hominy. Then place grains in a plastic bowl and soak overnight.
Pour soaked grains with the remaining water in a pressure cooker. Cook for about 20 minutes after the regulator starts to blow steam or until tender. If you don't have a pressure cooker, cook the grains in a regular pot for about 60 minutes.
In a large saucepan, bring the milk to boil. Drain the hot grains in a colander and add immediately to boiling milk. Combine the spices: grated coconut, roasted peanuts, sugar and pinch of salt.
Hint: For a perfect canjica, always combine hot hominy with hot milk (both should be boiling when put together).
Serve hot in a cereal bowl. Makes 6 servings.
MINGAU DE MILHO VERDE
6 fresh sweet corn ears
1 can (12 fl oz) evaporated milk
1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
1½ cup water
1 pinch salt
Ground cinnamon to decorate.
Cut the corn from the cob. Place corn in a blender container with the water and beat for about 30 seconds.
Press the mixture against a strainer to extract the corn juice. Pour the corn juice into a medium saucepan. Add evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, and a pinch of salt.
Simmer the mixture in a medium heat until the mixture become creamy about 10 minutes.
Use a wood spoon to stir the mixture for the whole 10 minutes to the mixture gets creamy.
Pour mixture into custard cups (6 oz). Sprinkle ground cinnamon.
Hint: Riper corns make a thicker pudding. Too young corns don't have enough starch; therefore they make a thinner pudding.
Serve refrigerated. Makes 6 custard cups.
How to dance quadrilha.
The theatrical dance performance inherited from the French missions follows a traditional script such as the one below:
The original in Portuguese blended with French (English translation follows):
By Mario Zan
ATENÇÃO: Aí vem o Coronel da festa para marcar a quadrilha, juntamente com o sanfoneiro, pra tocar na festa.
ATENÇÃO, PESSOAL: Vamos dar início no começo do princípio da começação da principiação do prosseguimento da prosseguição da largada da quadrilha. Metade de um lado, outra metade da banda do lado de lá. Damas e cavalheiros procurem seus pares. Metade pra cá e metade pra lá.
Por favor, Sr. Coronel, que lado eu vou jogar?
Pra princípio de conversa, eu não sou coronel e isso não é jogo, é quadrilha.
ATENÇÃO, sanfoneiro, eu vou dar o sinal pra você rasgar o sanfonão: ATENÇÃO, JÁ!! MARCAR PASSO! ANAVAM, quer dizer, pra frente. Todo mundo junto. Quando os pares se encontram no centro do salão, cumprimentam-se. Assim. ANARRIÊ, quer dizer, todo mundo pra trás, de marcha-ré. Isso. Afastando sempre. BALANCÊ: Cavalheiro na frente da dama, fazendo balancê.
TOUR. Dama e cavalheiro dão uns pares de voltas, juntos mas não agarrados! Olha o fiscal do salão. Tá sobrando mulher. ANAVAM DE DAMAS. Só as mulheres no centro do salão. Esquerda com esquerda. As damas dão as mãos e esperam o sinal! Golpear as damas dando volta com as mãos juntas e os cavalheiros ficam balanceando. Se aproximem dos cavalheiros. Se aproximem das cavalheiras. Peguem as mãos das damas do lado de cá, com as mãos direitas, do outro lado com as mãos esquerdas quem vê o Norte. Todo mundo de mãos dadas, aí na posição. Até a metade do salão. Pra frente. Isso. Carpindo no pé. Quem vê o Sul. Volta todo mundo pra trás de mão dada. Isso. Afastando. TRAVESSÊ. Já que as damas de mãos dadas estão no centro, puxam os cavalheiros pro lado contrário. BALANCÊ. Se balança pessoal. TOUR. Podem dançar com as damas
Eu também quero entrar!
Moleque não forma na roda de gente grande!
ANAVAM DE DAMAS. As damas no centro, esquerda com esquerda. Aproximem dos cavalheiros.
Isso. É a vez dos cavalheiros se aproximarem e pegarem as mãos das damas.
Senhor, por favor, que lado eu tenho que virar?
Siga a risca pintada de flecha.
Dobra de quatro, primeiro vira par com par, depois viram as damas no centro em seus lugares.
As damas puxam os cavalheiros e voltam pros seus lugares. Vamos girando. Igualzinho a estrela.
Desse jeito. Assim mesmo.
Canelada não vale.
Meia-volta. Mais meia-volta.Grande-roda. BALANCÊ. TOUR. ATENÇÃO pra fazer o túnel. Vai ser isso, pessoal. Vai começar. Desse jeito. Segue. Isso é assim mesmo. Passapassa três vez, a última que ficar. ATENÇÃO PESSOAL: Quando terminar a passagem do túnel, vai em grande roda. Assim, pessoal. Todo mundo de mão dada. Isso. Vão saindo. Fica Inácio puxando a fila. O trem está soltando fumaça. Já apitou na curva. Em seus lugares. Chora, sanfona. ANAVAM. ANARRIÊ. BALANCÊ.
