Sant Antoni and Sant Sebastià: Traditions in Pollença

Pollença is a municipality in the north of Mallorca located between the sea-line and the mountain range Serra de Tramuntana. It is this setting that gives the town its character: its well-preserved nature, its old town-centre, its mannerisms, accent and of course, its traditional festivities.

It is during those celebrations most deeply-rooted in Pollença, that one truly notices the special and unique nature of its people. In Summer, the town’s patron saint brings is celebrated through a display of devotion while in mid Balearic winter it is the festivities of Sant Antoni and Sant Sebastià, on the 17th and 20th of January, respectively, are prime examples of tradition.

 

Sant Antoni & the “Pi de Ternelles” pine-tree

The 17th of January is the day Saint Anthony the Abbot, patron saint of animals, a festivity celebrated in many towns of Mallorca. The celebration begins on the night before with the foguerons: bonfires on which to grill llangonisses and botifarrons, and around which the villagers get together to sing glosses, traditional compositions sung to the rhythm of the ximbomba.

On the night of January 16th, a stroll through Pollença has a special ambiance and not just due to the smoke of the bonfires but also the children and grown-ups around the fire singing together, sharing a bottle of mesclat and inviting passers-by to join and watch.

Sant Antoni bonfire, used on the 16th of January for cooking dinner and keeping warm. Imagen de EnunClickClack
Sant Antoni bonfire, used on the 16th of January for cooking dinner and keeping warm. Imagen de EnunClickClack.

 

But the big day is January 17th. At 10 in the morning the day begins with the most religious and serene ceremony: les Beneïdes. Pets and cattle are taken to the church by the Plaza Mayor town square, the parish priest stands in the doorway and blesses all of the Pollençins walking past with their animals alongside. According to tradition, these will then be watched over by the patron saint of the animals.

Then begin the celebrations, with hundreds of Pollençins and interested outsiders making their way up to Ternelles, a land and manor property on the outskirts of the town, on their way to the heart of the festivity: a pine-tree around 20 metres tall. After the meal and in a shroud of fire crackers and xeremies bagpipe-music, begins the pine-tree’s slow journey back towards the town’s old Plaza Vella square, where it will be lathered up and climbed by a youth from the village.

While it is true that the pine-tree must be climbed by a local and foreigners are not advised to try this feat, throughout the festivity the villagers gladly welcome tourists to curiously come nearer and watch the fiesta del pino or festa del pi and invite them to some mesclat, a strong typical liqueur special for celebrations.

Sant Sebastià: els cavallets and l’estendard

If Sant Antoni is a festivity, Saint Sebastian is tradition. The procession that takes place on the 20th of January is a sober ceremony in which tribute is paid to the 3rd Century praetorian Roman saint, Saint Sebastian, and to the medieval horses who fought against the Turks.

The main characters are three youths from the town who have been previously chosen and who conscientiously prepare for the representation of one of the town’s oldest traditions. The two “cavallets” dance to the sound of the piccolo flute while the “estendard” waves a large flag in a characteristic rhythm and manner.

For the duration of a week, Sant Antoni and Sant Sebastià interrupt Pollença’s day-to-day life, filling the town with celebration and tradition.

Highlight Snapshot via CulturaPollensa.com