On the magic night of January 16th one of the most Deep-rooted traditions of Mallorca takes place: the feast of Sant Antoni. This celebration originated from the ancient pagan ceremonies of the Balearic farming people, when people invoked St. Anthony, the patron saint of domestic animals, asking for his protection for their animals. This saint has been venerated in many different ways over the years, evolving to become the feast we know today, which never lost its essence or its raison d’être: revering the saint and asking for his protection over animals. The town of Sa Pobla is the place where celebrations are most enthusiastic and traditions go back the farthest.
The celebration of Sant Antoni is a tradition that in Mallorca is closely linked to the figure of the dimoni (demon) and the foguerons (bonfires). On January 16th, the eve of St. Anthony’s day, these big bonfires are lit up and around them dance masked men and demons, signifying the triumph over evil. The temptations of St. Anthony are represented along with the perils of the flesh. People dance around the fire and sing the famous ‘gloses’ accompanied with ‘ximbombes’ (hurdy-gurdies) and maybe a starving dimoni pays a visit. These dances last late into the night, until exhaustion takes over.
The following day, the feast of St. Anthony, things become a bit more serious. After the solemn mass to honor the saint, people bring their pets and other animals to be blessed in the Beneïdes. The range of animals includes canaries, goldfinches, dogs, cats, pigs and hens, even donkeys and horses—people bring their pets from other towns besides Sa Pobla, in the hope that St. Anthony will watch over them.
Mallorca has plenty of life in winter too, in case you thought otherwise
Culinary TIP: At this time of the year you have to try the famous ‘espinagada’ (an eel pastry, although it can be made of pork or other ingredients). A good place to enjoy this delicacy is Marina, in Sa Pobla, where they work miracles with eels caught in the Albufera [lagoon].
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