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Revetla de Sant Joan - Mallorca

Festa des Vermar, the grape harvest festival - Binissalem - Mallorca

Sant Antoni Abat - Mallorca

Festa de l'Àngel - Palma de Mallorca - Mallorca

Christmas holidays - Mallorca

Gegants i Capgrossos - Mallorca

Les Valentes Dones - Sóller - Mallorca

Sant Sebastià - Palma de Mallorca - Mallorca

Revetla de Sant Joan - Mallorca

On the eve of Midsummer Day, many towns in the Illes Balears celebrate its magical night. Fire is the main attraction, to dance around the bonfires to the beat of the music or to join the ritual of purification.
Several cities and towns in the Illes Balears celebrate the Nit de Sant Joan, including Palma, Calvià, Deià, Muro, Felanitx, Son Servera and Sant Joan, on Mallorca; Formentera, the city of Eivissa, Santa Eulàlia des Riu and Sant Joan de Labritja.

Bonfires are organised at the squares on the night of 23rd June, and music and dancing are also to be found, filling everyone at the gathering with glee. The magical hour is midnight, when it is time to take part in the ritual of purification by means of fire. According to tradition, something old or a piece of paper upon which we have written down everything we would like to change must be thrown into the bonfire. While it is burning in the flames, we jump three times in a row.

On 24th June St John the Baptist's Day is celebrated; he who was born in Judaea, was the nephew of Mary, the mother of Jesus, and who died beheaded in the year 27 at the request of Salome, the daughter of Herodias. The fact that it coincides with the summer solstice, with the longest day and the shortest night, has contributed to the magic acquired by this festival since time forgotten.

Horse Show in Ciutadella
But the event which most represents this festival doubtlessly takes place in Ciutadella, Minorca. The Sunday before St John's Day, a man roams the streets barefoot dressed in leather, representing the saint and inviting everyone to participate. On the 24th, the enormous square in Ciutadella fills with people to see the caixers, pagesos, the casat, the fadrí, the senyor and the capellà, accompanied by cavallers and the fabioler, who play the shawm. The caracoles of horses mounted by expert horsemen is a worthwhile show.
The Fundació Pilar i Joan Miró (in Palma) celebrates St John's Day with open house. Besides visiting the rooms, one can participate in activities and workshops. C/ Joan de Saridakis, 29. Tel.: +(34) 971 701 420. In Sant Joan (Mallorca) the Festa Sol que Balla is organised, with displays of agricultural machinery, farm produce, plants and an exhibition of tondre amb estisores (sheepshearing).

Festa des Vermar, the grape harvest festival - Binissalem - Mallorca

In September, the month of the grape harvest, Binissalem celebrates its most important festival, the Festa des Vermar, which for nine days transforms this wine growing town into a hive of activity flowing with fine wine.
This year it is celebrating it 38th edition, which makes it one of the oldest of its kind in Spain. Not in vain are we in one of the three most important wine-growing areas on the island, situated at the foot of the Sierra de Tramuntana. The municipality gives its name to the Binissalem-Mallorca Denomination of Origin, which the neighbouring regions also form part of.

The festival lasts for nine days and revolves around the fruit which has made this place famous for its wines, praised by the writer Jules Vernes already in the 19th Century. It begins with the welcoming of the grape harvesters at the Town Hall, accompanied by the xeremiers (traditional Mallorcan musicians). There is an extensive programme of activities and the town becomes a colourful and lively place, full of visitors. Speech-making and chess contests, street bands, open-air celebrations, floats, a wine tasting contest and the International Painting Competition are some of the activities suggested.

Open-air celebrations and wine in the square

Its origins are related to Sant Gall, the symbol of fertility and so, on the last Sunday in September, the grape harvesters take the young mosto or unfermented grape juice to be blessed and to make an offering to the Virgin of Robines. In the afternoon there is an open-air celebration in the square and all those present are invited to drink wine.

This square lies at the foot of the magnificent church built of marble and veined marble, with an impressive Norman bell tower. Visitors should stroll around the town, declared a Historical-Artistic Monument in 1983, and take time to view its stately houses, especially those along the streets Calle Pere Estruch and Calle San Vicente de Paúl.

