São João do Porto is a festival that takes place from the 23rd to the 24th of June in the city of Porto. Officially, this is a festivity catholic in which the birth of St. John the Baptist, which focuses on the mass and procession of St. John on the day June 24th, but the feast of S. João do Porto originated in the solstice of summer and initially it was a pagan festival. People celebrated fertility, associated with the joy of harvests and abundance. Later, similarly to what happened with Shrovetide, the Church Christianized this pagan festival and attributes St. John to it as patron saint.
It is a party full of traditions, including the leeks, used to hit the heads of people passing by, the branches of lemon balm (and limonette), used by women to put in the face of passing men, and the throwing of hot air balloons. Traditionally, leek was a phallic symbol of male fertility and the lemongrass of female pubic hair. Starting from the 70's, plastic hammers were introduced that play the same role as leeks, having, curiously, also a phallic aspect. In the 70s, in Fontaínhas, on the night of S. João, bread in the shape of a phallus with two testicles was still sold, clearly attesting to the connotations of the festival with the old fertility festivities. There are also the traditional leaps on the bonfires scattered around the city, usually in the most traditional neighborhoods; the vases of basils with popular verses are a constant presence at this great party and the traditional fireworks at midnight, next to the Golden River and the D. Luís I bridge. The fireworks show lasts more than 15 minutes and takes place in the middle of the river in specially prepared boats, accompanied by music in a multimedia show.
In addition to all this, there are several popular fairs throughout the city of Harbor especially in the neighborhoods of Fonts, Miragaia, Massarelos, between others. In the fairs, there are usually concerts with several popular singers accompanied, almost always, by food, in particular, roasted lamb and, more recently, grilled meats and also sardines. The party lasts until four or five in the morning, when most people return home. The most resistant, usually the youngest, travel all along the coastline from the riverside to the Douro mouth where they end the night on the beach, waiting for the sunrise.
It is not exactly known when the feast of S. João do Porto began. It is known, from the registers of the 14th century, since Fernão Lopes, by that time, he traveled to Porto to prepare a visit by the King, having arrived on the eve of S. João, he left a written in the Chronicle that it was a day when a big party was held in Porto, describing it and how it was lived by the people of Porto.