On our last post about Christmas in Palma we already told you that the city’s most endearing celebration takes place in January. These are the festivities of Sant Sebastià, the patron saint of Palma de Mallorca. On this post we are going to tell you all about the history of this tradition, the reason he is the patron saint of the city and how the inhabitants of Palma celebrate this festivity with activities that span from January 13th until the 21st, a day after Sant Sebastià day.
San Sebastià, patron saint of Palma de Mallorca
This saint has been the patron saint of Palma since 1523 and he earned such title after a big feat, stopping a bubonic plague outbreak in the city. The story is as follows: a relic from this saint, in this case a bone from his arm that can be found at La Seu, eas brought to the island from Rhodes by a greek priest. During the relic’s stay, as was already mentioned, the plague that affected the people of Palma diminished noticeably. Once the priest’s visit came to an end, he decided to continue his travel along with the relic, but it was impossible for him to board the ship because everytime he tried to, the weather would be too rough for him to leave. This was seen as a miracle by the locals that meant that the relic had to stay in the island and protect them from the plague and other misfortunes.
La Revetla de Sant Sebastià
Now we know the reason Sant Sebastià is the patron saint of Palma and understand why the locals hold him so dear since the Middle Ages. To better comprehend the festivities that take place in the “ciutat” in the present, keep these words in mind: foguerons and concerts. On Sant Sebastià’s eve, January 19th, the city is full of concerts on every square, making it a night like no other (this year famous artists like Kiko Veneno and Mishina are playing)…And what about the foguerons? The foguerons are the bonfires. Majorcans, as many others from the east side of the peninsula, love fire-based celebrations, and this is the reason that on the days leading to Sant Sebastià’s eve the people of Palma gather firewood and even old furniture to throw into the numerous foguerons that will bring them heat and joy on this big musical festivity. By the way, it’s the City Council that’s in charge of keeping the foguerons alice, the neighbours just have the task of “torrar” 🙂
Sant Sebastià is celebrated in January, as we have mentioned several times on this post. It’s during this time, with the temperatures dropping, that most of the slaughterings of the pigs take place in the island. Pig breeding and the art of the slaughter for the production of cold meats in the traditional way is a thousands-year-old practice that is very famous in Palma. We’ll talk about this subject on the future, and how it affects life in the rural areas of the island. Just so we briefly know what it entails, slaughterings are social and family gatherings to kill the pig and prepare all the different kinds of cold meats that both locals and visitors will be able to enjoy the rest of the year. The slaughterings take place when the cold temperatures arrive for hygienic reasons.
After all this, now it’s january 19th and we have a venerable saint (and with good reason), foguerons burning to keep us warm and celebrate and enjoy the concerts, and the delicious products of the numerous slaughters. So, what do we do with them? Easy: torrarlas (toast them)on the fire and enjoy Sant Sebastià. Is there a better gastronomic accompaniment for this cold festivity?
And Sant Antoni… at Mallorca’s country towns
To add to the Sant Sebastià festivities, the whole island lights up for Sant Antoni, a celebration that’s becoming more and more popular in Majorcan towns. During this festivity, even more so than on Sant Sebastià, fire is the king and it’s accompanied by a very peculiar component: the demonis. Those that are the bravest and the most involved with the celebrations disguise themselves as devils and light up firecrackers and fireworks on what we call the correfocs.
We hope you found this story about Palma’s most important celebrations interesting and that you go out to find the closest torrada and where you can get the best cold meats. So that you won’t miss any concert, we leave you with a link to the City Council’s festivity programme.