Summer has just started and yet we talk about the longest night in Porto! And so it is, as it ‘s the main festivity in town.
Every year, people in Porto get ready to celebrate São João. Saint John is in fact the patron of Foz, the district closer to the sea, but for quite many years now every one in town gathers alle their energy, sardines, noisy hammers and lemon balm (cidreira) and leek (alho-porro).
From the pagan summer solstice event the catholicism converted into a festivity to celebrate Saint John. Some of the old traditions are still there: make people smell leek or if you’d like to be nice lemon balm as a symbol of fertility, in some bairros people also still jump over bonfires.
To the tradition there came the little hammer, in fact a toy that didn’t leave the factory as such, but was bought by students and introduced in São João in the late sixties. Nowadays an unavoidable item of this curious festivity.
The night starts tipically with grilled sardines, often in a barbacue held at a friend’s, then everybody moves towards the center of town walking, hit one another in the head with those hammers or reaching that scented garlic or lemon balm. On the way there are ball areas, and in the end, already early morning the boldest finish the night with the first sea bath of the year.