St. John’s Day in Venezuela, or Fiesta De San Juan in Venezuela, is on June 24. It is a predominantly Christian celebration in honor of Saint John the Baptist. Fiesta De San Juan is a day undoubtedly significant for anyone who reveres St. John. Those familiar with Christian theology know him as the man who announced the coming of Jesus. However, the occasion is also a party in Venezuela, and the carnival continues for three days. On these three exciting days, infectious African drum beats resonate across the Venezuelan coast, with people dressed to the nines waving colorful kerchiefs and dancing into the night. Fiesta De San Juan blends the sacred and profane, solemn and sensual — many diverse traditions in one memorable festival.
History of St John's Day (Venezuela)
St. John’s Day, or the Fiesta of San Juan, is held every June 24, and it is still a big celebration in the country’s coastal regions where most Afro-Venezuelans live. It combines the best of two worlds — the solemnity of Catholic rituals infused with the energy and mysticism of African customs. People usually carry an image of St. John the Baptist on their shoulders throughout the town. A mass with special prayers takes place after the procession. Once prayers are over, towns reverberate with the beat of drums — a powerful, uplifting rhythm that could have only come from Africa.
The festival is unique in its layered cultural origins. Due to Spanish influence, the day was your typical Catholic observance that honored a saint — St. John the Baptist. However, St. John’s Day was also a safe space for enslaved communities to celebrate their African heritage through music, art, and dance.
From the 17th to the 19th century, enslaved Africans toiled endlessly in Venezuela’s vast cocoa and coffee plantations. They worked around the clock, except for three days a year when their owners permitted time off for the San Juan Festival. It was an annual event where overworked laborers all along the Venezuelan coast would gather for celebrations — three days a year to dance, sing, eat, rest, relax, and do whatever they pleased. Everyone partied until they could no more. They would make the most of it because the three days would soon be over — a spirit still prevalent in festivities even today.
During the celebrations, everyone combats the heat with some ice or, better still, a bottle of rum or whisky. “If St. John has it, St. John gives it to you” is a common refrain heard during the festival. So, if your heart desires something, today is a good time to ask St. John for it with great faith.
St John's Day (Venezuela) timeline
John the Baptist is born in Judaea, Jerusalem.
Queen Herodias coerces King Herod into ordering the beheading of John the Baptist.
The first enslaved Africans arrive to work in Venezuela’s cocoa plantations.
Decades after independence, Venezuela finally abolishes slavery through congressional bills.
St John's Day (Venezuela) FAQs
What are some Venezuelan traditions?
Venezuela observes several festivals that honor ancient traditions. Besides Fiesta De San Juan, the country celebrates Corpus Christi in a big way. Other regional and national festivals feature parades, parties, and costumes.
What is the most famous Venezuelan food?
Venezuelans love their Pabellon Criollo. The dish has shredded beef, rice, plantains, black beans, and a fried egg.
What is the festival of San Juan in Venezuela?
Fiesta de San Juan is a primarily Catholic festival. It celebrates the birthday of St. John the Baptist.
St John's Day (Venezuela) Activities
Join the festivities
When in Venezuela, join the three-day extravaganza. Watch the procession and later dance to the beats of the festival songs!
Ask and you shall receive
Is it health, wealth, or abundance you seek? Make a request to St. John, who is supposed to be very giving today.
Learn about minorities in Venezuela
Who are Afro-Venezuelans? Why are they conspicuously absent in conversations about the country? Today’s a good day to dig deeper into their community, culture, and history.
5 Facts About Venezuela That Will Blow Your Mind
A paradise for oil drillers
Venezuela has the world’s largest oil reserves, not Saudi Arabia.
A land of the beautiful
Venezuela has produced seven Miss Universes, six Miss Worlds, eight Miss Internationals, and two Miss Earths.
A lake like a lightning rod
Lake Maracaibo in Venezuela sees the most lightning strikes in the world.
Home to the world’s highest waterfall
At 3,212 feet high, Angel Falls is the world’s highest uninterrupted waterfall.
A country of polyglots
Chinese is a commonly-used language besides Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian,
Why We Love St John's Day (Venezuela)
It is a Catholic feast and a fiesta
A little religious, a bit secular — St. John's Day is a fascinating intermingling of diverse cultures. It celebrates the faith of the believers and the culture of its people.
It is full of energy
Holy days are usually solemn, but this one features infectious drum beats, lively songs, bright colors, and fun festivities. Days that honor patron saints rarely feature such revelry!
It preserves heritage
Today is an opportunity to witness the vibrant Afro-Venezuelan culture firsthand. Festivals like St. John's Day ensure their stories and heritage live on forever.
St John's Day (Venezuela) dates