Carnival in Manacor, Mallorca

Carnival is a time for fun and frivolity and, in our nearest town, Manacor, we like to be part of it. Well, at least be there to soak up the atmosphere, sway to the batucada beats, and take a few photos.

This year, for the first time, we went to see the children’s carnival, known as Sa Rueta, as well as the main event, on Saturday February 6th.

After watching the lively procession file past on Saturday night, we headed to our favourite Manacor cafe, El Palau, for a small libation (glass of Mallorcan wine). Two members of the staff were in costume but, like us, owner Nofre was in everyday attire. Seeing us come in, bundled up in outdoor clothes suitable for a cool February night, he joked: “Ah, you’ve dressed up as guiris!” A guiri is the colloquial name that the Spanish use for foreigners . . .

We’ve resolved that next year we’ll get ourselves costumes for Carnival. Something warm, like a gorilla or polar bear suit, seems appropriate. Or we could take inspiration from some of these photos?

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Jan Edwards Copyright 2016

The Fiesta of Fire Burns this Weekend in Mallorca

The village of Son Macia, near Manacor, has added a topical touch to the design of their Sant Antoni event poster!

The village of Son Macia, near Manacor, has added a topical touch to the design of their Sant Antoni event poster!

Life is never dull on Mallorca. If Christmas, New Year, and Three Kings were not enough celebrations for this time of year, this weekend is the Sant Antoni fiestas. January 16th – the eve of the Saint’s day – is when Mallorcans traditionally light foguerons (bonfires) in the streets and make elaborate effigies of the Devil to set ablaze. Mallorca’s famous dimonis take to the streets with their manic dancing and scary costumes, and people have a jolly good time, cooking food on outdoor torrades (BBQs). And because it can be surprisingly cold at this time of the year (although not this winter, so far), a few libations are usually taken – very often the famous bright green Hierbas de Tunel.

In our local town, Manacor, the Sant Antoni fiestas almost seem more popular than Christmas. For the past couple of weeks, stalls set up in town on Saturdays have been selling this year’s design of Sant Antoni sweatshirts, t-shirts, and hats – and all at affordable prices.

The excitement is building. This morning, doing a few chores in town, we had to drive around a pile of earth in the middle of several roads, on which the bonfires for this Saturday night will be built. These piles will be increasing in number over the coming days. And several shops have incorporated Sant Antoni into their window displays.

Local supermarket Hiper prepares for Sant Antoni.

Local supermarket Hiper prepares for Sant Antoni

Hiper's stocks of wine and BBQ grills ready to tempt us.

Hiper’s stocks of wine and BBQ grills ready to tempt us

Plenty of Hierbas de Tunel in stock . . .

Plenty of Hierbas de Tunel in stock 

If you don’t know (and I confess that I didn’t until we moved to Mallorca), Sant Antoni was an Egyptian monk who, in the desert, was tempted by the Devil – cunningly disguised as a woman. The iron-willed monk didn’t succumb to these womanly wiles, instead walking on hot coals to take his mind off anything else getting too heated!

All this happened a long way from Mallorca, but stay with me. On the island during the 10th and 11th centuries, many folk were affected by a horrible skin disease caused by a poisonous fungus attacking rye crops. No cure was known, but the Mallorcans followed Sant Antoni’s example of using fire to fight the Devil that they believed had caused the disease.

The disease is long gone, but the fires burn on every eve of Sant Antoni, as the backdrop to much partying. And, on the Saint’s day itself, Mallorcans head for the streets again – to take their pets and other animals to be blessed by the local priest.

After the festivities of this weekend, things will quieten down . . . but not for long: Carnival this year falls on the first weekend of February.

Jan Edwards Copyright 2016 

A Flower Festival in Rural Mallorca

Display in Costitx flower festival

Costitx en Flor 2015

Last Friday we fell a tiny bit in love with a small village called Costitx, in the centre of Mallorca. Relatively few visitors to the island will have heard of it, let alone visited, but many will have flown over it – the village being under one of the flight paths across Mallorca. An impressive number of visitors – mainly Mallorcans – flooded into the village on May 1st for ‘Costitx en Flor’.

