São João Baptista is part of the Cape Verdean celebrations known as festas de romária (pilgrimage feasts). The celebration of São João Baptista, the birthday of Saint John the Baptist, takes place in Rotterdam on the Saturday before or after June 24. During the celebration, people also ask for protection for the sailors, peace, fertility on the land and in the home. The celebration of São João Baptista starts with the collection of the statue of Saint John the Baptist in the Sint Victor Church in Waddinxveen. The collection of the statue refers to the ritual in Cape Verde, where the statue of the saint is also fetched from the highlands, after which it passes all the villages before being brought to its final destination, the parish. On Saturday morning the statue is rigged by a local florist. At the Sociedade Cultural Caboverdiana the tambores and the navio, a miniature ship, are prepared and decorated. At noon the religious celebration starts with a church service in honour of the birthday of Saint John the Baptist. The celebration is in Portuguese/Cape Verdean Creole as well as in Dutch.
After the service a procession takes place in which the statue is carried to the Heemraadsplein. The procession is attended by the churchgoers, the drummers, the chosen one carrying the nave, but also by those who for one reason or another could not attend mass. A traditional Kola San Jon dance is also performed. Arriving at the square, the statue is placed on an altar, after which the cultural activities begin on the square. Visitors can become acquainted with Cape Verdean culture through activities for young and old, culinary specialities, performances from home and abroad, exhibitions and storytellers.
At 5 p.m. the stage programme starts, which is mainly aimed at the younger generation.