The Festival of São João takes place every year between June 27th and July 1st, completely taking over the southern Jardim Publico in Évora, Alentejo, Portugal.
Markets and funfairs roll into town to help revellers part with their hard earned cash, something the Portuguese are finding harder to come by in the current economic climate, while major brands turn up in force to promote their wares.
Jardim Publico (Public Gardens) was littered with wagons selling anything from cocktails to candy floss, market stalls selling just about everything you can think of and a whole myriad of restaurants, hardly any of which catered for vegetarians. Vegans could completely forget it.
The Festival of São João originally celebrated the life of Saint John whose church is opposite the Templo Romano de Diana in Jardim do Paco, its impressive arched doorway accessed down a stone staircase, doused in masonic symbolism. Nowadays it is nothing more than a commercial venture with little trace of any religious heritage.
Perhaps I’m being harsh as I didn’t see all the festivities but what I did see was very much detached from the life and times of São João and ore in-keeping with capitalism and commerce; car manufacturers with huge PA systems broadcasting their adverts and offers across an almost empty parking lot, the public too broke or disinterested to get involved.
While the modern take on the Festival of São João is probably good for families there is something sad about the evolution of the culture of celebration; that Saint John probably wouldn’t appreciate his life’s sacrifice being wasted on car sales, churros and alcoholic Granitas.
The Festival of São João does have its plus points, it brings in money from other regions and is a good opportunity to excuse to make a trip to the wonderful city of Évora and all its historic wonders.
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