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immaterial heritage

 

São João

 

Throughout the month of June Porto offers a varied programme of São João celebrations. The highlight of the festivities is the Night of São João, from the 23rd to the 24th of June, when the city gets dressed up and the streets are filled with colour and scents, joy and high spirits.

The Sacred and Profane itineraries, as well as the São João programme illustrate the tradition and spread the history of this great celebration, carefully prepared and revamped each year, embraces all those activities that make June such a special month. In the Churches and Chapels, and particularly at this time, visitors can tour the altars dedicated to the saint and admire the artistic representations conjured up by renowned national and international

artists. In the streets, the cascatas (tableau), unique in Portugal, call the attention of passers by to a tradition that involves the representation, in miniature, of scenes from around the city and customs from times gone by.

They include houses, paths traced out in sand and moss, clay figurines, painted in lively colours, of people going about their daily business, working at their professions, many of which have now disappeared, and animals that, these days, are rarely seen inside the city. The most famous of these is the cascata das Fontainhas.

The festival programme has space for competitive activities too, such as the now traditional regatta of rabelo (port wine) boats which runs over a 1.5 km course from Foz do Douro to the Luis I Bridge. There are also activities along the riverside and more competition in the form of the S. João race and the contests for best cascata, shop window, rusga (romp) and folk dance celebrating S. João.

For this event the streets are crammed with ornaments and festive lighting, snack stalls, open air dances and amusements so that the people can celebrate a truly popular S. João in a spirit of revelry, conviviality, friendship and joy.

The night of the 23rd of June is the most jubilant of the year. Crowds of people come out onto the streets to celebrate this patron saint of amours. In the Baixa area the streets ring out with the cries of the sellers of the traditional basil plants, carnations, lemon verbena, gleeks and the modern hammers

that are used to dole out friendly whacks on the head to passers by and which spread like wildfire throughout the city from early on in the day, acting as harbingers of the fun that is coming later on. The S. João bonfires are set alight in the streets, by groups of neighbours and friends who prove their bravery by jumping right over the top of them.

On the Feast night or on the day of S. João, people eat caldo verde soup with cornbread, mutton, lamb or grilled sardines, pepper salad and, for dessert, egg and milk custard or S. João cake, deservedly washed down by a delicious Port Wine.

The traditional S. João balloons, made out of paper and brightly coloured, are carefully launched into the sky, providing an unparalleled spectacle of hundreds of ascending points of light.

At midnight on the 23rd of June, there are fireworks, or S. João fire, on the river. The banks of the Douro fill up with thousands of spectators who have come to watch the biggest show of the year, bursting with light, colour and emotion.

The night of S. João comes to a close at Foz do Douro, with people rowing out towards the sea until the dawn breaks.

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The “confraira das tripas” and francesinha festivity

 

When talking about Porto we must mention some traditional dishes, such as the Tripas a Moda do Porto, which gave the city inhabitants their nickname  tripeiros  i.e. those who eat tripe. This dish, famous not so much for its preparation (veal tripe with sausages and butter beans) as for the

altruistic attitude of the Porto people who, in a moment of need, donated all the available meat to the ships leaving to conquer new cities in Northern Africa and kept only the animals tripe for their subsistence, is today the major symbol of the city gastronomy.

More than just a recipe, this dish represents some strong characteristics of the Northern people: altruism, self sacrifice, availability and hospitality.

Porto cod, Bacalhau a Gomes de Sa, and meat dishes and some luscious and rich secular cakes are singled out as examples.

Porto Style eating means to eat abundantly, with great quality and refinement, always in tables well decorated with our jewellers silverware and embroidered linen tablecloths

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Rabelo Boats

 

The Rabelo Boats are the symbol of the famous Port Wine and the trademark of the Port Wine Cellars.

This Portuguese vessel began to be known by its activity on the Douro River at the end of the XVIII century. It was used to transport barrels with Port Wine from the Douro Valley to Vila Nova de Gaia - Porto, where the wine was stored, aged and then marketed and exported.
In 1792, the Companhia Geral da Agricultura e Vinha do Alto Douro published numerous charters and documents concerning this type of boat, therefore establishing the identity of the Rabelo.

With its small size and flat bottom, and a length between 19 and 23 meters, some of these boats could carry about 100 barrels, and served the purpose of overcoming the river's natural obstacles to ease a dangerous journey that could last more than a week.

The construction of a Rabelo is similar to that of a Nordic Viking ship, with the hull shaped in planking before wooden ribs are fitted. No molds are used, with pieces fitted together using basic measurements taken by a master craftsman. At the present time there are many artisans who manufacture miniatures of these boats as souvenirs for tourists.

After the conclusion of the Douro's railway line in 1887, and mainly with the development of road communications on the XX century, the Rabelo Boat gradually lost its importance. Finally, the dams along the Douro River brought its activity to a standstill as wine transporter.

Nowadays, we can still find the typical boats moored on the banks of the Douro. They are used for river cruises passing under 6 architecturally fascinating bridges or for day cruises into the Douro Valley.

This symbol of the Port Wine still competes fiercely for a place of honour in the Regatta of S. João, an organization of Porto Port merchants called the Confraria do Vinho do Porto ( Port Wine Brotherhood). Held every June 24 (the date of the Feast of Saint John and municipal holiday), the traditional rabelos race from the mouth of the Douro river to the city's Luis I Bridge in what has become one of the city's top tourist attractions.

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