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Live the spirit of Christmas in Mallorca

15/12/2021
bird in the nature

In our villages (as in many places across Europe) the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season is upon us. The lights are lit, Nativity scenes are being finished off, choirs are rehearsing their carols, bakeries are preparing the traditional cocas and turrones, and you can sense the children’s excitement… Christmas in Mallorca means celebrating with family and friends and enjoying the little things in life like our traditional food, long conversations at the table after eating, lovely walks in the countryside, relaxing by the crackling fire, getting the house ready for receiving guests and sharing gifts, giving happiness, love, companionship, smiles, serenity… in other words, good times that will become memories to be treasured forever. We want to share with you some of our favourite traditions from this time of year.   

 

A Legendary Nativity Scene


The Nativity scene, manger scene or crib has its origins in the Middle Ages. The first Christmas celebration where there was a Nativity scene took place on Christmas Eve in 1223, when Saint Francis of Assisi decided to recreate Jesus’s birth in a cave near the hermitage at Greccio (Italy).

 

bethlehem

 

Mallorca is home to the oldest Nativity scene in Spain. The beautiful crib scene dates from 1480 and has been attributed to the Neapolitan sculptors, Pietro and Giovanni Alamanno. At the time Naples was the birthplace of this craft. The cities of Palma and Naples share a common history that goes back to the thirteenth century, which is when the story of this ancient Nativity scene began.  

Its Gothic sculptures are from a period in which cribs were only depicted in the form of paintings or altarpieces. It consists of 15 original pieces: Saint Joseph, the Virgin Mary, the sheep, the dogs and a pair formed by the ox and donkey. The remaining pieces were added in later periods. 

 

nature

 

There is an aura of legend around the arrival of the Nativity scene on the island. Hanging next to the chapel where the Nativity is now displayed there is a painting, now almost blackened with time, but which at one time depicted a boat, which serves as a clue. The chronicler, Francisco Bordoy, describes how in 1536 Captain Domingo Gangome was lost with his ship in the middle of a great storm opposite the Bay of Palma. In his desperation, he promised God that he would give one of the seven Nativity scenes that he was carrying on board to whomever helped him reached land. Just then he saw a small light twinkling in the darkness. It came from the monastery of Our Lady of the Angels of Jesus.  

 

This celestial lighthouse meant he was able to guide his ship to shore. To show his gratitude he donated one of the sets to the monastery, unaware that it was the most valuable of all the Nativity scenes that he was transporting. This is how it ended up in a modest church in Palma de Mallorca. More than two centuries ago it was moved to La Sang Church, where it is on display all year round.  

 

Some other Nativity scenes that are also worth a visit in Palma are Cort, Ses Caputxines, Palau March, Centre Social Sa Nostra…

 

bethlehem

 

Not as old but of exceptional quality because their originality and the amount of work that goes into them are the Nativity scenes in the town of Felanitx, which is very near our Inturotel hotels. You can start at the one by the Casa de Cultura (created by the craftsperson who won last year’s prize for the best Nativity scene), and there you can collect a map that shows the location of the different Nativity scenes that you can visit. Don’t miss a trip to the parish church of San Miguel, in the daylight the pinkish colours and intricate stone carving of its façade are extremely beautiful.

 

La nit de Nadal (Christmas Eve)
 
Christmas Eve is a magical night that the whole island experiences with emotion. It is a night when we join with family around the table, after participating in the sumptuousness of a festivity whose origins have been lost in time. This is the celebration of the liturgy of Matines (Mallorcan Midnight Mass or Matutinum in Latin) which was once celebrated at midnight and originally before the dawn (at 6am).

 

christmas dinner

 

Although not all those attending this religious service are believers, many are drawn by a very special performance, the Song of the Sibyl. These days it is usually sung by a woman dressed in a beautiful gown, holding aloft a magnificent sword, but originally it could only be sung by the clergy or children.  

The Sibyl was a prophetess from classical mythology who foresaw the end of the world. She was introduced into and adapted to Christianity thanks to the simple analogy between her prophecy and the idea of the Last Judgement in the Bible.

The Song of the Sibyl is a liturgical drama with a Gregorian melody that spread widely throughout southern Europe during the Middle Ages. The first documentation about the Song of the Sibyl in the Cathedral of Mallorca dates from 1360-1363. The oldest version with music and lyrics written in Mallorcan is in a choirbook of a fifteenth-century convent.

 

Mallorca and Alguero (in Sardinia) are the only two places in the world where the song has survived as a tradition stretching from the late Middles Ages to the present. UNESCO placed it on the list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity on 16 November 2010.

 

If you have the chance to visit Mallorca at Christmas, we recommend you check the different times of Matines in the churches of Felanitx. A particularly special service because of the ancient music that is played live is held in the Church of Sant Alfons.

 

After the spiritual and/or musical enjoyment, a lovely family dinner awaits, rounded off with a delicious hot chocolate with a coca de Nadal. Scrumptious!

 

typical mallorcan sweet

 

If you would like to discover more about how we celebrate Christmas in Mallorca you can stay at one of our Esmeralda Villas FREESTYLE by Inturotel, now open all year round and which offer complete comfort by the sea, the Mallorcan sun and all the peace and quiet you deserve.

 

Let’s make these Christmas holidays a reason to take it more slowly, be more mindful and think about what makes us happy… we’ll probably find the answer is making other people happy.  

