community – celebration – music – folklore – integration – imagination – myths – harvest – family – dances – food – games – colours – dressing up – countryside – magic spells – innocence – playfulness
Whoever has traveled to Brazil during the month of June, has already found out that all Brazilians celebrate the month with parties that can be even bigger than Carnaval in some cities. The Festas Juninas celebrate the harvest, Saints Anthony, John and Peter with lots of traditional foods, drinks, music, and a theatrical dance inherited from the French called quadrilha (a type of square dance).
The Celebrations are very colourful. We decorate the party with paper lanterns and flags. Men dress up as farm boys with large straw hats, and women wear pigtails, freckles, painted gap teeth and red-checkered dresses, all in a loving tribute to the origins of Brazilian regional music. Like during Carnival, these festivities involve costume-wearing (in this case, peasant costumes), lots of dancing and fun games for the children.
Christoph Schneider, 36, Berlin, describes Festa Junina Berlin 2014: “When a friend invited me to a “traditional Brazilian party”, the Festa Junina, I expected to find something like carnival, but I was instead introduced to a colourful, playful mixture of Brazilian flavours that I had not seen before.
“In your opinion, which is the biggest festival in Brazil?”, asked me Paula Daunt, one of the founders and organizers of Festa Junina Berlin. She answered her own question before I could even open my mouth: “Yes, it’s the Festa Junina! We celebrate it in the whole of Brazil every year, during the month of June, but very few people know this tradition outside Brazil. We dress up like countryside people, in patched up clothes, also wearing straw hats, fake freckles and piggy tails. We spend the whole day playing silly games, drinking, eating and dancing.”
And that is exactly what we did. As soon as I arrived and grabbed myself a caipirinha, a cute Brazilian girl dressed in the most colourful dress I have ever seen, cheerfully invited me to take part in the next game.
“The mummy game will start in 2 minutes. You need a partner. Grab that roll of toilet paper if you are up for it. The first person to completely wrap his or her partner in toilet paper will be the winner.”, said Winny.
I confess I needed one or two more caipirinhas to be able to wrap someone in toilet paper, so I decided to stay out of that round, but watching people do it was hilarious! After about one minute of mayhem, and a loud voting process, we had a few half-wrapped mummies and one democratically elected winner, completely wrapped in toilet paper. After that they played the internationally known chair-dance, three-legged-races, tug of war, “balloon explosions”, and several other games that I could not really identify, but they seemed to be having a hell of a good time.
I must say my favourite game was definitely the “correio elegante”, or “cheeky mail”. The cheeky mail messengers spent the whole duration of the party delivering anonymous messages to people, sometimes accompanied by little sweets and presents. If you are interested in someone, that is definitely the way to go. “The hardest part of my job is to deliver the message without letting the recipient know who sent it. Sometimes they really insist on knowing who sent it, but this is the most important part of this game: secrecy” says Sarah Machado, the responsible for cheeky mail girls.
One element that is always a central point in any Brazilian gathering is the music, and that would not be different at Festa Junina. Beside the usual exceptionally groovy Brazilian sounds, mainly from the 60s and 70s, the Festa Junina DJs and bands play a lot of Forró, the traditional genre played in all Festa Junina parties in the northeast of Brazil. A traditional Forró band is composed of a combination of three instruments (accordion, zabumba and a metal triangle). Forró is danced in pairs, usually very close together, with the man’s left hand holding the woman’s right hand as in the Waltz, with the woman – and occasionally the man – being spun in various ways, although it’s not essential to spin at all.
After dancing a little Forró, and having one too many caipirinhas, I decided to stuff myself with the traditional Festa Junina food. The several different stalls sold all kinds of rich sweets, cakes and pastries, some made with corn, rice, tapioca, cassava, and all the things Brazilians have available at the beginning of winter, when they celebrate the festival. My favourite was definitely the Canjica, a type of fresh corn pudding, and also the cinnamon rice pudding. Delicious!!
After listening to so many different stories, having my eyes, ears, stomach, mind and body catered for, I was ready to go home, happy to have attended the party, but before I managed to put my coat on, a Brazilian girl comes to me and asks me loudly “hey, where are you going? aren’t you coming to the party?” Coming to the party? I asked. I thought we already had a party! She rushed me to YAAM’s club next to the festival area, where I found the Tropical Diaspora Root Sound, a long-standing afro latin underground party where DJ Garrincha and DJ Socrates, along with some of the funkiest afrobeat and latin bands, play essentially rare afro latin Brazilian grooves, “only on vinyl”. I can truly recommend Festa Junina Berlin to all of you interested in having fun with the Brazilians for almost 20 hours!”