The Spanish people love a FIESTA and in Spain there are many!
The main fiesta programme in Menorca runs through the summer months from June to September. Where there will be crowds of people, beautiful black horses and copious amounts of Pomada (The fiesta drink: 1 part Gin & 3 parts Lemon).
The origin of the fiestas date back to the 14th century. It was a religious pilgrimage to the Church of Sant Joan Misa in Ciutadella. They had to travel by horseback due to the distance (8 kilometres). Over time equestrian games developed. They represented the social layers of society, mirrored today by the preserved essence of strict protocol from centuries ago, which have been handed down through the generations.
The fiestas are totally dedicated to the black Menorcan horse and the Cavaller (the rider). The Jaleo is the main event of the fiesta, held usually over 2 days. The procession is led by the Fabioler(The fluet player) riding a donkey. The Fabioler enters on beats to a drum whilst play a Melodic tune on the flute. Next a rider enters with a flag and they parade in the the main square of a town. This signals the start for the Qualcada (horse and riders) to enter and the Jaleo begins. The crowd encourage the Cavaller to show off their riding skills. The rider makes the horse rear up onto it’s back legs. This is called bots. It appears like it is jumping and the crowd cheer loudly for the ones that manage to hold the pose for a few seconds. Another other curious fiesta tradition is that when the horses rear up you reach and touch the heart of the horse, which is supposed to bring you luck. This can look extremely dangerous especially if it’s your first time at a fiesta!
FIESTA DATES FOR YOUR DIARY:
- Sant Joan de Ciutadella: 23rd and 24th June, plus the previous Sunday.
- Sant Martí de Es Mercadal: third weekend in July.
- Sant Antoni de Fornells: fourth weekend in July.
- Sant Jaume de Es Castell: 24th and 25th of July.
- Sant Cristòfol de Es Migjorn Gran: fifth weekend of July or first weekend of August.
- Sant Gaietà de Llucmaçanes: first weekend of August.
- Sant Llorenç de Alaior: second weekend after 10th August.
- Sant Climent de Sant Climent: third weekend in August.
- Sant Bartomeu de Ferreries: 23rd and 24th August.
- Sant Lluís de Sant Lluís: last weekend of August.
- Mare de Déu de Gràcia de Maó: 7th and 8th September.
- Sant Nicolau en Es Mercadal: 10th September.
- Cala En Porter: 3rd week of September (Unofficial).
Menorca Live TOP TIPS For FIESTA:
- It’s a good idea: Take a bus to the fiestas as parking is often difficult to find. You need to catch whats known as the “Jaleo Bus”. There is a frequent service to and from the fiestas. You can find more information and timetables at: www.menorca.tib.org
- Dress down: No need for fiesta frocks or smart shirts! To fully enjoy the fun of the fiesta, put on a pair of trainers to keep your toes safe from the sand and crowds, paired with shorts and t-shirts that you don’t mind getting dirty. There can be quite a lot of horse poo around!
- Be safe in the sun: Slap on the sunscreen and pop on a hat – if not you’ll be so worn out with the sunshine you won’t want to join the party.
- Drink plenty of water: When the sun is really hot you can get dehydrated very quickly and if you partake in “Pomada”be aware that as delicious as it is, it can be rather potent.
- Horses beware: Keep on your toes if you dare to join locals in the centre of the “Jaleo”because a horse could well rear up behind you! To get close up to these four legged beauties in a safer setting, wander through the back streets where riders await their turn. The horses are normally well behaved and the riders will let you stroke them or have a picture taken with them.
- Kids can come too: Children might not like the chaos in the main plaza, but there are plenty of other attractions. Whether they be fairgrounds or fireworks, parades or performances, they are all part of the party too.
- Eat, drink and be merry: For a three course meal, go to another town! Locals snack on the streets during fiestas – there’s fast food, rolls and pastries on every street corner. With a “Pomada”in hand, don’t forget to wish your friends “Bones Festes!”
Fiesta Del Carmen (Blessing of the Boats)
Held each year the three ports of Menorca Port de Maó, Port de Ciutadella and Port de Fornells participate in a celebration of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, la Fiesta del Virgin del Carmen on the weekend closest to the 16th July.
Virgin del Carmen is the Patroness of the Sea and Spanish Navy. She is also considered locally as the protector of fisherman, sailors and boating enthusiasts. The ceremonies held in each port remember those who have been lost at sea, whilst honouring the Virgin for her continued protection.