Rural Mallorca from near Costitx.

Beautiful views across Mallorca’s Pla to the mountains.

We reached Costitx via a (usually) quiet country lane off the main Manacor to Inca road (between Sineu and Inca) in an area of the island known as the Pla. There’s lovely surrounding countryside and views of the UNESCO World Heritage Serra de Tramuntana. The village itself has some interesting old architecture and several beautifully restored stone townhouses. If we had to live in a village, rather than open countryside, Costitx does have its attractions . . .

The village also has a few claims to fame – and not the sort of fame associated with the likes of Magaluf, or the more genteel mountain village of Deià.

Here are a few facts you could drop into a conversation about this lesser-known part of Mallorca:

Eyes to the Skies 

Costitx is home to the Observatori Astronòmic de Mallorca, opened in 1991.  Even after we’d bought our finca – but before we moved to Mallorca – we weren’t aware of its existence. I found out about it only during a BBC radio interview I did with an astronomy expert in north Oxfordshire, who told me the observatory was “very important”. The Observatory is also home to the Mallorca Planetarium.

Prehistoric Treasures 

Costitx is home to three prehistoric bronze bulls’ heads found on common land in 1894. Well preserved, and part of the Balearics’ remarkable Talayotic remains, they have their 21st-century home in the Son Corró Sanctuary. One of the streets in the village is named after these Caps de Bou de Costitx.

Political Heritage

In 1987, Costitx elected a mayor who became both famous and infamous. Every Mallorcan – and many non-Mallorcan island residents – will know of Maria Antònia Munar …

Blooming Fab!

Costitx flower festival in May.

Saying it with flowers: a welcome to ‘Costitx en Flor’

But it was last Friday’s ‘Costitx en Flor’ that wowed us. This annual flower festival sees the whole village decorated with flowers, with each street having its own themed display.

The creativity of the villagers, and hard work involved in putting this event together, are evidence of a real community spirit. We loved it and, if you’re on Mallorca next May 1st, it’s worth a visit if you appreciate flowers, handicrafts, and creativity.

Old denim jeans as flower receptacles

The street with the recycled jeans 

Bikes used to display flowers

The street with the bicycle and flower displays . . .

Jeans to display flowers

Jean genius

Alternative use for an old pneumatic tyre.

Old tyres given a new lease of life

Costitx en Flor

Streets closed to traffic – and open to floral displays

Costitx en Flor 2015

Take a seat … and add flowers

Alternative use for an old tyre.

Once a tyre … now a chicken

Costitx house doorway.

In the doorway of an old townhouse in Costitx

Old Mallorcan well outside house in Costitx.

Old well outside a Costitx house – complete with flowers in a recycled tyre

Embroidered flowers in Costitx.

Embroidery on a big scale!

Old stone arch in Costitx.

Archway to ‘cup and saucer alley’ in Costitx

Costitx flower festival May 1st

Anyone for a cuppa?

Costitx church.

Costitx church goes floral

Garden plants for sale on Mallorca.

Plants for sale – for those inspired by their visit to ‘Costitx en Flor’

 

 

 

Jan Edwards Copyright 2015

Blessing the Animals in Manacor, Mallorca

Fabulous fabrics in traditional local costume

Fabulous fabrics in traditional local costume

Something that has always impressed us, living in rural Mallorca, is the islanders’ passion for keeping local traditions alive. Young and old take part in the various festivities throughout the year – such as last weekend’s Sant Antoni fiestas.

What particularly impresses me is the willingness of teenage boys and young men to dress up in traditional costume (which includes voluminous  trousers), and engage in activities such as the local folk dance known as ball de bot.

I remember a male work colleague in the UK ‘coming out’ to me about his Morris dancing hobby. He lived in the same village as us and knew that I was bound to spot him performing locally with his troupe, but asked me not to mention it to anyone else at work. There seems not to be any similar embarrassment here among young guys who are doing their bit to keep  Mallorcan traditions alive – and isn’t that great?

