June 29, 2014

São João at Oporto 2014

Hello friends and Zazzlers!

These past two weeks went pretty fast. I went up north where fun is anually guaranteed for a couple of days and most specially from 23 to 24th. It's São João, one of the biggest street festivals in Europe!

The festival of São João is celebrated in several Portuguese cities-in the city where I live, Figueira da Foz, in Braga, where I lived all my childhood and in Porto. ( And maybe in several others!) In these three cities it’s a local holiday. Brazil, Quebec and Newfoundland also celebrate it. São João takes place on the night of June 23 and it’s Porto’s most important celebration. This is a a big street party where you can find a mix of all ages, from elderly couples to young children. For me it’s a time to get together with friends I have at Oporto and have great fun. I love everything about this festival - the simple but tasty food, the fun walk through the streets towards Ribeira hitting strangers heads with the hammer, the buying of basil to have in the house on June, the street decorations…Let me tell you about it!

1. Origin of São João

It goes back to the pagan rituals of the summer solstice. The pagan festival held in honor of the sun god and in commemoration of harvests and abundance it was later appropriated by the Catholic Church that turned it into a catholic party in commemoration of St. John, the baptist. São João is one of the “santos populares”, - the popular saints - António (Anthony), João (John) and Pedro (Peter), whose comemoration days fall in June.

2. Decorations

Preparations for the festival begin several days before the big night. If you walk the narrow streets of Porto districts near Ribeira you will find colorful paper decorations displays on many houses. Some streets also get themed light decorations. As for the commercial buildings, there’s a contest for the best shop window decoration also.

3. Food

From the afternoon onwards you can’t miss the smell of grilled sardines on every corner of the street. You will find the dish in most restaurants or even street stalls prepared just for the day. Families will set a barbecue going on the backyard, on the garden or even on the street! For starters you can eat a caldo verde soup, it’s Portuguese cabbage sliced thin! Eating freshly grilled sardines and meat treats with family and friends is mandatory. You can eat the sardines with boiled potatoes or on top of dark bread. Don’t miss the grilled green peppers served with some nice Portuguese olive oil! I also enjoy a good tomato salad. I usually drink ice cool beer or wine with it. As for dessert I can’t find any room in my stomach for it after! On the 24th the traditional dish is roasted lamb and roasted potatoes or rice.

4.Where it happens

Around midnights you must be at Ribeira do Porto or Ribeira de Gaia where the port wine cellars are, or any other spot with a nice view over Douro and Dom Luis bridge. The festivities culminate with 15 minutes fireworks display. Lights exploding in the night sky and their reflection in the waters of the Douro River are quite a show. If you want a place down there you must arrive early. Until midnight you can hang around Sao Bento station and at the Avenida dos Aliados. This is the place where many of the stalls and entertainment stages are located. You will find live music varying from pop and rock to traditional fado. After the fire people will roam to the beaches that flank the city to the west. The Praia dos Ingleses, at the opening of the Douro Estuary, is where many of the revellers head and stay until dawn. Bonfires is lit on the beach and the youngsters jump over the flames. Before the sun rises the most courageous will take a sea bath!

4. Rituals and traditions

- São João hot air paper balloons - Launching flame-propelled illuminated lanterns into the sky with the help of friends. This is a reminiscent of the pagan cult to honor the sun god.

- The plastic hammer - You can't miss this weird and funny hitting plastic hammers on the heads of passers-by or making sounds with it by hitting one's hand palm. The most successful of the modern props of São João. It was invented in 1963 by the owner (Manuel António Boaventura) of a plastics factory in Porto. His inspiration was a plastic salt and pepper pot he saw on a trip abroad. He planned just to add another toy to the store but the hammer got popular first with students and then with São João’s revelers.

- The garlic flower - Don't go waving garlic in people’s faces! It stinks! To do that you must use the herbs that smell nice. The practice of hitting each other in the head ― supposedly those to whom one feels attracted to ― with a plastic hammer or garlic flowers has its origin in an ancient pagan courtship ritual. But it also stands for good fortune. In the old days, people would take the garlic home and keep it behind a door thus believing it would keep the evil-eye out!

- Bonfires – Mostly young people still enjoy jumping bonfires in the beach or sometimes even on the streets to prove their courage as well as their belief in the purifying virtues of fire to bring good health, happiness and a healthy marriage. This bonfire jumping is a reminiscent of the pagan cult to honor the sun god.

- Basil and popular poetry - Offering your girlfriend a "manjerico" is the tradition. But now everyone buys it to have at home. It will not last! I bought mine on June 1st. It still looks great! But in a month it will be gone. These potted basil plants are decorated with popular poems. Manjerico smells very good and you should not use the nose to smell it or it will dry faster. Instead you should caress it with your hand and smell your palm. It's also called "Erva dos namorados" or sweethearts herb.

- The herbs, like lemongrass – Herbs were considered to have the power to bring health, luck, and fortune. When walking on the streets you can give the herbs to others to smell, not the garlick. People often forget this! I don't see many persons buying herbs on the street. But vendors still have it for sale like in the old days when farmers came from the surroundings especially to sell it near the Douro river.

- Cascatas S. Joaninas - Traditional St John’s painted ‘models’ and typical scenes. It can be a very complicated work or a simple one. You must have water somewhere when you create a "Cascata". (Cascata also means water and it refers to river Jordan.) The water is symbolic and stands for renovation and purification.

 Cascata from Hotel Paris
                                       Cascata from Hotel Paris
                                        Cascata found near Ribeira

- Rusgas de São João - A competition where each parish (freguesia) of the city of Porto (there are 15) competes. The raid consists of a toccata and a minimum of 30 people ranging costumed to represent the "rusgas" of other times. There is a parade and a performance.

