Festival of São João
Especially up in the north-east of Brazil, the mid-winter festival of São João rivals carnival as the party of the year. In contrast to carnival, it's a slice of real Brazil that most tourists don't experience.
The festival was originally introduced by Jesuit missionaries to replace various indigenous traditions which marked the winter solstice. Today it has become a celebration of rural life in the largely-rural north-east, with men dressing up in dungarees and straw hats, and women wearing pigtails, fake freckles and gingham dresses.
São João is also partially a celebration of marriage and so each celebration usually has a "bride and groom" at its heart, in full wedding regalia and taking the lead in the non-stop dances which are a feature of the festival.
Another common feature is a huge bonfire, and in the town of Caruaru (which is home to probably the largest São João festival in the world) they traditionally have a bonfire big enough to burn for at least 48 hours.
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