Brazilian farmers all over the country are celebrating the Festas Juninas. By tradition, the festivals, which take place in June—hence the name June Festivals—aim to celebrate the harvest’s good results, hoping that the next crop will also be fruitful. So, large festivities are held all over the country in honor of three saints: Saint Anthony, on June 13; Saint John—the protector of crops— on June 24; and Saint Peter, on June 29.
They originate in the festivals of popular saints in the Iberian Peninsula and the ancient European Midsummer. In the Southern Hemisphere, we celebrate rural life in midwinter, featuring typical clothing, food, and dance—particularly quadrilha, which is similar to square dance.
From the countryside, the festivals spread to the big cities and nowadays each region has its own way of celebrating, always very cheerful and colorful. In schools, children and teenagers rehearse choreographies for weeks and perform in groups. It is a very good opportunity to learn more about Brazilian culture and… food!
Huge parties take place in the Northeast Region, where two cities are still dueling for the title of “The Largest São João in the World”: Campina Grande (in Paraíba state) and Caruaru (in Pernambuco state). All-night forró parties take place in the open air, mainly in vast, walled courtyards on the towns’ outskirts. In the North Region, especially in Amazonas state, the month of June is marked by the Boi-Bumbá festivities and the great Parintins Folklore Festival.
Wherever they happen, large feasts are dedicated to the saints and offered to the participants. A true Festa Junina or “arraial,” as each celebration venue is called, has barbecue and quentão, an alcoholic beverage made with cachaça or red wine, orange peel, cinnamon, and apple slices. The sweets are also featured, with each region having its own variety, made with the season’s ingredients. Let’s take a look at some of these delicious dishes!
Pamonha is a unique country dish made from fresh and grated corn mixed with milk—it can be served sweet, salty, or spicy. This dough is molded by hand and put into the corn’s husk. It is then cooked in water until it gets a solid but extremely smooth pudding-like consistency. It is also common to add fillings to it, such as sausages or cheese.
Curau is a pudding-like sweet made from ripe corn, coconut milk, cinnamon, and sugar. It is served cold in a cup. While its ingredients are almost the same as pamonha’s, it is prepared differently. Instead of being cooked until it becomes solid, it is refrigerated as soon as it comes out of the oven so it keeps its smooth, creamy consistency.
Canjica, also known as “munguzá” due to its African origins, is a type of porridge made out of white corn, coconut milk, and condensed milk, seasoned with cinnamon, and served warm in a bowl. This delicacy was introduced to celebrate the birth of St. John the Baptist. In the summer, it can also be served cold.
This delicious candy made with grounded peanuts and sugar is also very common at the June Festivals all over Brazil.
A delicious dessert, pé de moleque (literally translated as “brat feet”) is prepared from roasted peanuts mixed with melted brown sugar. The mixture is cooked until it becomes hard and crunchy, then it is cut into square-shaped sweets.
This sweet has an Italian origin and was introduced in Southern Brazil by immigrants in the mid-20th century. It is made with boiled tapioca (cassava starch balls) and red wine. Milk or different juices can also be used in its cooking. This recipe has a low cost, is easy to prepare, and pleases everyone!