DEVAIÊ. TOUR. Sanfoneiro, estique o fole do sanfonão. Escore na vizinha pra arrematar. Todo mundo. Caminho da roça. Feche os guarda-chuvas.
Tem alguém mancando.
Não, foi o sapato, o sapato meu que despregou.
Não descuidem das carteiras. Estourou a boiada. Sempre seguindo. Caminho da roça.
BALANCÊ. Todo mundo balanceando. TOUR. Cavalheiro dança com cavalheira. Uma mulher para cada par. Duas não vale.
É a minha mulher e minha filha, coiso!
ANAVAM. Volta de quatro. Fazer roda de 4 pares. Assim. Rodar pra esquerda, rodar pra direita.
Achei uma carteira.
Uma carteira de cigarro vazia.
Marcar passos. Atenção, pessoal. Beijo dos anjos. As damas se beijam. Vai estralando beijo.
Agora, atenção! Beijo dos marmanjos! Oh! Oh! Os cavalheiros se abraçam.
Barbaridade, que mulher bonita!
Rodar pra esquerda, rodar pra direita! Em seus lugares, todo mundo voltando pra seus lugares!
Caiu a ferradura de alguém!
Me pisaram nos pés!
Na mão que não podia ser!
ANAVAM. ANARRIÊ. Grande Roda! Todo mundo de mão dada, formar grande roda. Isso! Rodar pra esquerda. Rodar pra direita! Dama no centro. Cavalheiro de roda! As mulheres vão pro centro de mãos dadas e os cavalheiros também de mãos dadas em forma de roda.
Não taque tijolo no lampião!
Damas correm pra direita. Cavalheiros pra esquerda! Assim. Ao contrário.
Arma de fogo não entra no salão.
Atenção, que vamos coroar primeiro as damas. Quando os cavalheiros estão de mãos dadas, ficar certo no par. Passe a mão por cima, coroando desse jeito. Assim. Segue pra direita, segue pra esquerda. Ta sobrando chapéu. Cavalheiro no centro, andando pelo centro. Damas de roda. Os cavalheiros formando uma roda no centro e as damas outra roda. Rodar pra esquerda. Rodar pra direita. Atenção, que vamos tirar os cavalheiros. As damas agora que coroam os cavalheiros. Rodar pra esquerda. Rodar pra direita. Grande roda. Desbotou a figura. BALANCÊ. TOUR. Atenção pro trançadinho. Segue. Passo trançado. Dama segue com a cara no cavalheiro. O Sr. aí, tire o chapéu ou sapato pra diminuir a altura. Atenção, quando chegar nos pares, vamos tirar o retrato. Isso. Sempre sorrindo, nem que seja à força. Par com par. Olhar pro fotógrafo. O suor está caindo. BALANCÊ.
Pare o baile. Me roubaram a dentadura.
Caminho da roça! Segue as damas por fora, de braço com os cavalheiros, dando volta em roda.
Tire as mãos do bolso dos vizinho.
Ei, pessoal, lá vem chuva! Foi só pra enganar vocês. A ponte está quebrada. Agora o pessoal volta ao contrário. Faz que vai mas não vai. Vai pra frente e vai pra trás, e vai pra frente duma vez. BALANCÊ.
TOUR. Preparar pro Granchê. As damas ficam em frente, de costas, com as mãos pro alto e os cavalheiros ficam atrás, com as mãos pro alto. Isso. Vão rodando nessa posição. Os cavalheiros dão um giro nas damas, passando-as pra trás, mas sem largar as mãos. Isso. Segue. Agora os cavalheiros largam as damas que estão sendo seguradas pelas mãos, por trás e pegam na mesma posição. Falta luz no salão.
Tão me beliscando, coiso!
Acabou o querozene do lampião!
GRANCHÊ. Segue Granchê. Sempre seguindo. Quando chegar no par, balancear.
Me roubaram o guarda-chuva.
TOUR. Grande roda. Formação em estrela. Todos de braços. Todos de braços dados
Translated quadrilha script:
Attention: Here comes the colonel to get the quadrilha started, together with the accordion player.
Attention everybody: Let's get the quadrilha started in the beginning of the begin of the initiation of the quadrilha start. Half of one side, the other half over there. Ladies and gentlemen look for your partners. Half this side, half over there.
Please, colonel, which side should I play?
First of all, I'm not a colonel and this is not a game, it is quadrilha.
Attention, accordion, I'm going to give the sign to start tearing the accordion apart: Attention, go! Mark the pitch. Anavam, I mean, forward. Everybody together. Greet each other when couples meet at the center of the ballroom. This way. Anarrié, I mean, backwards, get back. This way. Getting farther always.
Balance: Gentleman in front of lady, doing a balance.