This festival has its typical dish, Fideus de Vermar (Grape Harvest Noodles), a very old recipe made with lamb. In the past it was customary to choose the oldest sheep of the flock, which the shepherds had taken special care of for months. This dish has a very strong flavour, although it is also very tasty. It can also be prepared with rabbit. It is delicious, even more so if accompanied by a fine wine from Binissalem.

Tel: Binissalem Town Hall, +(34) 971 886 558; Fax: +(34) 971 886 532.
Web site: www.binissalem.org
E-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Sant Antoni Abat - Mallorca

One of the most traditional celebrations in the Balearic Islands, the Saints Day or Fiesta de Sant Antoni, takes place every year on 17th January.
Deeply rooted in local customs, its origin dates back to the old agricultural way of life of the Island inhabitants, when they looked to the saint, patron saint of domesticated animals, to protect the animals that were so essential to them in their work in the fields.

Veneration of the saint continued, changing with the years, until it evolved into the festival we know today, without losing the essence of its origins - veneration of the saint and seeking his protection for the animals.
For many villages in Mallorca such as sa Pobla, Artà or Sant Joan, the Saint's Day is a local holiday. And, even in those villages where it is not, it is still very joyfully celebrated, with people thronging the streets and congregating around bonfires, dancing with the Devil or taking their animals and pets to their local church to be blessed by the kindly Sant Antoni.

The festival actually starts on the Eve of Sant Antoni, when huge bonfires are lit in the main streets and squares of the town and people dance around the flames. The fire is the real centre of the celebrations, symbolising the ancient ritual of purification and a renewal of life, the triumph of good over evil. Later that same night, everyone toasts bread and the local sausages such as llonganisses, botifarrons, or sobrassada over the embers. In Sa Pobla, the culinary treat of the fiesta is s'espinagada, a dish based on eels.

Throughout the night - a magical night for many - the music of the xeremiers, the local bagpipers, is unceasing. One of its main attractions is the traditional Dance of the Devils, symbolising the temptations by the devil that the saint had to overcome so often and so gloriously.

The following morning, Sant Antoni's Day, the festivities take on a slightly more serious tone. After the solemn mass in honour of the Saint, there is the Blessing of the Animals when all the village pets, canaries and goldfinches, dogs and cats, the farm animal, pigs, hens and donkeys, and '...all the beasties of the earth' wait anxiously for the protection of the Saint for one more year.

In many places the festivities continue with parades of floats depicting rural scenes and allusions to the life of the Saint.

Sant Antoni is a good saint
who has money, give it
so he'll protect your animal
be it of skin or feather.

Festa de l'Àngel - Palma de Mallorca - Mallorca

March-April
On the Sunday following Easter, many places in Mallorca celebrate the Festa de l'Àngel, a romería or pilgrimage excursion, the origins of which date back to the year 1407. The most significant of these takes place at Bellver Castle in Palma, where each year more than 20,000 people congregate in an atmosphere of festivity and fraternity.

It is known as the Festa de l'Àngel as it is identified with the festivity of Sant Àngel Custodi de Palma (St Joseph, the Protector), which originated in this city in 1407 and was their most solemn fiesta during the 15th and 16th Century. As well as a magnificent procession and the performance of a short play, they used to have a ceremony to bless the bread for the needy.

This is where the name pancaritat (blessing of the bread) comes from, as this fiesta is popularly called. From very early times, pancaritats have also been celebrated during the week following Easter at sanctuaries and chapels in Mallorca, where it is traditional for those taking part to make their way up on foot and share the last empanadas or pies which are made during these days.

For years, the Fiesta del Ángel was suspended, until in 1982 it was brought back by the Federation of Neighbourhood Associations of Palma, which converted it into one of the most emblematic fiestas of the city. Each year, thousands of people meet together at Bellver Castle to take part in this romería, where various entertainment activities are programmed to take place throughout the day.

Popular dances and local products

The acts start in the morning on Sunday, when a procession presided over by the Mayor of Palma leaves the Plaza de Cort to make its way up to Bellver Castle. It takes half an hour to walk up, with other participants joining in along the way, and they are welcomed at the castle by gigantesa (giant figures made of papier-mâché) and xeremiers (traditional musicians).

