The feast of St. John the Baptist or São João is celebrated every year on 24th June. It’s a feast with the added excitement of jumping into wells and other water bodies for fun. Celebrated all over Goa, it is definitely more popular with people living in North Goa. And, of course, as with all Goan feasts, there are different traditions associated with it. One such tradition is that of wearing a Kopel or a flower crown while celebrating.
São João celebrations
São João has been celebrated for the last 175 years at least and continues to be eagerly awaited each year. It is associated with the feast of St. John the Baptist and the story in the Bible from where it is believed to have originated.
John the Baptist’s parents were elderly when his mother fell pregnant with him. The Bible did say She was “barren, and they were both well advanced in years” so this was a miracle. When his mother was approximately 6 months pregnant, Mary, also carrying Jesus in her womb, came to visit. As it was such a joyous occasion, the baby in Elizabeth’s womb jumped for joy. It from this that people began jumping into wells in imitation. John the Baptist also baptized Jesus in the river Jordan many years later.
The tradition of the Kopel being worn on the head
As mentioned before, São João has a few traditions associated with the feast and celebrations. Youngsters hold processions, singing all the way, going from door to door collecting fruits, wine, and other gifts. These gifts are then offered along with prayers and are thrown into various water bodies in the village. Followed by this, everyone then jumps into the water with cries of “Viva São João”.
Another very popular tradition is the wearing of the Kopel or flower crown. With the monsoons underway, flowers can be found blooming everywhere. These are taken, woven together in an intricate arrangement with leaves and worn throughout the day’s festivities. Men and women wear a Kopel on their heads. The variety of flowers used is pretty amazing. Hibiscus flowers, Roses, and all kinds of locally found flowers go into the design. It’s highly unlikely that two people will have the same kind of Kopel given the amount of work that they put into making these. There are even Kopel making competitions as part of the celebrations.
Some believe that the Kopel originated from the crown of thorns worn by Jesus Christ but there’s actually a more joyful explanation. Another tradition associated with the festivities is that of the traditional visit by newlyweds to the bride’s home. The Kopel was actually placed on the groom’s head after the newlyweds entered the house, as a welcoming act.
Celebrate São João this weekend
With so many lively traditions, it’s no wonder that people celebrate the feast of St. John the Baptist or São João with so much happiness and excitement. Even though it’s probably more fun following the old tradition of jumping in wells, these days São João parties are held anywhere where there’s a swimming pool. It’s a lot more commercial but stills end up being fun. This Sunday will be full of these old traditions as well as a few new ones. Viva São João!!!