Semana Santa or Holy Week is an interesting and vibrant time to visit Menorca both culturally and aesthetically. Not only does the island observe many traditional religious ceremonies that take place between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday, with church services and processions that everyone can enjoy, but also with the days longer and a little warmer, the countryside becomes alive with an abundance of colourful wild flowers. However, with Easter being earlier in 2013 and the weather still fairly chilly, the flowers are just starting to show themselves in the fields and hedgerows.
Like each autonomous region in Spain, the Balearic Islands have their own special day and, as such, 1 March is a Public Holiday throughout Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza and Formentera. This date commemorates when the ‘Estatuto de Autonomia de las Islas Baleares’ (Balearic Islands Act or Statute of Autonomy) came into effect on 1 March 1983, just 30 years ago.
This year, Balearic Day falls on a Friday making for a long weekend here in Menorca. With banks and most business, shops and other organisations closed for the day, many people will escape for a few days or simply spend time with friends and family and, if the weather is good, head to the beaches for the first picnic of the year.
Carnival is celebrated in Menorca and all over Spain in February, starting on what’s known as Fat Thursday and ending the following Tuesday (Shrove Tuesday). With colourful processions, carnival figures and a party atmosphere, people will be out in the streets, bars and restaurants, especially during the weekend, all dressed up and ready to have a good time. This year, the main Carnival events run from Thursday 6 until Tuesday 12 February 2013.
Carnival is traditionally a time of feasting and celebration immediately prior to the strict Lentern period of abstinence and repentance before Easter. In all the towns around Menorca, all sorts of Carnival activities are planned, including lively parades with decorated floats and people dressed in elaborate costumes and masks and Carnival Balls, accompanied by plenty of eating, drinking, dancing and generally having fun. The processions may not be as lavish as in other parts of Spain, such as Cadiz and Tenerife, but a huge amount of time and effort goes into the floats and costumes, especially for children, and even pets…! The popular Llucmaçanes Carnival Giants, Gorguina, Xisca, Pili, Bernat and Xim (as shown above) also take to the streets to entertain the crowds.
On 17 January, the fiesta of Sant Antoni Abat, Menorca not only honours its patron saint but also celebrates its National Day, ‘El Diada del Poble de Menorca. The ‘Diada’ has been a Public Holiday since 1987, which marked the 700th anniversary of the conquest of Menorca led by King Alfonso III.
In towns around the island, various religious and community events take place to commemorate the historic events of 1287. These lay the foundations for the Menorca of today, when it was liberated by Aragon troops from its 400 year ruling by the Moors, enabling Menorca to develop its own customs, culture and language.
Banks, businesses and shops are closed and special church services are held in honour of Sant Antoni when people bring their animals to be blessed, The evening before, the main towns organise a public ‘torrada’ (traditional barbecue with typical sausages and bread), often accompanied by music and dancing in the streets. Private ‘torrada’ parties are also very popular. Click here for further information about the ‘Diada’ and Menorca's patron saint, Sant Antoni Abat.
Although Christmas in Menorca is not nearly as commercialised as in other countries, focusing more on the religious aspects and spending time with family, over recent years this has started to change as children have become more aware through publicity and excited about the idea of Father Christmas or Papa Noel. From the end of November, Christmas starts to make itself apparent as shops become stocked with Christmas gifts and delicacies and festive lights are put up in the towns. These tend to be fairly discrete and complemented beautifully by the ripening oranges in the trees, especially in Maó.
The tranquil pace of late autumn changes throughout December, building to a crescendo the week before Christmas as lively shoppers make their final purchases, and the build up to Reyes (Kings), the main celebration throughout Spain on twelfth night, gets into full swing. In the days leading up to Christmas, choirs sing in the churches and streets of the main towns, friends gather in the streets for a chat and if the sun is shining, it is warm enough to sit outside the bars for refreshments, making for a wonderful, social atmosphere. Decorations for the home are also less abundant and opulent. While many families bring out their traditional and much loved nativity set or ‘belén’ each year, in recent years, Christmas trees have become much more popular and, being easier to find, now adorn many Menorcan homes.
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