Want to know how I celebrated Sao Joao Festival as a kid?
Well, I only watched the festival being celebrated as my parents forbade me from jumping into the ponds and wells all around Goa on the 24th of June each year! Also, to be very honest, I did not know how to swim! Again parents …
My friends and I would cycle into the villages surrounding Margao and stop at ponds and wells where the village youth would take their plunge. Fruits were thrown into the water so that the jumpers could gather them as prizes. Beautifully decorated ‘Sangodds’ (floating platforms) with their occupants singing ‘Mandeand Dulpods’ (Folk Songs) serving the ‘dhali’ (Sanna, Vodde, jackfruit, and pineapples) and loads of ‘Feni’ (Local spirit) would be seen on lakes and river. It was usual for newlyweds to visit the in-laws’ place to participate in the celebrations. In some villages, the locals would be seen playing the ‘ghumot’ (pot drum) and ‘tashe’ (cymbals)
As part of the revelry, the youth weave crowns of palm leaves (Kopelam) attaching small fruits and flowers and wear them around their heads. The repeated strains of the legendary tiatrist (Playwright) C. Alvares, will be heard playing in every Goan household as they gorged themselves on meat and fish during the family meal.
History tells us that the fest of Sao Joao was a feast adopted by new converts to continue their Hindu tradition of the ‘ashaad’ when the new bride would be sent to her maternal home at the start of the monsoons.
Christians associate the jumping into wells with St. John the Baptist’s leap inside his mother’s womb when Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth, with Jesus in her womb.