Just when it seems so much of the western world goes into hibernation after the winter holidays, Spain comes alive. Looking at Christmas as just a warm up practice for what’s to come, January in Mallorca is the perfect place to visit for anyone who needs some entertainment between New Year and Easter.
Firstly, New Year in Mallorca is a fabulous festival in it’s own right. The tradition of wearing red underwear during the evening and eating 12 grapes at midnight – one grape per strike of the clock sounding in the New Year – will ensure good luck for the coming year. Celebrations go on into the early hours with every town hosting huge parties in their Plaza Major (town square). Dancing is mandatory and you are welcome to take your own drinks and treats but bars will be open for as long as your stamina lasts.
Then with a few days of recuperation under your belt you will find that the 6th of January (Epiphany) is the major Christmas celebration. All you associate with Christmas i.e. presents, meals and good spirits are celebrated on this day with the procession of the 3 Kings. The best place to see them is in Palma de Mallorca where they will arrive by boat and then lead the procession through the city on horse back throwing sweets to the throngs who gather. Behind them, with connotations to Santa’s sleigh, are floats with presents that parents have placed on previously and that get handed out once the Kings reach their final destination. Good children are called to the stage to collect their gift from the Kings with more to follow, with a nice slice of ensaïmada (light pastry), when they get home.
As if that was not enough to keep you going, later in the month are more festivals. Sant Antoni, who’s battle with the devil is celebrated with los fuegos (the fires) and BBQ’s are set up all over the island. Huge fires are erected by councils in the middle of roads and the scent of sausages and samples of hierbas waft around with collective good humour. In addition to this don’t be surprised to see people going to church carrying and leading all manner of animals from dogs and birds to sheep and donkeys. A special mass takes place at this time of the year to bless pets and farm animals – to see it is to believe it.
My favourite festival at this time is San Sebastian which links in with Sant Antoni and the fires can go on for several days and whole weekends. I recommend the north of Mallorca as the best place to see the action. In the morning young men go over to Formentor and chop down the tallest pine tree they can find. They then attach it to the side of a boat and sail to the Port of Pollensa where they are met by an excited and welcoming crowd. The young men then carry the tree through the streets, stopping at bars along the way where they stamp their feet and cheer until the owner brings them a drink. Once they have all their Dutch courage they enter the town square and erect the tree in front of the church. Before doing so a bag containing confetti is tied to the top. Then the young men – using what energy they have left – scramble over each other to climb to the top of the tree. The first one up releases the confetti and wins a nice prize and carries the honour of being el ganador (the winner) until next year. It is exciting and great fun – although a health a safety professional’s nightmare I am sure – but, what it has to do with the actual San Sebastian, I am yet to discover.
In short, no sitting at home watching box sets with not even a bank holiday to look forward to for Mallorcan locals in January. If you are already bored and suffering from the winter blues – take a break and visit Mallorca – I couldn’t recommend it highly enough.