As we all know Goa is a land where you will see a variety of cultures and extravagant festivals. The feast of Saint John the Baptist (Sao Joao) is no exception. The festival is celebrated with great enthusiasm, especially by the younger generation. Parties and celebrations are held in almost each and every part of Goa to commemorate the occasion. But how many of us actually know the reason for celebrations and the traditions we have?
Saint John the Baptist
John the Baptist is considered a Prophet by three religions, Christianity, Islam and Mandaeism. A priest of the order of Abijah, John the Baptist gained recognition as a prophet. According to the scriptures he had several disciples and baptized a number of people. Jesus Christ was one person baptized by Saint John in the river Jordan. Christians believe that John the Baptist was the last great prophet before Jesus Christ came to earth.
The celebration of the Feast of Saint John the Baptist or Sao Joao can be traced to the Festa de Sao Joao do Porto, which is celebrated every year on the night of 23rd June, in the city of Porto in Portugal. As Goa was colonised by the Portuguese for around 450 years until 1961, there is a huge Portuguese cultural influence in Goa.
Traditions In Portugal
Many traditions are found in this festival in Portugal. At neighborhood parties, it is common to see guests jumping over traditional bonfires. In the city, revelers roam the streets hitting each other on the head with plastic hammers. In the window sills, potted basil plants are set out with traditional verses from Portuguese literature.
The Legend of Sao Joao in Goa
According to old scriptures, St. John jumped with joy in his mother Elizabeth’s womb when Mother Mary went and broke the news to her that she is pregnant with the Son of God. Following this story, is a tradition in Goa in which young and old men get together and jump in wells or other water bodies signifying the underlying joy St. John the Baptist got in the womb of his mother in the presence of Jesus. St. John the Baptist later went on to baptize Jesus Christ.
Celebration and Traditions in Goa
Sao Joao can be called the festival of the young. On this day the men wearing ‘Kopels’ on their heads go about the neighborhood, from door to door collecting liquor and other gifts like fruits and edibles. The young girls and newly married brides throw flowers and fruits in the wells and rivers. The young men and boys then jump into the water bodies to retrieve the goodies thrown in by the young women. The whole crowd bursts out singing the “Sao Joao” song and the whole environment comes to life.
The grandest of the celebrations are held in Siolim. There is a traditional boat parade held in the vicinity of Siolim church where people come dressed in different colors and parade on a decorated float. The people keep the moods alive by singing Mandos and religious hymns.
According to some, Sao Joao is also known as the festival of fertility. Young to be mothers often make offerings to God for a child on this day.
So where are you all going to take the leap of joy this Sao Joao?