In the glorious combination of ‘sun, sand and beer’, replace beer with feni when talking about Goa in June. Just before the first monsoon showers hit the state, hinterland Goan areas erupt with celebration and fun during the Sao Joao Festival. And the chief ingredient keeping the spirits fairly high, both literally and figuratively, is the local cashew brew, feni.
It’s on the day of Sao Joao Festival that you see local men jump into wells to retrieve bottles of the beverage. These apart, colourful floats with inventive names are launched in the rivers. It’s heartening to see that the local flavour of the festival is still intact sans any commercialisation over the years.
24 June, 2015
Why is it celebrated?
One of the many fading Portuguese hues of Goa, the festival is one of the most celebratory feasts for the Christian population of the state. Neighbourhoods come alive in paying tribute to Saint John, the Baptist. The patron saint of lovers gets his share of riotous parties, which overshadow the church services and religious processions. It is said that it was on this day that John the Baptist leapt with joy in his mother Elizabeth’s womb when she was told of Jesus’ birth.
What to expect?
Start your day early checking out the neighbourhoods of Siolim to see boat floats getting their finishing touches. Expect anything from religious figures, mermaids or odd contemporary social themes come alive in bright exhibits that are propped on slim boats and floated across a local river. These are called Sangodds and are the highlight of the festival. The merriment begins as the day picks up pace, with feni bottles forming a trophy that is worth jumping in wells for. Since this is a time to showcase a spirit of adventure, this seems appropriate. Newly marrieds and those with newborns come with gifts of fruit and feni to appease the Gods.
The place that draws maximum crowds is Siolim, in the Bardez area of North Goa. It is recommended to stay here or close by in Anjuna, Candolim, Calangute or Assagao for accessibility. Stay on the fringes of Chapora River at Siolim House to have access to the nearby villages.