- Regata de rabelos – On 24th don’t miss the annual regatta of barcos rabelos, the low wooden boats once used to transport port wine from the mountainous Douro valley to the port wine lodges.

- The morning bath in the ocean - Revelers traditionally bath in the ocean the next morning, thus nursing hangovers! It must be done before sun rise in order to bring good health! The water is symbolic and stands for renovation and purification.

- Orvalhadas de São João - It is said that the light rains on the night of S.João - the "orvalhadas" - are saint and bring good health and happiness. So no one can't go to sleep before it! Water has an important role in the celebration.

- The fireworks - A reminiscent of the pagan cult to honor the sun god.
Contest Martelinhos de São João

This year São João was even more special than usual for me because I won 1st prize at 3D category at Fundação da Juventude's Martelinhos de São João contest. This contest was held for the third time. We are asked to re-invent the traditional São João´s hammer. I created a quilled hammer and incorporated some of the main São João's symbols. It's 650 stripes of paper! I cutted and glued each one because I just have a X-acto knife. I picked bright colors, the blue from River Douro and the green from manjerico are predominant!

June 10, 2014

Portugal's Day military celebrations at the city of Guarda

These are just a few photos of my small TV that I hardly ever watch. But I was online this morning and read that the ceremonies of June 10, Portugal's Day in the city of Guarda were interrupted because the President fainted during his speech. So I turned it on and took some quick photos to show you what went on this morning at military celebrations at the city of Guarda.

Portugal Day or, in Portuguese language, Dia de Portugal, de Camões e das Comunidades Portuguesas (Day of Portugal, Camões, and the Portuguese Communities), is today. The date commemorates the death of national literary icon Luís de Camões on 10 June 1580. That's the way it's also known as Camões Day, His birth date is unknown so we remember and celebrate the big poet on his death's date. This is a national holiday. Usually, there's a mix of cultural celebrations, sports events may be, and the official celebrations that often include military parades. Every year I think that nothing special is organized by individuals, not even a barbecue! I would like that. But I guess we're not very effusive when it comes to celebrating our national day.

As Portugal's political crisis is rumbling on I guess it was to expect demonstrations on this event against the Government and even the President himself because he's an obvious supporter of the majority who won the elections. Portuguese president Anibal Cavaco Silva has backed the present government like forever and people are not pleased. I think the middle class can't be happy anyway you look at it. Football and the summer will numb us for a while, you'll see. But we're struggling. The white banners of the demonstrators read GOVERNO RUA meaning "Government out". I guess this doesn't look pretty on our national day but everyday's reality isn't pretty either. I listen to a small part of the President's speech, it sounded alright, it was aimed for the military forces focused on the value of human resources. The problem is that our President is not saying what the majority of the struggling population wants to ear. Anyway, I'm glad the guy is OK, I do not wish harm to anyone. But I imagine that this episode will originate a lot of sick jokes!

June 5, 2014

Cristiano Ronaldo is on Sports Illustrated magazine cover

Look who's on Sports Illustrated cover! It seems they have 4 different covers available. The magazine dedicated a special edition to Brazil's FIFA world cup event. Lionel Messi (Argentina), Luis Alberto Suárez (Uruguay) and Clint Dempsey (USA's national team captain) are the other choices. Yes, I know. I said I would not write about football. But this isn't football. It's just kind of celebrity gossip, LOL! Read all about it here.

June 3, 2014

FIFA WORLD CUP BRASIL - football is in the air!

The 2014 FIFA World Cup will be the 20th FIFA World Cup. It's scheduled to take place in Brazil from 12 June to 13 July 2014. Cristiano Ronaldo's four goals over two legs in their play-off match against Sweden booked Portugal's place in Brazil. Twelve cities are hosting matches: Belo Horizonte, Brasilia, Cuiaba, Curitiba, Fortaleza, Manuas, Natal, Porto Alegre, Recife, Salvador, São Paulo, and Rio de Janeiro, where the final will be played at the rebuilt Estádio Mário Filho, better known as the Maracanã. I am not a football enthusiast but sometimes is difficult to escape the phenomenon. I don't have an opinion about the Portuguese team. Is it a strong one? With Ronaldo in our team, the sky's the limit. But football is about a team, not a single player. Also, I have the idea that we're in a very, very tricky group.

And now, for some fun here are some photos of the footballers and Cavaco Silva, the Portuguese President. Someone played with Raúl Meireles beard and it yesterday this photo was all over the internet. Too funny to ignore! (I can't credit the author, I am sorry for that.)

Our National Team had quite a day, yesterday. After a morning workout at Jamor it went through reception and lunch in the Presidency and ended with a trip to New Jersey with hundreds of people was waiting for the star players at Newark Liberty Airport. Some more good people were at the door of the team hotel in Short Hills. They have their first training session on North American soil, in downtown New York Jets Practice in Florham Park. And now, what about some music? This is the team's official support song. It's sung by Kika, a 17-year-old singer. Not a fan of this song either. Where's the feeling? Where's the vibe? The energy?

The theme is called "Go Portugal!" It was produced by RedOne, producer, and composer, a guy graced with several Grammys already. For the last three years, he worked with such household names like Nicki Minaj, Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez, Usher, Quincy Jones, Enrique Iglesias, Nicole Scherzinger, Mary J Blige or Alexandra Burke. RedOne was also co - author of the official song of the next FIFA World Cup. Saying this I just have to ask if I am being too demanding. But...I guess not! Something went wrong. Fortunately, players don't need this song to play football! Well, well...Don't expect me to write more about football. I might draw something about it thow.