Rural Sant Antoni celebrations on 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!

New Year, new oak trees, on rural Mallorca

In November, we came home clutching two very young oak trees from our day at Dijous Bo (which means ‘good Thursday’ in mallorquín). A stall at the annual fair – Mallorca’s largest traditional event of its kind – was handing out small tree plants to anyone who wanted them. Although our rural Mallorcan finca has plenty of land, it doesn’t have a lot of soil, but we figured it had to be worth at least giving these young trees a shot at growing into something for future generations to enjoy.

Because I had a large amount of writing work to do, we stuck the well-rooted plants into a bucket of water and put them aside. Planting things here is a bit of a logistical operation that we didn’t have time or the energy for then.

The New Year on Mallorca started with glorious sunshine and blue skies. We’re in a period known as ‘la calma’, when we enjoy clear skies and warm sunshine, and usually kid ourselves that winter is going to be mild this time. Reality is sure to hit soon, but the conditions were perfect for a spot of gardening. And what could be better than planting two young trees on the first day of a new year?

A pickaxe (an essential piece of kit for planting anything on our land), shovel, gardening fork, and watering can were deployed and we now have two baby oak trees at the end of our field.

We’re never likely to be able to shelter from the sun beneath them but, one day in the distant future, somebody will be able to enjoy these trees. And that’s a good feeling at the start of a New Year.

Great oaks from little acorns . . .

Great oaks from little acorns . . .