The large open space situated on the castle slopes, a lovely spot surrounded by pine woods and overlooking the bay of Palma, is the setting for the customary displays of Mallorcan dances, a parade by the Mounted Police of Palma, children's activities or the staging of the Passejada de l'Àngel (the procession of the Angel) by the group Llaüt de Carrer. At midday, the people spread out through the wood and share the food that they have brought along with them with their neighbours in a festive and fraternal atmosphere.

However, the day is long and the ball de bot (a typical Mallorcan country dance) may accelerate our digestion and stimulate our appetites once again. But that is no problem, as different entities set up stalls where we can buy pies, and sweet pastries called rubiols which are filled with jam or cabell de'àngel (a sweet pumpkin filling), and other typical Mallorcan products which provide us with energy until we get home again.

Throughout this day, there is restricted access to the wood and Bellver Castle for road vehicles, so it is advisable to use public transport.

There is a special bus service from the Plaça d'Espanya to Bellver street, every ten minutes.

Christmas holidays - Mallorca

Enjoy the holidays in the Balearic Islands mild climate

The Christmas holidays are coming to the Balearic Islands, bringing with them the traditional customs and new festivities that charm visitors. Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza and Formentera, each one with its own personality, offer celebrations which combine traditional customs and modern events. The lights and decoration on the islands streets and plazas are enticements to prolonging the day outdoors with a stroll after sunset in the mild Mediterranean winter.

From early December on, monumental nativity scenes are mounted in churches, town halls and shopping centres. The origins of this tradition can be traced back to thirteenth-century Italy and became widespread in the late eighteenth century. January 3rd is Formentera's patron saint's day, Sant Francesc Xavier, which coincides with pork slaughtering and the preparation of products to be consumed during the holidays and all through winter.

On December 24th, nit de Nadal, midnight mass is the protagonist of the day with the apocalyptic Cant de la Sibilla (a hymn sung by an angel) which dates back to the tenth century in Catalonia and brought over to the islands with Jaume's I conquest in 1229. This tradition has been maintained almost all over Mallorca since then and recovered in several churches on the other islands. In contrast to other areas, dinner is not a very important affair and traditionally hot chocolate with ensaïmadas or coques (sponge cakes) are served at home after mass.

Christmas Day is the most important family and religious holiday of the year and brings the close family around the table with sopa farcida (broth with meat-stuffed pasta shells), turkey, chicken or roast suckling pig as the main dishes. No Christmas dinner is complete without the Christmas coques, torró wafers or squares of torró. There are other culinary traditions as well, such as salsa de Nadal (a candied broth) in Ibiza or llet d'Ametla (almond milk) in the centre of Mallorca. In Menorca, Els Pastorells, the traditional Christmas pageant is performed every year. La segona festa de Nadal, Boxing Day, is traditionally a holiday with no religious significance, but of equal importance and family reunions continue with members who did not visit the day before.

Sports lovers can top off the year on December 31st by taking part in the many races held that day. At night, there is wide choice of restaurants, hotels and clubs to see the year out in or the twelve chimes of midnight can be followed in village and city squares to the accompaniment of music. In Palma, the day coincides with the Festa de l'Estendart, the commemoration of King Jaume I's entrance into the city, conquered in 1229, and acts and events take place in the morning.

Music pervades all these holidays with a special place for Mallorcan Christmas carols. In Ibiza, visitors can hear les caramelles, typical improvised folksongs, in many parishes during Midnight mass. New Year's Day is ushered in with concerts in many locations.

On January 5th, the eve of Epiphany, the cavalcade of the Three Wise Men becomes the protagonist almost all over the islands, a magical evening for children. The Wise Men arrive by land or by sea, laden with presents and the processions usually conclude with fireworks displays. Some of these cavalcades are hundreds of years old, such as Palma's, which dates back 200 years.

Gegants i Capgrossos - Mallorca

The Gegants i Capgrossos (giants and big-heads) form part of the festive tradition all over Spain, especially in Menorca and Mallorca, where these enormous figures play an important role in the popular festivals.

The history of these figures has not been without adversity. The earliest reference to the Gegants i Capgrossos dates back to 1630 and is located in Sóller. Apparently they were acquired by the town council, where they were used to liven up the Corpus Christi processions.

A century later, in 1734, the Palma City Council adopted the same idea when they bought the first four pairs of giants, which symbolised the different continents in the world. But the suspicion and opposition of the church hierarchy led to their disappearance shortly after.

