Sao Joao Festival

Sao Joao
Image by Ancel Dias

Immersed in vibrant hues and vivacious spirits, Goa plays host to the enthralling Sao Joao Festival every year. Deeply rooted in Christian scriptures, this unique celebration is dedicated to St. John the Baptist. In fact, it commemorates his joyous leap in his mother, Elizabeth’s womb, when she shared the news of Christ’s forthcoming birth. Consequently, this festival serves as a remarkable testament to the enchanting blend of joy, tradition, and spiritual beliefs that Goa embodies.

As the monsoon breathes new life into Goa’s lush landscapes, locals and visitors alike are swept up in the Sao Joao Festival’s festive aura. Young men from every corner of Goa plunge into wells, striving to retrieve gifts generously thrown in by the villagers. This jubilant act not only exemplifies their adventurous spirit but also serves as a symbolic representation of St. John’s leap of joy.

Concurrently, an intoxicating aroma wafts through the air as Goa’s signature spirit, Feni, flows abundantly. It is indeed a sight to behold, as people from all walks of life, irrespective of their age, revel in the festival’s merry-making, their laughter harmonising with the patter of monsoon rains. This celebration, however, is not uniformly distributed across the entire state.

On the feast day, villagers congregate at the local well, their voices rising in a chorus of the “San Joao” song. The celebration amplifies with the spectacle of Sangodd, a vibrant parade of people dressed in distinguishable uniforms, singing Mando and various religious hymns. The festival also sets the stage for numerous competitions, encouraging youth to display their talents. Amid the festivities, newly married couples and parents of newborns assemble with the dali, a traditional basket filled with seasonal fruits like jackfruits and pineapples, and a bottle of Feni.

Sao Joao
Image by Ancel Dias

So, why do Goans celebrate Sao Joao? The roots of the festival trace back to a biblical event. The joyous leap of St. John the Baptist in Elizabeth’s womb, upon hearing Mary’s news of conceiving Jesus, is what inspired this festival. Additionally, the fact that Jesus was baptized by St. John the Baptist in the Jordan River lends another layer of significance to the festival. Hence, it is celebrated exactly six months before Jesus’s birthday – 25th December.

Siolim Village, located in North Goa, serves as the festival’s epicenter. Its streets thrum with life as locals and tourists revel in the joyous spirit of Sao Joao. As you navigate the buzzing streets, you’ll witness locals adorned in traditional costumes, singing religious songs, and chanting mantras throughout the Sangodd parade. Paired with the lip-smacking local cuisine and Goa’s beloved Feni, the Sao Joao Festival provides an unforgettable cultural immersion.

If you’re planning a visit to Goa, consider timing your trip to coincide with this annual festival on 24th June. You’ll witness the grandeur and fervour of the festival in all its glory.

If you find yourself in Goa during the monsoons, don’t miss the opportunity to partake in the Sao Joao Festival. Despite the rain-soaked landscapes limiting outdoor adventures, this full-blown carnival can give you a fascinating insight into the local culture, traditions, and the fun-loving nature of Goans. Even if you’re simply an observer, the captivating spectacle of the festival is bound to leave an indelible impression on your mind, making your Goa trip truly unforgettable.