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Sao Joao Festival and Why is it Celebrated in Goa?

Sao Joao Festival and Why is it Celebrated in Goa?


Sao Joao or St. John the Baptist feast is celebrated on 23 or 24 June every year in Goa to pay tribute to the saint. This feast is getting more and more popular year by year around the world just like Carnival.

San Joao feast is celebrated across the Catholics in some parts of the world and Goa is one of them.


Sao Joao festival and why is it celebrated in Goa?


St. John the Baptist is believed to have baptised Jesus Christ when he was thirty years old in the river of Jordan and according to the gospel, John and Jesus were relatives as their mothers are related.

The Catholics celebrated the feast of St. John the Baptist after attending the holy mass in the morning with families.

In the olden days, the celebration would last for the entire day but in modern times it lasts for almost 3 days or more.

It is a festival that binds people together because non-Christians also take part and enjoy it as one family.


Sao Joao festival and why is it celebrated in Goa?


What is a Kopel? Or Flower Crown


In earlier times, the youths with elderly family members and friends would visit their neighbourhood and nearby villages. The trend would be to wear fancy colourful clothes, Kopel (Crown) on the head which is made to look attractive. The Kopel so designed would mainly consist of a variety of flowers, leaves, creepers and fruits.


Sao Joao festival and why is it celebrated in Goa?


How is the Sao Joao feast celebrated?


The Catholics would wear the Kopel and carry a coconut leaf sheath (In Konkani it’s called “Piddo) and visit every member’s house. They would first bang the leaf sheat and sing Konkani local traditional songs. The main song is the one that is sung in the name of Sao Joao asking for sweets (Patolio)

The line goes like this:

Gouta tosso gouta re Sao Joao Patolio magota

(Round and round goes San Joao asking for Patolio)

Ami ailiat vorsannim duddu galiat forsannim

(We came after a year, so give money with force)

The songs are accompanied by instruments like ghumot, a Goan percussion instrument called Kansallem and Mhadalem.

The neighbours would give patolio or cash as part of the celebration. Patolio’s are pancakes made of rice flowers and then wrapped with jackfruit leaves or turmeric leaves.

The inner portion is made of coconut grating and jaggery and then cooked and served hot.



Modern Sao Joao celebration


In modern times the youths arrange artificial rains and call it rain dance. In fact, the whole of Goa along with non-Catholics celebrate the Sao Joao feast.

Jesus was baptised by Sao Joao on the river of Jordan therefore, the young Goan catholic men leap into and swim in local wells mainly and others leap in streams and ponds having a great time by enjoying and dancing adding charm to the celebration.

The best place to celebrate Sao Joao is in Siolim which is a village in the North of Goa. A traditional canoe (Boat) parade is held wherein every canoe is beautifully decorated with music playing that brings in a thrill to dance, great enjoyment indeed.

Watch out for Sangodds celebrated in some villages in the North and South of Goa. The villagers tie two boats together and have a programme on it arranged by them.

The tying of the boats signifies the unity of the village. They also set up a stage on the boat with a small oratory and the statue of St. John the Baptist in it.

The villagers also organize various competitions such as singing, fancy dress, dance, Kopel and boat decoration etc.


Sao Joao festival and why is it celebrated in Goa?


San Joao Goa – Background


San Joao celebration is held at the beginning of the monsoons in Goa. It’s a traditional festival that is related to St. John the Baptist. The nativity of John the Baptist is one of the oldest festivals of the Christian church.

This festival is not just about jumping in the wells, ponds or rivers as non-Christians think but it is much more than that. It’s been ages now that this festival is celebrated with great pomp and hence the festival is kept alive by celebrating in an unusual manner.



The celebrations also centre around the son-in-law of the household. The newly married couples are invited to the celebration at the bride’s place.

The decorated Kopel (Crown) is then placed over the groom’s head they then proceed towards the well and those who are good at swimming jump into the well in celebration.

The other tradition is the newly married son-in-law, wearing the beautifully designed handmade Kopel is taken around the village to introduce to the villagers. This is rarely done nowadays.


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