New liberal changes emerged at the beginning of the 20th Century, and Palma recovered these figures. It was at that time that the gegants Tòfol and Francinaina were created, the legendary pair of pageses or country folk who today stand guard at the entrance of Palma City Hall in the Plaça de Cort.

Actually, the ones you can see today are not the real ones, but rather a reproduction made in the early 1970s. In 1936 this pair of gegants travelled to Barcelona to take part in the Universal Exhibition, but the outbreak of the Spanish civil war prevented their return and since then, nobody knows about their whereabouts.

Very traditional figures

All this history behind them makes them figures of great popular tradition in the islands. In fact, since 1998 a Trobada de Gegants (Giants Festival) has been held in Palma with the participation of giants and big-heads from all over the islands and elsewhere.

During the festivals, they are brought out into the streets and participate in the people's festivities from their enormous height and wearing their curious traditional dress. One pair which is always present is that formed by the xeremiers and the flabiolets who provide the music. The former play a type of bagpipes (xeremia) and the latter the flute.

There are various associations dedicated to the Gegants i Capgrossos in Menorca and Mallorca.

Les Valentes Dones - Sóller - Mallorca

The town of Sóller celebrates its most popular festival in May. This is the Fires i Festes de Maig, many days of festivities during which the role of the Valentes dones (Brave women) is recalled.

In the 16th Century, the coast of Mallorca underwent one of the worst moments in its history. In Sóller, at the foot of a valley of the majestic Sierra de Tramuntana, the raids by pirates were constant and the population lived in fear of being plundered again. According to legend, on the 11th May 1561 pirates arrived at the coast and entered the house of the sisters Catalina and Francisca Casesnoves. Far from being terrified, they took the bar which was used for barring the door and managed to kill the corsairs with it, contributing to the town's victory.

This bar is still preserved and takes part in the commemoration of the event: it is exhibited in the parades and presides over the acts of the programme, although the leading characters are the 'Valentes dones', represented each year by two girls from Sóller who are chosen by the 'Group of Moors, countrymen and countrywomen'.

Staging of the battle

The festival begins on Friday with the reading of the opening speech of the fiestas and the investiture of the 'Valentes dones'. On Saturday afternoon, a floral offering is made to the Virgin of Victory, which is taken from the Oratory to the Parish church, and on Sunday an interesting craft fair is held.

The day with the fullest programme is next Monday. In the morning a mass is conducted in the house where the Casesnoves sisters lived and in the afternoon the Firó de Sóller takes place, this being the most spectacular event. In it, 1,200 people stage the battle of 1561 acting as countrymen, countrywomen and pirates. Gunpowder also flows freely; 25,000 cartridges and 60 kg of black gunpowder for the blunderbusses are used.

The festival is celebrated from the 30th April to 9th May. You can get to Sóller by taking the C-711 road or through the tunnel which crosses the mountains. A good idea is to use the Sóller train, a wooden train which takes you through some beautiful scenery.

Sant Sebastià - Palma de Mallorca - Mallorca

20th January. The programme of activities spans almost the whole month of January and includes many events, such as its famous firework display on the saint's day.

The patronage of this saint is due to his protection against the plague. Sant Sebastià was a captain of Diocletian's escort who confessed to being a Christian and was condemned to die. His relic is supposed to have arrived in Palma by sea in 1523.

Although his saint's day is the 20th, the programme of activities spans practically the whole month of January, leading on from the Revetlla de Sant Antoni (St Anthony's Eve) on the 16th. On the night of the16th, bonfires are lit and torrades (barbecues) are held, while the demonios or devils dance through the streets.

They also have torrades on the eve of the saint's day, when many of the city's squares are transformed into stages where bands play live music, surrounded by a lively multitude of people dancing and listening to the music. Traditionally, a different style can be heard in each place, whether rock, flamenco, jazz or traditional music.

A cycling event or diada with fireworks

The following morning, on the day of Sant Sebastià, a solemn mass is held in the Cathedral. It is also customary to organise a cycling diada, as well as a spectacular firework display which is put on at night in the bay.

Every year, the Town Hall of Palma publishes a programme of activities for the Festes de Sant Sebastià.

Category: Mallorca Life