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It’s time to dance to ‘Sao Joao re, Sao Joao re!’

We know about Sao Joao bashes, pool parties and other commercial events that have taken a front seat ahead of traditional Sao Joao festivities in Goa. June 24 marks the nativity of Saint John the Baptist and in this backdrop several age old traditions have been passed down through the generations that many aren’t aware of. This Sao Joao NT BUZZ delves deeper to know about some long-established traditional practices in the state


Goa celebrates many festivals and each festival has a tradition linked to it. Sao Joao festival is one such celebration seen across the state. Young and old partake in the celebration by either jumping in the well, making merry; and eating and drinking is the highlight of this festival. Over the years the younger generation has been developing an inclination towards pool parties and commercial events instead of celebrating the traditional way. However, across many places in the state families spend the day in togetherness and follow several traditions.

The feast day

Members of the Catholic community on this day attend the feast mass dedicated to Saint John the Baptist. Followed by gathering at specific points, a chapel or at home where they wish each other and go around the village, singing and chanting popular Konkani songs.

For the newlyweds

In many villages, the newly married son-in-law is invited into the in-law’s house to partake in the festivities. Elaborating upon this traditional aspect, Parish Priest of Our Lady of Succour Church, Socorro, Fr Santana Carvalho says: “Besides, the biblical significance of the festival many villages in Goa have the tradition wherein the ‘zanvoy’ (son-in-law) is called by his mother-in-law to their home. He visits with his family and they all rejoice in the celebration.”

Witnessing the tradition himself, Shiroda-based Chilton Fernandes who got married last year was invited by his in-laws to partake in the celebration, says: “Last year I got married and as part of the tradition my mother-in-law invited me home for lunch. It was more than just a festival. She prepared a grand spread and the entire family came to my service. I felt like the most important person and everyone trying to give the best they can to me. After a scrumptious lunch we headed to a nearby pond with the whole family and rejoiced in the occasion jumping into the pond.”

Various items such as pork roast, a roasted piglet, sorpotel, beef, cafreal, bacalhau and others are part of the menu that day.

Taking back home
the ‘Vojem’

Chilton continues: “When I was returning home I was given many reed baskets filled with fruits, sweets and several other food items. The ‘vojem’ was a real treat. Some of it was kept for our family and rest was distributed in the neighbourhood.” The vojem consists of fruits like jackfruit, banana, mango, pineapple and others. While feni, coconut oil, patoleo, doce are also packed and sent along with the vojem to the son-in-laws home.

The tradition of
giving Jackfruit

The tradition of the son-in-law giving jackfruits to his in-laws is very common in several villages in Goa. In some households in Goa, Sao Joao isn’t complete without alcohol, jackfruit and jumping in the well. “Jackfruit is available in abundance during this time of the year and it is a symbol of prosperity,” says secretary of Botanical Society of Goa, Miguel Braganza.

Seeking the saints intercession

A youngster based in Nuvem, Savio Sequeira says that besides the celebration many people ask for vows to be fulfilled. “On this day couples who don’t have children also pray to St John the Baptist as he was born after many years of his parents’ marriage, and with deep faith and belief they ask for his intercession in granting the wishes,” says Sequeira.

Let’s make the best Kopel!

What makes Sao Joao interesting is watching people wear headgear made from wild flowers and creepers called ‘kopels’. “There are various kinds of ‘kopels’ made from hibiscus, roses, and other local flowers. From simple wreaths made of plaited palm leaves to elaborate headgears. The headgears are one such tradition that has taken its course through history and made its niche in the importance of the day. Some believe the kopel is symbolic of the image of Jesus Christ depicted wearing a crown of thorns,” says Rita Dias from Margao.

Svetlana Pereira from Agassaim enjoys making the prettiest headgears during Sao Joao. She says: “What I love about Sao Joao is the way the crowns are made. We collect a lot of flowers and wild berries and make the crowns. Several places also organise kopel competitions. It’s totally unique and dear to the hearts of every Goan.”

A very different atmosphere captures Goa on this day. Every village organises an event and the celebrations are different everywhere. Though the significance can be seen eroding away, many are making efforts to keep traditions alive.

(With inputs from Sheras


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