Everything in between

Keeping your culture alive through cooking…

… And some partying.  Celebrating Brazil’s famous June and July Festivities (Festas Junina e Julhina)

Being Homesick has gotten harder in the past two years. It’s probably because I haven’t seen my Family for that exact amount of time.

Winter also doesn’t help much when it’s all grey and rainy, like many days in NZ winter are.

So, in order to kick out the homesickness and sadness for being away from my parents and Siblings, as well as for missing out on one of the biggest festivities we have in Brazil (Festa junina = June Festivity), Blair and I decided to throw a bonfire party Brazilian style.

During the months of June and July, there are celebrations all over Brazil called June or July Festivity. It’s a Catholic tradition to celebrate some of the patron saints. A very popular one among single women is Saint Antonio. He is celebrated on June 13th (my mom’s birthday and her patron saint).

Our “Valentine’s Day” in Brazil is on June 12th. So, St. Antonio’s day is how single people (mostly women since being a single man in Brazil isn’t necessarily seen as a burden. As a sexist nation, a single man can be an eligible bachelor, whereas being a single woman in her 30s probably means – in other people’s minds – that there’s something wrong with her). It’s on St. Antonio’s Day that these “poor” women get to ask the patron saint to bless them with a boyfriend/partner. How do I know that? I’ve been a bridesmaid three times and I was single on all three occasions. As a wedding remembrance, my friends would give to their single friends (usually me) a St. Antonio brooch or a medallion, or a rosemary to “protect” us and help us find the “right one” (Eyes rolling).

There are other saints, like Saint João and Saint Pedro. In fact, there’s a patron saint for every day of the months of June and July.

If you Google Festa Junina, you will find there are many ways that we celebrate it depending on the Brazilian region you live. But the main theme stays the same across the country: square dances, people dressed up as farmers/cowboys (it’s supposed to resemble a country-style party, with bonfire, typical/regional dishes and outfit), plaid shirts for guys, long, bell-shapped flowery drsses for women, and straw hats. The tackier the better. You’re supposed to have fun with it and satirize our typical country people.

The square dances all revolve around the theme of the father who finds out that his unmarried daughter is pregant. So, he gets the help from the local sheriff and they conduct the couple to the church where they’ll be married by a drunken priest (why the the priest is drunk, I guess it’s only for theatrical purposes, to satirize the local mostly Catholic population). The dance takes place around the bonfire and once the couple is married, everybody joins in the dance.

Brazilian June Festivity and foods
Blair and his bonfire: making sure it wood caught fire before guests arrived.

As with many of the Brazilian festivities and festivals, the June or July festivity involves a lot of food.

That’s what I did for the past two days prior to our bonfire party. I cooked. I cooked so much food it was as if I was expecting to feed a platoon. 😂

My friends also brought food and drinks, and we had a lovely, cozy evening by the fire.

Out of the approximately 20 people that turned up, we were only 4 Brazilians. I was in charge of making canjica (hominy corn and coconut pudding – served hot) and quentão (warm wine with spices), plus onion soup, a cassava cake and a vegan banana cake. My other friends brought pão-de-queijo (Brazilian cheese puffs) and corn cake, while the other guests brought hummus, vegan biscuits, marmite rolls and many other dishes.

It makes perfect sense to have bonfires here in NZ, in winter when temperatures drop to below zero (we had frost over night). Put together some warm wine and soup and you’re in heaven!

So, I beat the homesickness and the cold with one blow. Had an amazing time with good friends, and stuffed myself with a lot of food as it should be, otherwise you are not Brazilian.

Plus, we had plenty of leftovers that I didn’t have to bother about cooking anything for a week or so.

*** Pics taken before people arrived and when there was a little bit of sun light. Too bad that my camera doesn’t take good pictures at night time.

Sorry, no pictures of the dishes. We were having hanging out with friends and having a great time. No phones, no cameras. Just nice old chats.

A great night!

Party decoration at sundown. Making sure everything as in place before the guests arrived.

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