Tour. Lady and gentleman give couple laps, together but not grabbing each other. Look the ballroom's inspector. There are too many women. Anavam of ladies. Only the women in the center of ballroom. Left hand with left hand. The ladies hold hands and wait for the sign! Swing the ladies holding hands and gentlemen keep dancing. Get closer to the gentlemen. Get closer to the gentlewomen. Hold the ladies' hands, this side with the right hand, with the left hand who is facing north. Everybody holding hands, there in position. Forward to the half way. Go ahead. Dragging the foot. Who is facing south. Everybody gets back holding hands. This way. Farther. Travesse. Since the ladies holding hands are in the center, pull the gentlemen to the opposite side. Balance. Keep moving everybody. Tour. You may dance with the ladies.
I also want to join!
Kids are not supposed to get in a grown-up's dance!
Anavam of ladies. The ladies in the center, left hand with left hand. Get closer to the gentlemen. This way. It is the gentlemen's turn to get closer and hold the ladies' hands.
Please sir, which side should I turn?
Follow the printed arrow.
Two couples together, first turn couple with couple, then turn ladies in the center in their positions.
The ladies pull the gentlemen and get back to their positions. Let's keep turning. Just like a star. This way. Yes, this way.
Stepping on somebody's foot is not fair.
Half turn. More half turn. Big circle. Balance. Tour. Attention when making the tunnel. It's gonna be it everybody. Let's get started. This way. Follow me. Yes this way. Passpass three times the last who gets left. Attention everybody: When you finish passing the tunnel, make the big circle. This way everybody. Everybody holding hands. This way. Keep getting out. Stays Inácio pulling the row. The train is smoking. Already blew the whistle on the curve. Back to your positions. Cry, accordion. Anavam. Anarrié. Balance.
Devie. Tour. Accordion, stretch it. Hold at the person in your side to finalize. Everybody. Way back home. Close the umbrellas.
Somebody is limping.
No, it is my shoes, they are damaged.
Watch out for your wallets. The bulls got loose. Keep following. To the way back home. Balance. Everybody moving. Tour. Gentleman dance with gentlewoman. Just one woman for each man. Two is not fair.
She is my spouse and this is my daughter, man !
Anavam. Come back in four. Make a circle with four couples. This way. Turn left, turn right.
I found a wallet.
It is mine!
One empty cigarette wallet.
Mark the pitch. Attention everybody. Angel's kisses. The ladies kiss each other. Go smacking the kiss.
Now attention! Kiss of the big boys! Oh! Oh! The gentlemen hug each other.
For crying out loud, what a beautiful woman!
Turn to the left, turn to the right! Back to your positions, everybody gets back to their places!
Somebody let the horseshoe fall!
Somebody stepped in my feet!
On your hand that wouldn't be!
Anavam. Anarrié. Big circle! Everybody holding hand, make the big circle. This way! Turn to the left. Turn to the right! Lady in the center. Gentleman out in the circle! The women go to the center holding hands and the gentlemen, also holding hands, make the circle.
Don't throw brick at the lamp!
Ladies run to the right. Gentlemen run to the left! This way. The other way.
Gun is not allowed in the ballroom.
Attention that we will crown the ladies first. When the gentlemen are holding hands, keep the right position with the couple. Pass your hands overhead, crowning this way. This way. Follows to the right, follows to the left. There is a hat left. Gentlemen in the center walking by the center. Ladies in the circle. Gentlemen making a circle in the center and ladies another circle. Turn to the left. Turn to the right. Attention that we will take the gentlemen. The ladies crown the gentlemen now. Turn to the left. Turn to the right. Big circle. What a shame. Balance. Tour. Attention to the little crossed step. Follow. Crossed step. Lady follows with face on gentleman. You, sir, take either the hat or the shoes off to lower your height. Attention, when you get to your partner we will take a photo. That is it. Always smiling, even if it is forced. Partner with partner. Look at the photographer. The sweat is dripping. Balance. Tour.
Stop the ball. I got my denture stolen.
Time to work now! Follow the ladies outside, holding the gentleman's harm, swinging in laps.
Take your hands off your neighbor's pocket.
Hey everybody, here comes the rain! That was just to fool you all. The bridge is broken. Now everybody turns the way back. Pretend you go but don't go. Go back and forth, and go forward all at once. Balance. Tour. Prepare to the granche. The ladies stay in front with the back turned to gentleman, with hands up and gentleman stay behind, with the hands up. That's it. Keep turning in this position. The gentlemen turn the ladies, passing them to their backs without releasing the hands. That's it. Go ahead. Now the gentlemen release the ladies who are holding hands, from the back and hold in the same position. The light goes off in the ballroom.
You are pinching me, man!
The lamp ran out of kerosene!
Granche. Keep going granche. Always ahead. When you reach the partner, swing.
I got my umbrella stolen.
Tour. Big circle. Make a star. Holding arms. Everybody holding arms
Laura Duro is an undergrad student at SUNY (State University of New York). She owns the website CookBrazil.com of traditional Brazilian recipes. She lives in Jamestown, NY and adapts to local ingredients the dishes she misses from her hometown Belo Horizonte, in Minas Gerais State. You can reach her at email@example.com or visit her Website at www.cookbrazil.com