June is not the most pleasant of months here in Curitiba in the south of Brazil. It has been very wet and chilly, especially in the last two weeks as it doesn’t seem to have stopped raining for more than 10 minutes. In Europe they cheer themselves up during the long cold winters with Christmas, New Year and various other holidays. Here we don’t have such harsh winters, but we do have Festa Junina, or June Party.
All the clothes are based on a caricature of caipira (sort of country bumpkin) costumes. Lots of checked shirts, red neckerchiefs and patched up jeans for the boys and very colourful patchwork style dresses for the girls. The parents were encouraged to dress up as well with varying degrees of success. One couple really went for it and won the prize, but most of the time if anybody made an effort it was the wife. Most of the men (me included) put on a checked shirt and lots of them had a straw hat as well, but that was about it.
Absolutely awful is the only way to describe it. Think of the very worst country and western music you have ever heard. Make it worse so that it is suitable for little kids and then have them dance in bad approximations of line dancing and you are only half the way to imagining how bad it can possible be. I could have just about handled it when my son was dancing, only he decided he hated it more than me and cried his heart out and refused to dance.
A large part of me was very proud of him.
This is an example of some dreadfully bad music that might have been played at the party I went to, but it all sounded the same to me.
Food and Drink
Very sweet cakes. Hot dogs with everything on them, including sweetcorn. Sweet rice (a bit like rice pudding, only a lot sweeter). Pé de moleque (Literally ‘street children’s feet’: made of peanuts and melted sugar). Popcorn (probably with added sugar, but I must confess I didn’t try it). Basically, whatever you can find but put a load of sugar in it.
The main drink is quentão, or ‘the big hot one’. In the rest of Brazil this is made from cachaça, but in the south it is made from red wine. It has to be served hot with ginger, cloves nutmeg and various other spices that can be found. If done well, this can be drinkable, but you are pretty much guaranteed a hangover if you drink too much. I already had a hangover and was the designated driver, so I cut back on the sugar and stuck to Coke.
Bingo! Lots of bingo. I lost count of how many games were played. They had a funny way of playing as well in that, instead of crossing off the numbers they put stones on them instead. A great idea until a kid bombing from one side of the room to the other bangs into your table. At least when they were playing bingo, though, it meant they turned the music off.
There were also a couple of games for the kids to play. They had a fishing game where you had to hook a plastic fish, a chicken game that involved throwing a rubber chicken into a tin and one where you had to knock over tins by throwing balls at them. There was also a tent with a witch inside it, but our son wasn’t going anywhere near that one.
I went to my son’s school’s Festa Junina because there was no way of getting out of it. If you are Brazilian and you grew up with this kind of thing then I suppose it makes sense. You probably get all nostalgic at the thought of wearing clothes that a country yokel would deem beneath him. The food is either so sweet it will take the enamel off your teeth or so bland as to taste of cardboard. The bingo goes on forever, and just when you thought it was all over, along comes another game.
I have to say, though, that all the kids seemed to have a great time and I suppose that is what it is all about. It was also very well organised by the school and it was obvious that a lot of effort went into getting everything to work well.
Unfortunately, there is no pleasing some cynical Englishmen.