The Saint John of Oporto is the most popular festival of the city, in honor of Saint John, which takes place from 23 to 24 June, from the Middle Age, according to records. That night, thousands of people invade Oporto and enter into the local spirit, celebrating the summer solstice. Launch hot air balloons, hit on the head with noisy plastic hammers and shoot leeks, sprigs of lemon and verbena at the faces of each other. The night away, jump up on the bonfires scattered throughout the city, most visible in the most traditional neighborhoods.
The potted sweet basil with popular verses are a constant presence in this great celebration and the traditional fireworks at midnight, along the Douro River and the Dom Luis I bridge, delight the thousands of residents and visitors who come from around the world to watch. The fireworks display lasts for over 15 minutes and it is in the level of the best in the world. Arises in the middle of the river in boats specially prepared, accompanied by a music media spectacle.
The traditional neighborhoods of the city are animated with popular folk festivals, where pubs abound, with supply of sardines and barbecue ribs.
The tougher revelers still roam the entire marginal, from Ribeira to Foz do Douro, where they end the night on the beach, waiting for sunrise.
The origin of Saint John of Oporto Celebrations
The Saint John of Oporto celebrations has its origins in the pagan festivals of the summer solstice. According to the Julian calendar, was celebrated on June 24, when it celebrated the crops and abundance.
The Church Christianized this pagan festival and awarded it the austere Saint John as a patron, perhaps as a counterpoint to the revelry lived that night.
No one knows the precise beginning of this festival in Oporto, but already in the fourteenth century, the chronicler Fernão Lopes mentioned it in his Chronicle of D. João I. At that time, on St. John’s eve, when he went to Oporto to prepare the King´s visit, he wrote that it was a day with big celebrations and described how it were experienced by the locals.
However, it is possible to be more ancient, because there was an old song that said: even the Moors celebrate St. John in the Moirama (in their land).
It was also on St. John´s day that the Oporto City Council met in Assembly and took major decisions for the metropolis, on the St. Domingos Monastery porch.
Since 1911, June 24th is a holiday, after a popular referendum to gauge people's feelings. It was also on St. John´s day that was launched the foundation stone of the City Council building, and it was also on this day that it opened, in 1957.
The St. John´s festivities, very linked to the popular feeling, were always more intense in the most traditional neighborhoods, where are still armed cascades (or June cribs) and arranged animated balls.
Only after 1947, at the Crystal Palace, began the tradition of the grilled sardines, and, in 1963, came the plastic hammers, that quickly gained thousands of supporters.
The popular poems, another tradition connected to the festival, started its contest in 1929. Currently, is one of the celebration´s references.