A quick guide to Goa's Sao Joao festival

Run through this quick GT São João festival guide to help you plan your day of celebration
People jumping in well as part of the São João festival in Goa.
People jumping in well as part of the São João festival in Goa. Photo: Rohan Fernandes

Maybe it is the first time you're attending São João in Goa or are looking to know more about the festival. Then, here's all what you need to know about one of Goa's most popular celebrations.

Every year, on June 24, Goans across the villages come out to celebrate Sao Joao in true festive spirit and keeping in tune with tradition. São João is all about uniting the villagers, no matter what faith or caste they are from.

People jumping in well as part of the São João festival in Goa.
Glimpses of Goa's popular Sao Joao festival...


Firstly, you need to know what the words 'São João' mean. The word São João in Portuguese means St John.

The feast of 'São João' is the celebration of birthday of St John the Baptist. People across Goa rever the saint and celebrate 'São João' annually on June 24.

St John the Baptist.
St John the Baptist.Photo: Venita Gomes


The festival is celebrated largely by Goa's Catholics. In the Bible it is mentioned that that St John the Baptist was in the womb of Elizabeth, who was Mary's (the mother of Jesus) relative.

When Mary visited Elizabeth who was expecting St John the Baptist, it is said that the child in Elizabeth's womb jumped with great joy. Jumping in the wells is the enactment of this particular instance when St John leaped with joy in his mother's womb -- it is referred to as the "leap of joy".

People jumping in well as part of the São João festival in Goa.
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People in the villages attend Mass and take blessings of St John the Baptist, after which they go around with traditional musical instruments singing popular Konkani songs.

One song that you cannot miss out hearing is: Sao Joao, Sao Joao gunvta mure vatt amkam dissonam, aicho dis urbecho konn konnak hansonam, choll-re pie-re tum illo ghe-re faleam kaim mevonam. This is a popular hit by late C Alvares, one of the stalwarts of the Konkani tiatr stage.

On this occasion, revellers jump in the village fresh water wells to enact the leap of joy. A word of caution: Do not jump in any well if you are not a good swimmer.

Wherever the revellers go, they are offered seasonal fruits like jackfruit, mango, pineapple and watermelon. This is also an occasion when one gets to have home-made sweets like patoleos, donne, sannas, etc. These sweets are then distributed among people.

People jumping in well as part of the São João festival in Goa.
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From North to South of Goa, you will find people celebrating São João. But the festival is celebrated in prominently in villages like Siolim, Benaulim, Anjuna, Assolna and Pilerne, where the festive spirit can be truly felt with all its local offerings.

In Siolim, the traditional boat festival is well-known. It commences around 3.30 pm infront of the St Anthony Church. This year, besides traditional boat festival, there will be music and acting performances by renowned local artists.

A few kilometres away from Siolim, on June 25 from 3.30 pm onwards Pilerne villagers are hosting 'Plash 5.0' which will have fun water games, live music, besides other entertainment programmes. The St John the Baptist Church compound is the venue for this event.

While these places celebrate the festival on a high note, there are several villages that have smaller traditional celebrations that give one an insight into the rich cultural heritage of Goa.

People jumping in well as part of the São João festival in Goa.
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If you are headed to any one of these celebrations, don't forget to wear or make a beautiful kopel. It is a floral headgear which is adorned with local flowers and also fruits.

Locals flowers that bloom during the monsoon season are used to decorate the kopel. Some people also purchase kopels from the local florist, who use some fancy looking flowers and make it look very aesthetic and pretty.

Revellers wearing the floral kopel.
Revellers wearing the floral kopel. Photo: Rohan Fernandes


This year, Goa Tourism for the first time is holding a full-day 'Viva São João' programme on June 24 starting from 10 am till late in the night at 10 at the Dauji-Ella, Old Goa, helipad. This event features live brands, national and international DJs, traditional Goan songs and dances. The event is open to all.

One can also head to the many pool parties and rain dances that will take place on the occasion. Pool parties are a popular during the festival. Many youngsters after attending the feast mass and celebrating the festival in the villages head to pool parties to spend the remaining evening with their friends.

Sao Joao in Goa.
Sao Joao in Goa.Photo: Rohan Fernandes


One can head to Sao Joao Bliss, a pool party that promises to soak people in the spirit of celebration at the Palmarinha de Goa Resort, Calangute, from 12 pm onwards.

Woodbourne Resort, Nuvem, too is hosting the 'Sao Joao Bash 2023' pool party featuring Ryan Nogar, Brainwash, and many other popular artists.

For three-days starting today (June 23) till June 25, one can attend Sao Joao socials at the Ozran Beach, Vagator.

People jumping in well as part of the São João festival in Goa.
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So, if you want to witness traditional São João, head to the interiors of Goa, and if it is only some pool-side fun you are seeking then head to any of the resorts near you, or the one that you are staying in may have one planned for you.

If you want to learn more, then scan the local newspapers for festivities happening near you. There is much more to São João than it appears.

Despite the scanty rainfall, organisers are all geared to host the festival in whatever ways they can. They are praying for the rains to finally pour in torrents. But will the rain gods smile? The organisers and revellers are keeping their fingers crossed.

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