Last Saturday we attended one of the annual animal blessings ceremonies that take place around the island to mark Sant Antoni (January 17th). Locals take pets and farm animals and process through the streets to the place where the local priest is stationed to bless each one as it passes. He must have had a very sore throat by the time he blessed the beast at the back of the long queue . . .

Cute kids in costume on a float

Cute kids in costume on a float

Dimonis are everywhere - and some are pretty scary!

Dimonis are everywhere – and some are pretty scary!

Another float on parade

Another float on parade

Not a dimoni you'd want to meet in a dark alley!

Not a dimoni you’d want to meet in a dark alley!

"Does my bum look big in this?"

“Does my bum look big in this?”

It’s a well-attended and charming event in Manacor, with plenty of cute “ooh” and “aah” moments. As well as individuals walking along with their pets, there are floats decorated with a rural theme and bearing people and farm animals, and the dimonis – or demons – that are a fixture at so many traditional events on Mallorca. The main streets are closed for several hours and lined with spectators – some of them seated on dining chairs brought out from their houses for more comfortable viewing.

Sunshine meant it wasn't too chilly for a chinchilla!

Sunshine meant it wasn’t too chilly for a chinchilla!

A billy with a bottle

A billy with a bottle

Mallorcan traditions are for young and old alike

Mallorcan traditions are for young and old alike

Among the many animals that the priest blessed in Manacor last weekend were a chinchilla, dogs in traditional (human) costume, cats on leads, and even a hawk of some type, perched on its owner’s hand. We also saw a rather handsome billy goat.

As I write, some of the people who put so much effort into their costumes and decorated floats, will already be planning for next month’s big carnival weekend . . . another great tradition embraced with gusto.

Please note that all photos on http://www.livingonruralmallorca.com are my own unless otherwise stated.

Jan Edwards©2015

Rural Sant Antoni Celebrations in Mallorca

The first time we were invited to join some mallorquín neighbours at their farm for a Sant Antoni celebration, I spent some time planning what we should take as a contribution to the communal supper. I settled on a dessert – a classic tarte tatin – and was both surprised and delighted when it turned out to look like the best one I’d ever baked.

When we arrived at the farm that chilly January evening in our early time of living on rural Mallorca, I added our contribution to the long table, which was covered with platters brought by other guests. I gave myself a mental pat on the back for originality when I noticed that my tarte tatin was the only dessert that wasn’t a Mallorcan ensaïmada.

Get With the Traditions!

Later that evening, when most platters were left with only ensaïmada crumbs, and my tarte tatin was barely touched (except by The Boss), it dawned on me that it was the tradition to end a celebratory meal with ensaïmada.

We were there again this year, but without a tarte tatin. As usual, the feasting was done at a row of long plastic white tables and chairs set up in the farm’s spacious garage/storage room, decorated with handwritten Sant Antoni-related messages. We shared this space with a couple of cars, and a large flat-screen TV that had been brought out so that guests – who also included a couple of Germans, another English couple, an Israeli and his South African wife, and a dozen or so Mallorcans – could keep an eye on the IB3 TV coverage of Sant Antoni events in Manacor. I don’t think anyone really paid the broadcast any attention: we were having too much fun of our own!

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Some impromptu singing at the BBQ by our hosts and some of their friends

Some impromptu singing at the BBQ by our hosts and some of their friends

Pass the ximbomba

Pass the ximbomba

This is how it's done

This is how it’s done

Sparklers added more fun to our festivities

Sparklers added more fun to our festivities

After a very traditional Sant Antoni feast, a couple of bottles of home-made hierbas (the local herb liqueur) was passed around the table, and it was time for a sing-song and the playing of the ximbomba – an essential musical instrument for Sant Antoni celebrations, which looks a bit like a drum with a stick through the top of it. The playing method is rather suggestive – using a wetted hand to rub up and down the cane stuck into the drum part – and the resulting sound is the sort of farty noise that would have small English children giggling with delight. Several guests had a turn with the ximbomba – which isn’t as easy to play as its simple appearance may suggest. Every effort produced gales of laughter around the table – and prompted another toast with hierbas to the saint whose life we were celebrating. There would be sore heads in the morning . . .

