Its Sao Joao today – a day in the year that’s greatly anticipated for with this festival comes fun, water, seasonal fruits and alcohol. The young and old, women and children participate in festivities – traditional, modernised or commercial pool parties. However, seldom we remember how we should be cautious and enjoy this festival in its true spirit and as responsible people.
Danuska Da Gama I NT BUZZ
We all know how popular the festival Sao Joao is; especially as earlier Panchayat elections were slated for June 25, which meant that June 24 would have been a dry day. For those who enjoy and make merry on this day had their spirits dampened. But thanks to fate, the elections got rescheduled!
Coming back to the joyous day, where we commemorate St John the Baptist’s leap of joy in his mother Elizabeth’s womb when she met her cousin Mary, mother of Jesus. ‘Sao Joao’ is celebrated with great gusto in Goa amidst much excitement and revelry, be it at ward level, community level or at pool parties.
While it’s a day of celebration, for many it is synonymous with unlimited alcohol which can lead to risky and irresponsible behaviour. It is indeed noted that each year during such celebrations that are fatalities involved – injuries or deaths, and the pollution of water bodies likes wells, ponds and rivers.
And if that’s not enough at many places children and toddlers are pushed (read:thrown) into wells or rivers by family, relatives or friends so that they get to experience the fun of the festival, even if they don’t want or are scared to do so. Seldom are consequences thought of on this day.
However, within a year it’s forgotten and Sao Joao continues to be labelled as a festival where one gets to have lots of ‘soro’, fruits and fun, whether traditionally celebrated or not. While there are places that have no restrictions on celebrations, there are also places where authenticity of the festival is maintained, with emphasis on no serving of alcohol.
Here’s what a few have to say
The perception of the festival being a nuisance will differ for every individual, as any festival in Goa will always have its fair share of wild revellers. To curb any untoward incidents there should be limit/restriction on intake of alcohol consumed, as this is one of the key issues during the festivities. Apart from this, I feel that the festival has commercialised in so many ways and is losing its traditional Goan charm. There are a few traditional events organised across the state to revive and continue rich traditions set by ancestors of such festivals. However, the best part of Sao Joao is that it is celebrated at community level and brings people together.”
— Svetlana Pereira, media graduate, Aggasaim
I have seen Sao Joao festivities going green in some villages where people come together to celebrate community life and share fruits. I think we have to follow this way of celebrations where the community gathers in the village, sings and dances in the rain. Maybe these communities have discovered a way of celebrating Sao Joao which makes room for everyone in the village, from whom we can all learn.
—Fr Victor Ferrao, dean, Rachol Seminary
The whole point of the festival is now commercial, with more parties holding down the festival from the sales point of view. In the case of drunkards and pollution, it is a mere fact that it happens at most of them and cannot be stopped. On the other hand, the traditional festival will always be lost as more commercial facets emerge.”
—Adriel Alvares, student, Loutolim
Sao Joao is a fun filled festival celebrated to remember our baptism into Christianity. For years Goans have been celebrating it with great pomp by jumping in wells and ponds while wearing flower wreaths on their heads. Various boat decor competitions and traditional singing also happens. But, like every other festival, Sao Joao too has been hyped making it a festival full of fun, booze and enjoying the ‘high’. It is sad that everyone has forgotten the real meaning of the day with the focus having boiled down to reaping monetary benefits apart from polluting the place at the end of the day. Lesser spoken about ill effects of alcohol consumption on this day the better… I really love the festival and how it has been carried down through ages but we all need to be so careful when children are a part of that same fun, whether it is being pushed down some well or drinking and smoking in front of them. All in all we still need to have fun, enjoy the festival in the right spirit.
—Shaina Rodrigues, business graduate, Panaji
The people in the ward, young and old, walk house to house with kopels on their heads, singing the Sao Joao song. No alcohol is served by anyone. Everyone contributes. As per tradition, those people celebrating any joyous event of that year like a birth of a child or marriage, distribute seasonal Goan fruits (slices) such as mangoes, Moira bananas, pineapple, jack fruit, etc. Serving alcohol is strictly prohibited. With the money collected a litany is organised at the cross on the bund and people are served snacks or light dinner, depending on the amount collected.”
—Angela Fernandes, teacher,