From Christmas to Carnival: a winter of festivals in Majorca

Best events in Mallorca

Christmas traditions and celebrations in Majorca: Palma is especially beautiful during Advent. The city sparkles and there are Christmas markets everywhere. As in the rest of Spain, the typical Christmas sweets in Majorca are all kinds of different types of Turrón, an almond nougat now on sale everywhere.  During the Christmas season in Majorca, eating, drinking and special events are the most important things.

Christmas and New Year’s Eve

In many Majorcan homes you will now find a Christmas tree, but much more typical is the Nativity Scene. It is a tradition that a new figurine be added every year. A particularly beautiful Nativity Scene can be admired at the City Hall in Palma.  On December 24th the family will get together at home to enjoy a rich Christmas dinner.   A very popular Christmas meal is a fish dish such as gilthead seabream called “orada de nadal”.   In the past, children would be given sweets like Turrón, almonds, fig bread, Christmas cookies, such as amargos, crespells and chocolate.   Now they get “real” presents.  Whilst enjoying all the goodies they will sing Christmas carols, the so-called “Villancicos”.  Afterwards the family will go to the “Misa del Gallo”, the famous Midnight Mass, which is also celebrated in Palma Cathedral at 11:00 pm with the “Canto de Sibila” (the Song of the Sibyl).  December 25th and 26th are holidays when family and friends come together to enjoy a Christmas Dinner called “dinar de nadal”.  This is when they feast on turkey or leg of lamb stuffed with nuts and dried fruits, breadcrumbs and sobrassada or suckling pig, called porcella, which is also a popular dish on New Year’s Day.  In the countryside, even today, they still eat stews called “escaldums”, with turkey, pieces of sausage and an almond sauce.   After dinner, they will enjoy liqueurs such as palo or hierbas.  New Year’s Eve is called “nochevieja”.  Many Majorcans reserve a table at a restaurant for an elaborate New Year´s Eve dinner.  However, there is an alternative:   the rendezvous for this enjoyable spectacle is the Plaça Cort: whilst the City Hall clocks ring out the final 12 seconds until the New Year, thousands of Majorcans will eat one grape on each stroke, making 12 grapes in all.

Los Reyes Magos

In the New Year, the celebrations gaily continue, especially for the children:   because only now, on January 6th, do the Three Wise Men bring Christmas presents.  In the Balearic Islands they take the Adoration of the Magi so seriously, that the Wise Men from the Orient will only be added to the figurines in the nativity scene on January 6th.  At about 6:00 pm the night before (January 5th), these beautifully dressed men from the east will sail into the ports of Palma, Port de Sóller or Cala Ratjada with their entourage.  Then they will ride on horseback with beautifully decorated carriages through the streets throwing sweets to the children.  In downtown Palma the parade of the “Reyes Magos” resembles a carnival.  On the morning of January 6th, Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar will go from house to house in the villages to deliver presents (which they collected earlier from the Town Hall).  Or another custom is that the children will leave a glass of liqueur or brandy for the Three Kings, as well as water for the horses, outside their front doors and in the morning they will find their gifts there.

Sant Antoni and Sant Sebastià

In January, the island celebrates two important saints,  Sant Antoní and Sant Sebastià, with music, dance and public barbecues.  The night before the name day of Saint Antonius all hell breaks loose in the true sense of the word:  on January 16th in many villages they light huge fires and barbecue “sobrassada” and “botifarra” sausages and serve red wine, all of which is donated by the local authorities.  Particularly beautiful are these folk festivals in the villages of Muró, Sa Pobla or Algaida:  at midnight the “dimonis”, the devils, are dancing along with impressive and noisy fireworks.  Those who experience this spectacle for the first time are astonished by how loud the usually quiet island people can be.  And because Saint Antonius is the patron saint for the animals, the next day dogs, cats as well as sheep and goats will be blessed in many of the village churches.

On January 20th the Patron Saint of Palma, Saint Sebastian, who is said to have freed the city from the plague in the 16th century, is celebrated.  On that day there are concerts everywhere in downtown Palma – from rock, Majorcan folk and flamenco - the entire city is up until the wee hours of the morning.  Once again the “dimonis” dance at midnight, jumping over bonfires which are burning all over Palma.  All told, Palma celebrates for an entire week:  from January 17th to the 25th.  On January 20th, the most important day, the shops are all closed.

Carnival

Carnival starts at the beginning of February.  On February 7th, Palma invites everybody to the “Sa Rua” parade.  The day before there is a small parade called “Sa Rueta” for the children.  Carnival is very important in Majorca:  months earlier, they will have started sewing and making things because everybody wants to win the costume and carriage contest.  Also Majorcan villages put on large parades during carnival, e.g. in Calvià, Pollensa or Capdepera.  Nature also adorns itself in pink and white at this time of year, when about seven million almond trees begin to blossom, providing an enchanting spectacle.