Visca Sant Antoni! Long life Sant Antoni!

Jan Edwards Copyright 2015

The Fiestas Continue in January in Mallorca

I remember January in the UK as a rather dull month, after the Christmas and New Year festivities. It’s all a bit different, since we came to live in rural Mallorca …

For a start, the Spanish celebrate the arrival of The Three Kings – who bring gifts to children on the night of January 5th (the 6th – the Christian festival of Epiphany – is a public holiday here).

By the time the gift wrapping is in the local paper recycling bin the Mallorcans are already gearing up for the Sant Antoni Abad fiestas, celebrated on January 16th and 17th (the Saint’s day).

No Cold Feet for Antoni

Antoni was not a Mallorcan, but an Egyptian monk who lived in the desert. The Devil – disguised as a woman – visited him there and tried to tempt him with ‘her’ charms. Antoni’s way of resisting temptation? He walked across some burning embers to suppress his lustful thoughts. That would do it . . .

A few centuries ago, when rye crops in the agricultural area around Sa Pobla were decimated by a poisonous fungus, the islanders remembered Sant Antoni and the power of fire to overcome evil spirits. Believing that these spirits were to blame for the loss of their crops, they lit bonfires to ward them off.

The bonfires continue in the 21st century, as part of the fiestas to celebrate the Saint’s day (January 17th). These are fiestas for the towns and villages with a rural heritage, and our nearest town, Manacor, is one of several places on Mallorca that really make the most of this fiesta.

On a country walk recently we spotted some people preparing for Sant Antoni.

On a country walk recently we spotted some people preparing for Sant Antoni

Manacor Goes to Town

The main event is on the evening of the 16th, when bonfires are lit and effigies of the Devil are burned. Locals indulge in torrades, cooking botifarrons and other types of sausage over fires, and local brews such as hierbas – the famous Mallorcan herb liqueur. There’s music, traditional Mallorcan dancing (ball de bot), and it’s all very jolly. Many Mallorcans have told us that this is their favourite fiesta of the year.

Manacor council has published a 24-page brochure (in mallorquín) for the Sant Antoni 2015 festivities, also available online at http://www.manacor.org. It’s a lavish affair, detailing the programme of Sant Antoni-related events (which started on January 9th and end on 17th). Oh, and for those who like a sing-song, the words of the traditional Sant Antoni songs are helpfully included.

There’s a competitive element to the fiesta too, with monetary prizes for the best bonfires, floats, costumes, and more.

The programme shows the route of the procession of floats, bands, dignatories, and demonis (devils) on Friday 16th, starting at 7pm. At 8pm the first bonfire is traditionally lit outside the Rectory in the town centre – and after that all the other bonfires can be lit. At 10.30pm, there’s dancing in the Plaça de Ramon Llull. It’s a long night, but with an early start next morning for many . . .

It’s Not Over Until it’s Over

Taking his dog to be blessed

Taking his dog to be blessed

Pets on parade

Pets on parade

On January 17th – the feast of Sant Antoni Abad (the patron saint of animals) – locals bring their pets and animals to be blessed by the local priest. It’s a colourful and often cute procession of humans and animals, walking, riding on horseback, or on floats. In Manacor, the procession assembles at 9.30am, for the 10.30am parade. (Times, and even the day, may vary in different towns and villages). After the blessings, it’s time to go home and recover: January 17th is a public holiday in Manacor.

Apart from the public events, there are many Sant Antoni celebrations in small rural communities and we are spending at least part of the evening of the 16th at a farm in our valley, invited by our Mallorcan neighbours to join in their fun.

