Enjoy a fabulous couple of days celebrating Sant Antoni in Mallorca, the Patron Saint of Animals, Sant Antoni is celebrated in a big way on the 16 and 17 of January every year, people from all over Mallorca get together to remember the customs of the countryside and the life of the farmer and his labourers. A tradition originating from the 13 Century.
The festivities of Sant Antoni are therefore full with bonfires, traditional music, food and of course many a bottle of local spirits! While fiestas take place all over the island, some of the most interesting and deep-rooted traditions are to be discovered and enjoyed in the towns and villages in the north of Mallorca, which is home to some of the prettiest villas, country houses as well as apartments.
If you are lucky enough to own a property in the north and want to really get to know the local customs, this is THE “fiesta” to take part in.
Remembering his story and the symbolism, Saint Anthony is the patron saint of animals, particularly farm animals, and he was extremely important because prior to the arrival of tourism most of the islanders worked in agriculture. The presence of devils in the festivities represents evil and the temptations of the devil that the Sant Antoni had to overcome. The triumph of good over evil. The lighting of the fires stems from a pagan ritual of the Sun Cult and represents the victory of light over darkness. In the past the islanders were convinced that spreading the ashes of the fires on the land, favoured the crops.
The traditional agricultural town of Sa Pobla: Is home to possibly the most spectacular, celebrations of Sant Antoni on the 16 January, with devils galore, bonfires, music and traditional singing, barbecues and fireworks. Sa Pobla is still an agricultural community, with working farms, orchards, vegetable crops.
Pollensa: January 17 in Pollensa is the celebration that most stands out and where practically everybody takes part in one way or another. First thing in the morning it is down to the village for the blessing of the animals “Beneides”. Owners with pet or domestic animal parade around the town passing the main church on the market square for the all-important blessing. No animal leaves unblessed, it is a wonderful display of dogs, sheep, goats, horses, budgies and canaries, turtles and lizards etc.However, the most impressive animal blessing takes place in Muro where hundreds of people take part. Either blessing is a wonderful morning out for families with smaller children. Then the village people move on to the Valley of Ternelles, a rich valley home to much coveted family villas with vegetable gardens and orchards as well as the much need swimming pool! Walking up the lanes past the houses into the spectacular valley, alongside the torrent the crowd then gather to eat again before descending with the famous Pine tree (Pi).
Pi de Sant Antoni: This is a unique event held only in Pollensa and the bay of Puerto Pollensa. In Pollensa the felled tree is stripped, loaded onto a two wheel cart and soaped and spread with lard making the scrabble to the top much more challenging. The descent to town, at around 14.00 is accompanied by the Xeremies (a group playing traditional instruments) and folk dancing at every opportunity. The tree is not alone on the cart, it is full of young people encouraging those in charge of pulling and manoeuvring the ensemble through the narrow lanes and later through the streets of the town until they reach the old market square behind the church. The tree, usually 19 to 20m long, is erected in the square with much ado and the finale begins. The climbers (all locals) are grouped in teams and the fight to reach the summit seems to have no holds barred! Working with their team, eventually with a lot of cheering supposedly the strongest and the bravest (“the immortal”) will manage the climb to the top. Before 2018 the prize would have been a live cockerel in a basket, today it is includes the recognition of being ‘immortal’ (at least for a few weeks), an economic reward and a big bag of confetti that is released onto the crowd below. (Note this part of Sant Antoni is not for small children or the debile, the square is closed on three sides and is impossibly full and there is a lot of friendly pushing and shoving).
A similar custom is played out in Puerto Pollensa where the Pine tree is delivered by boat from Formentor.
The tree is left is situ until Ash Wednesday for those wishing to try and climb it. After that it is taken down and is used to make the wooden swords used by the Christians in the summer festival of the La Patrona on the 2nd of August. But that’s another story.
In Alcudia Sant Antoni distributes sweets to the children followed by 18 devils chasing the public.
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