Long live Sant Antoni
‘Visca Sant Antoni!’ – ‘Long live Sant Antoni’ – is a well-used phrase as we approach one of Mallorca’s most popular, traditional fiestas: the celebration of Sant Antoni Abat, the patron saint of animals.
For some Mallorcans – particularly in towns such as Manacor, Sa Pobla, and Artà –the Christmas festivities are seen almost as a warm-up for the mid-January Sant Antoni fiesta.
As revered as he is, Sant Antoni wasn’t ‘mallorquin’ but a monk in Egypt who was visited in the desert by the Devil disguised as a woman. The saintly monk distracted himself from the obvious temptation by walking barefoot across the embers of a fire.
Fire and devils – or ‘dimonis’, as they are known here – play a key part in the celebrations on the eve of Sant Antoni’s day. The night of January 16th, people in towns and villages across Mallorca light bonfires and have fun singing risqué Sant Antoni songs and cooking food over the bonfires, as ‘dimonis’ dance around them. It’s a night you’ll hear the traditional friction drum known as a ‘ximbomba’ – a simple but essential instrument in these celebrations.
The eve of Sant Antoni is celebrated in different ways across the island. In Artà, the celebrations last all day and start with a special breakfast of hot chocolate, Sant Antoni’s coca, and ensaïmada. In Sa Pobla, eel and rice dishes are popular.
On January 17th, Sant Antoni’s day itself, people take their pets and farm animals to be blessed by the local priest. This event in Manacor features traditionally dressed people parading with their animals through the streets – making for some great photo opportunities.
Note: Some places may celebrate Sant Antoni over the weekend of 19th/20th.