As they say in these parts, molts d’anys.

Jan Edwards Copyright 2015

From the Boat to Our Table – via Porto Cristo Fish Market

When we started looking at properties for sale in rural Mallorca, we’d already decided that we wanted to be able to reach the coast fairly easily from our future home.  Mallorca isn’t a very large island so this wasn’t much of a restriction.

From our finca in the Mallorcan countryside we can drive to the coast to the north or east of our home within 25 minutes. One of the several seaside places we enjoy going to is Porto Cristo – Manacor’s port.

Porto Cristo is bustling in the summer – and not just with holidaymakers from abroad. Many citizens of Manacor own second homes here in the port and relocate themselves to their seaside homes – only some 11 kilometres away – during July and August. When we first heard about this we were quite amused: people we’ve known in the UK with second homes usually had to travel a long way to reach them – either in the air or on Britain’s clogged-up motorways.  Folks here may travel only around 15 minutes to reach their home-from-home.

Summer at the Seaside

We don’t blame the Manacor folks for moving to the coast. During the two hottest summer months many businesses in Manacor itself close at lunchtime and don’t reopen until the following day. People who relocate to Porto Cristo may have further to travel to work in Manacor but, when the day’s (or half day’s) work is done, they can beetle back to the port for the cooling sea breezes.

Porto Cristo is in party mode for the Festes del Carme each July. Events during the week include a seafood fair (this year on Monday, 7th) and a late-night weekend firework display that never fails to delight the crowds lining the port. These are two events we – and apparently the entire population of Porto Cristo and Manacor – attend every year.

This morning we had an appointment in Porto Cristo. Afterwards, we achieved something we’ve meant to do since we moved to Mallorca: we bought a fish at the small harbour fish market.  You only notice the place is there because a few weathered fishermen are usually hanging around outside. The fish market is open six mornings a week and, in summer, for an hour in the early evening. We’d always thought you had to buy fish in bulk here but, no, they are happy to sell individual fish too.

Wind and rough seas had limited the catch today, but we chose a good-looking Cap Roig (also known as a Red Scorpion fish). We’ve eaten this fish in restaurants, but never cooked – or cleaned – one. I was pleased that one of the lingering fishermen volunteered to gut it for me.  Now all I have to do is cook it this evening . . .

Get your fresh fish here!

Get your fresh fish here!

Fresh from the Med

Fresh from the Med

Jan Edwards Copyright 2014

Mallorca + February = Almond Blossom

Almond blossom's delicate beauty

Almond blossom’s delicate beauty

February can be a cold month on Mallorca, but it can also be one of the most beautiful. This is the month when Mallorca’s thousands of almond trees burst into blossom (and show a hint of the new green growth that will rapidly follow). Those who know the island as a summer or autumn destination, but have never visited in this particular month are missing one of Mallorca’s most impressive natural events.

For those who do visit Mallorca at this time of year, a tour of the island’s rural interior offers plenty of photo opportunities and the delicate scent of almond blossom on the breeze (or, sometimes, the howling wind).

What could be more lovely on a clear day?

What could be more lovely on a clear day?

Mallorca has fiestas and fairs throughout the year and many of these firas are dedicated to produce from the island – including herbs, olives, sobrassada, honey, melons and, of course, almonds.

Step Back in Time

Today was the almond fair in Son Servera and, never having been before, we went this morning. We knew it was taking place in an old finca, and assumed it would be in the countryside outside the small town. Back in 1780, when it was built, it would have been. Today Ca s’Hereu has become incorporated into the town itself, with newer buildings around it. But once through the gates, the modern face of Son Servera is soon forgotten.

As you’d expect, stalls were selling a variety of products made from almonds, but there were also other foodstuffs available, as well as handicrafts. Wandering musicians played traditional Mallorcan music, and the local television cameras were there to capture it all. Perhaps you’ll spot us on IB3 TV news tonight? Just for a change, we weren’t caught on camera eating. We once appeared on the front cover of a couple of local Manacor magazines, gorging ourselves on ice cream at the town’s September fair; we only found out about that when several people we know in Manacor told us about our ‘starring role’.  Thankfully, we never did see what sounded like an embarrassing photo.