In Mahon, the Fiesta del la Virgin del Carmensees a multitude of brightly decorated boats gather at the Naval Base in the town’s harbour. In the early evening a group of sailors collect the Statue of the Virgin del Carmen from the town’s chapel and carry it to the waterfront to the voices of an accompanying choir.
A short blessing takes place at the harbour before the statue is put on a fishing boat. The boat then leads a procession of dignitaries, clergy and guests along the water, followed by a pageant of vibrantly decorated boats.
Horns and music blast out across the sea and when the procession reaches the entrance to the harbour, a wreath that has received a blessing is thrown into the sea in memory of the sailors and fishermen that have been lost at sea and to honour the Patron Saint.
When the boats return to the Naval Base the official anthem of the Spanish Navy Slave Marinera(Salutation of the Seas) fills the air. The Statue is then returned to the church.
Dancing, singing, eating, drinking, fireworks and a bonfire takes place in the town well into the night. The Spanish enjoy their fiestas and this is no exception.
Here in Menorca from Lent leading up until Easter Sunday there is plenty of tradition, history and festivals about Santa Semana. The celebrations and parades are very well attended in towns throughout the island and begin on Domingo de Ramos (Palm Sunday which depends on the date Easter falls). Processions and special church services are held for the Blessing of the Palms which are made from palm tree leaves that are protected from sunlight so they last longer and remain very flexible, enabling them to be intricately woven or braided with ribbons. In Mahon and Ciutadella, religious guilds known as Cofradías take part in the first of the Easter processions known as the Via Crucis (literally “Way” of the Cross) or Path of Suffering which tells the story of Jesus from his condemnation through to crucifixion and burial.
The most religious and solemn event is on the evening of Viernes Santo (Good Friday) when the Santo Entierro(Holy Burial) processions take place in the main towns. These are devoutly watched or followed in silence by the huge number of people who turn out to remember the sacrifice of Jesus. Starting out from the various parish churches. The Capirotewho are dressed in tunics with hoods and full face masks very similar to the the klu klux klan, but these ceremonial robes date back to the 15th century when they were used by the Spanish Holy Inquisition when carrying out punishment for crimes against the church. Nowadays they slowly march in time to the melancholy sound of the drums, bugles and local bands whilst carrying holy images through the streets.
In contrast, on Easter Sunday morning, the sound of church bells ring out in celebration all over the island to announce the Resurrection. The special Procesión del Encuentro a tradition which started in Es Migjorn, is now re-enacted in a number of towns when the statues of the Risen Christ and the Virgin Mary make their journey to be reunited in front of the parish church. This joyful act is accompanied by the ancient and cheerful songs Deixem lo dol(Let’s stop the mourning) and the traditional Regina Coeli(Queen of Heaven) are sung by both the choirs and spectators, who fill the streets as they follow the processions.
Specific only to Ciutadella, a very different and unusual tradition also takes place on Easter Sunday, the Matança dels Bujots (killing of the straw dolls). This is when effigies symbolising contentious people or issues currently in the news are strung up around the town. The Bujots have placards around their neck stating their crime and become the targets for marksmen who literally shoot them down on the stroke of midday…! Quite an idea to get your point across to to local politicians and Businesses!
Los Reyes (The Three Kings)
On the evening of 5 January, the Three Kings, Caspar, Balthasar and Melchior, parade through the towns either on floats or horseback and families line the streets to watch the colourful processions. The Kings are loaded with goodies of wrapped sweets which they toss into the cheering crowds for the excited children to catch and collect. In Maó, the Kings arrive by boat and travel up to the town on decorated floats, followed by other participating floats and children eager to catch the showers of sweets.
Once back home, the children leave out a shoe hoping that the Kings will visit them during the night and bring them all sorts of presents, but only if they have been good. Naughty children will find coal in their shoe…! But, no child behaves that badly to receive only coal and these days, just for fun, it is tradition to leave at least one piece of coal made out of sugar among the presents…usually for a parent! The shoes may be left in doorways, windowsills or balconies where the Kings can find them easily. In return, gifts are often left by children for the Kings, such as a brandy or wine for each King and straw, fruit and sometimes a bucket of water for the camels that bring the Kings. The next morning the children can’t wait to find their presents inside and share a slice of the the traditional Kings cake, Roscón, with the rest of the family.
Although during The Covid 19 , 2020 Pandemic The Three Kings had to have a little more ingenuity to deliver presents to the children whilst being socially distanced and safe.