 

Bon Nadal i Bones Festes! ¡Feliz Navidad y Felices Fiestas! Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

 

 

 

 

 

Blog

A walk along the coast
02/05/2022
A walk along the coast
The walk (or run for those who are feeling energetic) starts from one of our hotels located in Cala d'Or, Mallorca. Walk towards Cala sa Nau until you reach the cycle path (if you’re coming from Sa Marina join the cycle path at the roundabout at the entrance to Cala d'Or next to the Cespa petrol station). From the other hotels head along Calle de s'Espalmador and, keeping to this street, continue until you reach the start of the cycle path that takes you to the Cala sa Nau/Cala Mitjana path. After approximately 1km turn right along an unpaved track towards Cala Mitjana (cars are not allowed along here). This track leads right to the cove. Once there, have a short rest and take in the extraordinary beauty of the landscape. In summer a ‘capfico’ (a dip in the sea) is a must, although you can also take one in winter. Sea lovers and swimming enthusiasts will not be able to resist the turquoise waters and will want to plunge straight in. If you have never tried cold water swimming, we would encourage you to give it a go. It’s a very special experience.     Did you know that swimming makes up happy? The relaxing sensation of the water against our bodies reduces stress and releases powerful endorphins that improve our wellbeing. So, leave your worries behind and take a dip in one of the world’s clearest seas.   After your rest continue along the route towards Es Puntàs and Es Cossi, two stunning sites along this coastal terrain. Take a cobbled path that runs parallel to the left of the cove (avoid the paved road as it’s private and you might get told off). The next section takes you over the rocks (it can be a bit uncomfortable so we recommend wearing trainers with a thick sole or walking boots) heading east until you see the impressive hole of Es Puntàs crag. This is a very popular spot with rock climbers. The coast between Cala Serena and Cala sa Nau is a top spot for those who do psicobloc, also known as deep-water soloing, and in spring and summer you’ll see people doing it. Young people who are fans of this extreme sport come from as far away as the United States and Australia to do this type of free climbing. It is very dangerous and has resulted in a number of deaths. The pioneer and person responsible for naming the sport was the Mallorcan Miquel Riera. He made this type of climbing fashionable among his acquaintances from all over the world. The Mallorcan pop group Antònia Font dedicated a song to him.       The island has excellent climbing training centres if you want to give it a go or improve your technique so you can climb in uniquely beautiful natural settings. We recommend you do not climb alone, always let someone know where you are going to climb and take all safety measures. Mallorca is a paradise for adventure sports such as scuba diving, kayaking, caving, snorkelling and climbing.     Geology This coastline is formed of karst platforms that originated under the sea during the Tertiary Period, some 10 million years ago. Along the low stepped cliffs, sea erosion has created areas of smooth rock covered by sea water. The area closest to Cala sa Nau has an almost lunar landscape, with large formations of marés sandstone (ancient mangrove swamps) containing fossils of shells and other living creatures trapped in time.       Flora Although the coast is hit by heavy storms from the east during the winter months and conditions for plants are tough due to the salinity of the environment, you can see true survivors such as saltpetre, sea fennel,  juniper trees (one of the native trees that is most resistant to the salt thrown at them by the easterly storms) and a few small pine trees that are reminiscent of Japanese bonsais because the wind and salty water stunt their growth, sculpting them into unusual forms.     Fauna If you are a nature lover, we recommend taking binoculars on the walk. Look out for the flight of the cormorant (Phalacrocoracide) coming and going from its home in the cracks in the rocks, the colourful bee-eater (Merops apiaster), the majestic Eleonora’s falcon (Falco eleonorae) and listen out for the song of the blue rock thrush (Monticola solitarius). The walk takes you through cultivated fields and pine groves where you might see red-legged partridges (Alectoris rufa), Eurasian hoopoes (Upupa epopos), European goldfinches (Carduelis carduelis), red kites (Milvus milvus) and great tits (Parus major). Some migratory species can only be seen in certain months. If you’re lucky you might even get to see dolphins when the sea is calm (the best time is the early morning or evening).     Toponomy Some points of interest are Es Cossi, Es Puntàs, Sa Cova de Cala sa Nau and Forat d’en Mengo. The latter is only visible from the sea and is highly recommended as a kayaking trip. For more information check out our adventure sports partner: marimonte-online.com   Head towards Cala sa Nau leaving Es Puntàs on the right with its majestic window out on to the sea. Soon you’ll see Cala sa Nau in the background. Walk near the sea over the rocks. We recommend following the red trail left on the rocks by walkers (if you stray from this path the rocks become very sharp and walking is very uncomfortable).   A surprise awaits you on the walk that will take you right back to prehistoric times on our island. You can see the funerary hypogea or burial caves at Cala sa Nau. Archaeologists cannot agree on their date, but it would appear that they are from the Pretalayotic period (between the 3rd millennium BC and the end of the 2nd millennium BC). The Pretalayotic period is the name given to the first cultural manifestation of prehistoric society on the Gymnesian Islands (as Mallorcan and Menorca were known before the Roman conquest). You’ll find the burial chambers on your left right at the end of the path. Then have a final dip in the waters of the cove or sunbathe on the warm sand and enjoy a few moments of relaxation. We recommend avoiding the hottest months of the year and the middle of the day. The route is ideal for walking between October and May and is best done in the morning.   The return route is straightforward along a paved track towards Cala Ferrera-Cala d'Or and then retrace your steps along the route you have just taken to return.     We hope you enjoy your walk. Remember to leave nature as you find it and take any rubbish home with you in your rucksack. Musical recommendation to accompany the walk: Antònia Font ‘Un Minut Estroboscòpica’.    
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