We decided to save our almond-munching until this evening, in the privacy of our own finca. What could be more delicious than a few roasted Mallorcan almonds with a pre-prandial drink? And more evocative of spring than the clouds of almond blossom decorating the island’s many orchards?

The venue for Son Servera's almond fair

The venue for Son Servera’s almond fair

Music, maestros, por favor!

Music, maestros, por favor!

Agricultural implements were on display.

Agricultural implements were on display.

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One day our own almond trees may be this productive . . .

One day our own almond trees may be this productive . . .

All photos by Jan Edwards

Jan Edwards Copyright 2014

Dressed to Impress

Blossom on one of our almond trees

Blossom on one of our almond trees

We don’t make a habit of having people to stay at our finca in rural Mallorca during the winter months, because the weather can be a little unpredictable. But with the new roof having made a big difference to the comfort levels indoors, we were happy to accommodate our best friends from Oxford when they asked if they could come over for a long weekend. At least we knew they wouldn’t have water dripping through the ceiling in their room if it rained . . .

All Dressed Up and Somewhere To Go

They chose a good time to come, because it was carnival this weekend and, in Manacor, this is an event well-supported by the local population. It seems as though most of the locals take to the streets in fancy dress, to parade and party to live bands and wandering percussion groups playing batucada. Undeterred by the bitterly cold wind, we donned our own costumes (dressing as Brits going out for a winter walk) and pitched in with the party people. I just love the creativity behind some of the amazing costumes and make-up that we see every year at this event, and worn by everyone from a baby in a pushchair to a sprightly octagenarian.

Mallorca’s ‘Snowflakes’

But it’s not just the people who were dressed up over the weekend. Mallorca’s almond trees are currently at their height of loveliness, swathed in the beautiful blossom which attracts visitors to the island at this time of the year. When a gust of wind blows, petals flutter like snow to the ground. And sometimes, there’s even a little real snow . . .

If, like our friends Duncan and Kristina, you’re not too worried about what the weather might do, these winter months can be a very special time to visit Mallorca.

Jan Edwards Copyright2013 

Bless ’em All

"So, what do you think of it so far, Rover?

“So, what do you think of it so far, Rover?

We’ve just come to the end of one of the most important weeks in the calendar of Manacor, our nearest town, in the east of Mallorca. Sant Antoni is the town’s patron saint, so it’s not surprising that the locals take the celebrations around this date rather seriously. Locally, it’s known as the Gran Semana – the big week.

Shops, businesses, and schools were closed on both Wednesday and Thursday, although supermarkets opened just for the morning on Wednesday, and our bank closed early every day of this past week. Almost everyone seemed to have bought themselves a sweatshirt or fleece emblazoned with this year’s Sant Antoni fiestas emblem and, costing around 16 euros a garment, they seemed a reasonably priced way to enter into the spirit of the event and keep warm.

Party On

And keeping warm has been necessary. The weather’s turned chilly and damp on Mallorca but, as we’ve seen on many occasions, the Mallorcans are rarely deterred by unpleasant weather conditions when there’s a party beckoning. We, however, wimped out and watched most of the celebrations on the local TV channel IB3, sitting in front of the log burner.

I was sorry to miss this year’s slow-moving parade of animals and imaginatively decorated floats around Manacor’s streets, on Thursday morning. On the morning of the saint’s day, animals of every sort – farm and domestic – are taken to be blessed by the local priest.

Attending previous animal blessings, I’ve considered taking Minstral, our Birman cat, but I suspect he’d be thoroughly miffed to have been removed from his favourite chair to mingle with animals the like of which he’s never seen. And, of course, we couldn’t take Minstral and leave behind the other eight cats that now call our finca home. I wonder if the local priest does house calls for animal blessings . . .

Jan Edwards Copyright2013