Sant Antòni de Viana
The Festival of Sant Antoni is celebrated on the 16 and 17 January. It is the festival of the Mallorcan countryside and retains many elements from ancient cultures. It is a celebration that has managed to adapt to external influences and new customs, without losing its authentic roots.
It is a nostalgic reference to the island’s agricultural past, full of unique and original elements such as demons, foguerons (bonfires) and beneïdes (animal blessings). Its sounds, scents and traditional cuisine make it one of the Mallorcan people’s most beloved festivals.
Its origins can be traced back to the island society’s agricultural roots, when people prayed to Sant Antoni, the patron saint of all the animals that were needed to work the land. In Mallorca Sant Antoni de Viana is known popularly as Sant Antoni del porquet because he is always depicted accompanied by a small pig.
On these days many villages throughout Mallorca celebrate Ses Beneïdes (the blessings) in front of the church. During these events there are processions of carrosses (floats) that recreate scenes from country life. The occupants of the floats traditionally sing songs and chant gloses (popular poems) in the Saint’s honour and in return receive the blessing of the priest. As well as the floats, the processions also include groups of young people dressed in traditional costume performing dances (jotas, boleros, fandangos), colles de dimonis (groups of children and young people wearing traditional demon costumes), there is sometimes the musical accompaniment of a dance percussion group, as well as people who simply want to bless their pet. On this day you can witness the unusual sight of the esplanade of the Cathedral of Mallorca filled with animals who are blessed with holy water as they walk past the priest.
Another essential element of these festivities are the songs accompanied by the ximbomba, a kind of rustic drum, which were often heard at family festivals in the past and were very widespread throughout Mallorca. For decades these songs were consigned to the celebrations of small villages that resisted the loss of their identity. Over the last ten years they have regained their place along with the other traditional events that are associated with this rural festival with its deep links to nature and the passing of the seasons. These days there is a strong resurgence of the songs in the north and east of the island during the days around the festivals of Sant Antoni and Sant Sebastià, although they have less melodic diversity. The singers of popular songs gather around the foguerons (large bonfires) organised by neighbours, associations or local councils and the celebrations usually last until the early hours of the morning. Often the ball de bot (a traditional dance from the island) also forms part of the evening.
Among all the municipal districts that celebrate these fiestas Sa Pobla, Capdepera, Manacor and Artà stand out the most. One of the most highly anticipated moments is the appearance of the demons, a primeval symbol of the festival and probably its ultimate protagonists, marking the start of the Revetlla de Sant Antoni (the open air celebrations for Saint Anthony the Abbot) on the 16th.
This event has its origins in the recollection of the temptations that Saint Anthony was subjected to by the devil, according to religious tradition.
Accompanied by traditional music, the demons dance in every corner of the island’s villages and towns. It is thought that the demons are distantly connected to the ancient shamans and sorcerers who led fertility rites around the fire to guarantee the survival of their tribe. Mallorca’s contemporary demons represent the freedom to transgress rules, play tricks and laugh at everything, in contrast to the seriousness of daily life.
In the afternoon, there are ceremonial events. The previous hustle and bustle contrasts with the respectful silence that overcomes all those present at the Completes, a solemn mass where Goigs, songs honouring Saint Anthony, are sung.
After the public events, the celebrations move to the foguerons (bonfires). The bonfire represents the victory of light over darkness. Fire symbolises the rebirth of the sun, the masculine element that fertilises the earth. Around the fire you’ll have the chance to taste traditional products such as sobrasada, botifarrons (Mallorcan blood sausages), espinagades (a kind of pasty typically filled with cabbage, pork loin or eel) and coques amb pebres (a red pepper flatbread) to the sound of the ximbombes (zambombas) and gloses (short popular poems).
Gloses, or improvised oral poetry, represent one of the most ancient art forms and are much older than writing. It is pure word play used to express all manner of feelings. It is a kind of game in which we can test our linguistic abilities, but more than this, it allows anyone to express their feelings in a spontaneous, different, perhaps artistic way, evading the censorship and social rules of the time.
And if you still feel like celebrating further, there is still one more unmissable event: the Pi de Sant Antoni, climbing the pine in Pollença. A pine tree is dragged by volunteers from the Ternelles estate to the Plaça Vella in the town, where it is covered in a layer of soap before the town’s youths compete for the honour of being the first to climb to the top.
We hope you have liked discovering a bit more about our culture and we hope to see you having fun soon at one of our most beloved festivals.
All the Inturotel team wish you a very happy festival of Sant Antoni.