The feast of Saint John the Baptist is a favourite among Goans and the entire state gets set at this time of the year to get its watery act together to celebrate what is commonly known as "Sao Joao" festival in Goa. In Salcete, the feast is celebrated with a lot of gusto especially in the village of Benaulim which has the Church of St John the Baptist and the feast is on the 24th Of June. Sao Joao Day!
The Church of St John the Baptist in Benaulim is located on the picturesque hillock situated at the entrance of Colva and towards Benaulim. This Church also has a unique architecture and is well admired by tourists who flock to the place when they visit Colva and Benaulim. Novenas are held for 9 days prior to the feast day and the feast is celebrated with a lot of pomp and gaiety known to be part of such feasts in Goa. This time as usual there are a lot of programmes lined up including singing and dancing acts besides the prospect of watching a tantalising soccer match. Besides the Benaulim parish, the feast is also celebrated in other villages of Goa such as Cortalim, Harmal and Terekhol in the north.
An unique tradition which runs is that the son-in-law gets invited to the brides house on the feast day. Also the newly married son-in-law wears a crown of fruits or leaves and jumps into the well. It is believed that it is for this very reason that many youngsters jump in wells all over Goa in celebration and revelry accompanied by the sounds of the ghumot and traditional music and songs such as some delightfully sung mando's. Rivers, ponds, lakes and pools are not spared for a bountiful dip on this day and the young and the old join in the melee which reaches a crescendo towards the afternoon. Goan food, traditional drinks and various Goan delicacies make their way into this festive mood and the whole atmosphere is of fun and joy.
The chant of "Viva Sao Joao" is however not limited to south Goa alone and the north of Goa in fact has various locations where the celebrations are far more wider and louder. It is believed that St John the Baptist leapt with Joy in his mother Elizabeth's womb when she was visited by mother Mary. This is actually the basic background under which the "jumping" in the wells has become a traditional feature in Goa. Villages of Anjuna, Calangute Vagator, and Siolim celebrate the feast of Sao Joao in a pompous manner.
In the village of Siolim, the celebration is very prominent and every village area plays its part with places such as Igrejavaddo, Gaunsavaddo, Marna and Fernandesvaddo chanting the "Viva Sao Joao ' in style. Distribution of Jackfruit, mangoes , Goan foods and pouring of water on newly married daughters-in-laws is a tradition in Gaunsawaddo.
In Siolim and in Goa as a whole the spectacle to look out for during the Sao Joao celebrations is however the grand boat parade which has increased its followers over the years. A large number of people flock to witness this parade and this 175 year old history of celebrating Sao Joao in this village continues till date. However the event which may have started long ago on a small note has magnified in size and shape to turn out into a major attraction of Goa. The youth are traditionally known to merge from the neighboring places around Siolim coming in decorated boats wearing crowns or tender coconut leaves, singing Mandos and playing the Ghumot. After reaching near the cross in front of the church,they light candles at the cross, put a garland, light firecrackers , perform the "Saude" and dance around with the chant of Viva Sao Joao.
The boat procession is a replication of the entry of the Portuguese merchants along with the miraculous statue of St Anthony. The event was given a more organised shape in the year 1992 by some traditionally live Goans from Siolim and thus the "Sao Joao traditional boat parade" was formally christened. Later a committee was formed and since 1997 the Siolim Sao Joao traditional boat festival committee ensured that the festival was organised in a proper manner till date.