Haven’t you heard of the festivities of Sant Joan in Menorca? It is one of those patron saint festivities where roots, spectacularity and fun go hand in hand to generate unique moments, those not to be missed.
Combining tradition and emotion, apparent simplicity and deep meanings, rustic roots and a captivating style, the festivities of Sant Joan de Ciutadella are to Menorca what the Fallas of Valencia are to the Valencian Community.
There are similar festivals all over the territory, but these are the essential ones.
In fact, in our new post on The Most Interesting Rituals of the Night of San Juan, we are keeping this ace up our sleeve because these festivities deserve a separate mention.
So here we go: in this post we tell you the essentials to understand them, the essential practical details and a handful of tips. Sant Joan 2019 looks promising!
Origins and meanings of the party.
Those of San Juan stand out among the festivities of Menorca because of the deep draught they have had in the population since… well, perhaps always.
It is true that the festival commemorates the birth of Saint John the Baptist, but no one can ignore the fact that the magical date hides behind a complex background of pagan cults.
In the case of the festivities in Menorca, the agrarian side of these traditions is the most relevant.
Here the presence of fire or the sea is not as relevant as in other parts of Spain or the globe and so are the presence of animals, especially horses, as well as some plants.
The fact is that the festival which we currently know is rooted back to the 15th century, when the island was a remote and peaceful land of farmers and fishermen whose grandparents still remembered the Islamic presence.
This medieval atmosphere of the festival is undeniable, and the miraculous thing is that it has been so well preserved to this day.
And what makes the festivities of Sant Joan de Menorca so memorable? The best way to explain it is to recount what happens day by day in Ciutadella, the epicentre of the celebration, over these three days.
Day of the Be
On the Sunday prior to 23-24 June everything begins with the meeting of the Junta de Caixers, representing the different medieval classes (nobility, clergy, craftsmen and peasants).
Everyone supervises the proper functioning of the festival and has very clear responsibilities. The fabioler, another fundamental character, gives the starting signal for the festivities with the fabiol (a three-hole flute).
The Caixers move in procession with other authorities up to the town hall, but the central character is l’homo des be.
Dressed in sheepskin and carrying a lamb on his shoulder, he represents the figure of Saint John the Baptist. The music (the jaleo) and the throwing of hazelnuts take over the streets.
Dissabte de Sant Joan
Although it shouldn’t, it’s the big day of the party. At two o’clock in the afternoon, the fabioler on a mule asks permission from the palace of the caixer senyor to begin the horseback ride.
The cavallers (who can’t be any other way either) will be the protagonists of the day, with their simple black suits and their beautiful horses.
After the greeting in front of the Municipal Hospital comes the first main course: the Caragol des Born, in the square bearing the same name, three quick turns reminiscent of the greeting to the governor of the island before going for mass at the hermitage of San Juan de Missa.
They will return to the city after sunset, accompanied by the music of the fabioler.
Then come the Carreras (three times from the Cathedral to the New Square) and the Caragol de Santa Clara, through the urban layout, entering the Convent of Santa Clara and the house of the neighbours who consent and want to caress the animals.
It is undoubtedly the culminating moment of the Sant Joan in Menorca.
Saint John’s Day
If everything went well, the night will have been long and full of music, hazelnuts and ointment (typical drink of menorca).
But you have to be ready early; the fabioler will play at dawn and at eight the activities begin.
The Caixers’ mass in the cathedral in the morning and the impressive medieval games of Es Pla de Sant Joan (the esplanade) in the afternoon.
If the fabioler is the one who sets the rhythm throughout the festival, it is essential to be attentive to his strokes in Es Pla to safely enjoy the games on horseback.
- La ensortilla (to thread a ring with a spear),
- Carotes (eight wooden shields, six of which are split in pairs and in a gallop)
- And running abraçats (this game is clearer…).
And hala, the only thing left to do is to close the party; when the gentlemen accompany the caixer capellà to his house, with the fabioler closing the retinue, everything will be over… Until next year.
What you still don’t know about the feast of Sant Joan in Menorca
Hardly anyone who goes to the festival knows exactly what the origin of it is, although it is visible to everyone: it is a recreation of the pilgrimage between Ciutadella and Sant Joan de Missa in which some men (the caixers) asked the pilgrims for money.
In this link you have a series of practical data that will be very useful if you attend the festivities: program, transport, locations, risk areas (is that the city is full that you do not see …).
In addition, although it would not be necessary to say it, there are a series of basic recommendations in order that everyone can enjoy the party.
Not to encumber the horses (for the safety of all), wearing appropriate footwear or throwing hazelnuts without wishing to do harm are some of those recommendations that should be taken into account.
We will help you prepare this trip and any other so that you only have to worry about having a good time. Customised trips are Tubillete’s speciality.
You can contact us using this form, and if you want to make a more specific query, we can talk through the phone if you call us on 922 15 12 51 or by email if you write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Redactor. Especialista en Viajes.
Uno de esos que piensa que nunca se puede viajar demasiado, y que no hay que irse a la otra esquina del planeta para descubrir un nuevo mundo. Veinte años con la mochila a cuestas y sin ganas de posarla, todavía… En familia, con amigos o con las ganas de escribir como única compañía, y la afición a la historia como bastón.
Editor. Travel specialist
One of those who thinks that you can never travel too much, and that you do not have to go to the other corner of the planet to discover a new world. Twenty years with the backpack on his back and unwilling to pose, still … In family, with friends or with the desire to write as a sole company, and the love of history as a cane.