24th June. The fiestas of Sant Joan celebrate the horse, the animal at the centre of all the patron saints’ day celebrations in Menorca’s villages and cities. The main festivities are spread out over 3 days: the Day of the Ram, Sant Joan’s Eve and Sant Joan’s Day itself.
The Day of the Ram
On the evening before the fiesta begins, a live ram, which has been washed and combed on each of the seven previous days, is carefully prepared and watched all though the night to make sure it stays clean. At dawn, it is adorned with multi-coloured ribbons, crosses are painted on its back, its horns are decorated with purpurine and a crown the matches the horses’ is placed on its head. ‘S’homo des Be’ (the Man of the Ram) is in charge of carrying the sheep on his shoulders the whole day long while he accompanies the ‘Caixers’ during the ‘capta’, an event which consists of visiting the homes of each of the relevant persons involved to extend invitations to the fiesta to them.
According to protocol, the first house to be visited is the Mayor’s and the second is the Bishop’s palace. Afterwards, town authorities, property owners, farmers and other distinguished people are visited according to a list that is drawn up beforehand.
Sant Joan’s Eve (June 23)
Between 2:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m., ‘es Fabioler’ (the Flautist) requests permission from the ‘Caixer Senyor’ (the President) to begin the fiesta. He then makes his way through the streets to the homes of the other ‘caixers’ and ‘cavallers’ to summon them to the sound of flute and drum. The cavalcade starts out from the municipal hospital and heads to Plaça del Born, where ‘Es Caragol des Born’, the fiesta’s first ‘caragol’ (laps around a predetermined site) takes place.
Afterwards, the cavalcade departs for Sant Joan de Missa, where vespers are sung later in the day. In the meantime, the Ciutadellencs engage in a mock battle with hazelnuts. The cavalcade forms again at sunset to ride a course between Plaça de Catedral and Plaça Nova.
Sant Joan’s Day (June 24)
At 7:00 a.m., the ‘Fabioler’ requests authorisation to begin the fiesta; he then summons the cavalcade to form so that it is ready to execute a ‘caragol’ in Santa Clara at 9:00 a.m.. Immediately afterwards, the cavalcade proceeds to ‘Pla de Baixamar’ on the shores of the port, where, preceded by another ‘caragol’, the riders practice the games known as ‘ensortilla’ and ‘correr abraçats’.
Ensortilla is a competition between galloping riders who vie to spear a hanging ring with their lances. The rider who hooks it wins a green cane shoot from which a silver spoon hangs. ‘Ses Carotes’ (The Masks) is played by two riders who gallop besides each other along a predetermined route. The rider carrying the ‘carota’ (a thin wooden shield with a grotesque face painted on it) has to ward off the blows from the lances or fists of the other rider, who tries to break the ‘carota’ before the race is finished. Two riders also take part in ‘Correr abraçats’, a contest in which they gallop along a route, bring their horses side by side, join hands, embrace and kiss before finishing.
The Caixer Senyor’s cry of ‘fins l’any que ve, si Déu vol’ (Until next year, God willing) or ‘fins un altre, si Déu vol’ (Until the next time, God willing) officially concludes the fiestas. A monumental fireworks display brings to a close the emblematic fiestas of Sant Joan.
More information: www.ajciutadella.org
Category: Spain festivals