Visca Sant Antoni! Manacor’s Favourite Fiesta…

Dimoni Mallorca

A scary dimoni in the streets of Manacor

Hello! And a belated Happy New Year. Mine unfortunately started with bronchitis, which laid me low at a time when normally I’m itching to get started on the new year. Colds, flu, and other assorted viruses are rife on Mallorca at the moment and it’s hard to avoid them. Unusually, I haven’t felt up to writing much – although I did manage to write a short story for an international fiction competition. If I win, I’ll invite you all round for a glass of cava!

Celebrating Sant Antoni

Fortunately I was just about well enough for our usual visit to Manacor last week for the Sant Antoni fiestas. The good folks of Manacor love this fiesta, kitting themselves out in the latest Sant Antoni sweatshirt, t-shirt, or other assorted merchandise printed with the current year’s Sant Antoni logo.

Merchandise for Sant Antoni

The 2018 Sant Antoni must-have, as modelled in Hiper supermarket

A day or so before Sant Antoni, heaps of sand appear in the streets: these are the locations of the bonfires that will blaze on the evening of the 16th January. Some of them will just be piles of logs but others involve a degree of creativity and handicrafting; these are the ones that will be judged in the annual competition to find the best bonfire.

During the afternoon of the day before Sant Antoni’s day, it seems as though the entire population is on the streets – strolling (or cycling) all over the town to see these creations before they go up in smoke that evening.

Better the dimoni you know…

Come the evening, the bonfires are eventually lit and the fun begins. People take meat and bread to cook over the torradas; these are informal barbecues, very often made from old metal half-barrels full of logs. The dimonis (devils) dance in a wild fashion through the streets and everyone has a great time.

It’s a night the youngsters of the town particularly enjoy and many of them wander the streets in chattering groups, clutching large bottles of what appears to be lemon Fanta. More often than not, it’s a Menorcan drink called pomada: a mix of Menorcan Xoriguer gin and sparkling lemon that is especially popular as a Sant Antoni tipple. Another much-imbibed drink is the bright-green Mallorcan herb liqueur known as hierbas. Mine’s a pomada, if you’re asking…

Ooh, another public holiday

On the saint’s day (January 17th) itself, Manacor has a public holiday. The local priest, however, doesn’t get a day off: he’s in Ramon Llull square blessing the animal population of the town and surrounding countryside. This is one of my favourite fiestas, when many people dress in traditional costume to accompany their domestic and farm animals on their slow procession past the priest.

The festive season is now officially over in Manacor. Until February 10th…when it’s carnival. Mallorca sure knows how to party…

©Jan Edwards 2018

The fiesta of fire burns this weekend on 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!

 

These devils don’t wear Prada

Christmas, New Year, and The Three Kings festivities are now over but, here in Mallorca, we don’t let something like January get in the way of enjoying ourselves. This week sees more fiestas on the island and, as the mercury drops in thermometers, we’re pleased they involve bonfires.

Tomorrow is the eve of the feast of Sant Antoni Abat. Funnily enough, he wasn’t a Mallorcan, but an Egyptian Christian monk who lived in the desert. Visited by the Devil, in the guise of a woman, he walked across the burning embers of a fire to take his mind off the immediate and obvious temptation parading in front of him. Well, that would certainly have done the trick.

Pass the matches

But back to Mallorca: in the 10th and 11th centuries rye crops on the island were blighted by a poisonous fungus, which caused a debilitating itching disease among the population. The Mallorcans, convinced this was the work of the Devil, followed Sant Antoni’s example and lit bonfires to ward away the evil.

And to this day, on the eve of Sant Antoni’s day, bonfires are lit across the island and effigies of the Devil are burned. Locals, dressed scarily as dimonis, dance around; there’s traditional music and, this being a Mallorcan celebration, food and drink. Sausages and other meats are cooked over open fires outdoors, and a glass (or two) of warming hierbas (the local herb liqueur) helps fend off the evening chill.

Down on the farm . . .

Some years ago our neighbours Lorenzo and Bárbara had their own Sant Antoni celebrations on the farm and, along with other neighbours in the valley, we were invited along to join them. We offered to take some food and drink and it was suggested that we might like to take a dessert and perhaps a bottle of something. I decided to make a tarte tatin which, to my surprise (considering the unreliable nature of our Smeg oven), ended up looking (almost) like something Raymond Blanc would have produced in the kitchens of Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons, back in Oxfordshire.

Lorenzo and Bárbara’s Sant Antoni fiesta was great fun. He lit the most enormous bonfire, and nearby we cooked delicious cuts of lamb and pork from his own farm over the burning embers of an improvised BBQ. We ate in their large garage/workshop/store, sitting on the ubiquitous (at Mallorcan fiestas, at least) white plastic chairs, either side of long trestle tables.

A few guests had brought along the traditional instrument that accompanies the singing of songs about Sant Antoni.  We could only listen – not understanding the Mallorcan words of the song – but were told that the songs were verde. This being the castellano word for ‘green’, I thought it was interesting that these songs should be about ecology – and a little strange that there was so much raucous laughter accompanying the verses.

Party-on and keep warm in January in Mallorca

Party-on and keep warm in January in Mallorca

It was only when a friend explained that verde is the equivalent of what we’d call ‘blue’ in English, that everything fell into place. More laughter followed, as we explained our misunderstanding.

The deserted dessert

After the singing, it was time for dessert. All the contributions had been placed on a large trestle table. Every one – except ours – was an ensaïmada, the coiled sweet yeasty pastry that’s emblematic of Mallorca. If there’s one thing we’ve learnt about many Mallorcans in our part of the island is that, when it comes to food, they favour the traditional and the familiar. So I wasn’t too surprised to see the ensaïmadas disappearing in front of us, like plants being devoured by a swarm of locusts – while my glistening golden tarte tatin sat untouched, shunned for its foreignness. “Never mind,” said The Boss, sensing my disappointment. “Plenty for us!” And just then, two of the German guests stepped forward and helped themselves to large slices.