Saint John’s festivities in Ciutadella

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The St. John’s (Sant Joan in catalan) Day festivities attract people from all over the island and further afield, especially Mallorca and Catalonia. It is believed that the celebrations date from the 15th century and that their origin was a religious festival. The four estates of Menorcan society of yesteryear are represented in the merrymaking, the nobility, otherwise known as the Caixers, the Church, the craftsmen and the country folk.

The event begins at 9.00 am on the day of the be (lamb), with the first call of the flute outside the palace of the of the Caixer Senyor (the representative of the nobility). A procession then sets out from the palace and makes its way through Ciutadella. Among the procession is the Home des Be, a man representing St. John the Baptist dressed in lambskins, his hands and arms covered in painted crosses. On his back he bears a live lamb. On the same day in the late afternoon, there is a ‘war’ in which the ammunition used is hazelnuts.

The main celebrations begin on 23 June, St. John’s Eve. At 2.00 pm at the palace of the Caixer Senyor, the flabioler (flautist) requests permission to begin the withdrawal of the horses and their riders. At this point, the horses are already in the street and begin the caragols, which involves circling three times around certain street blocks and squares. The horses do the rounds of various places in the old town of Ciutadella to the rhythm of the Jaleo. The streets are crowded with people, the most daring of whom go up to the horses to touch their chests as they rear up on their hind legs. In the afternoon, there is another hazelnut war and a mass is said at the Shrine of Sant Joan de Missa.

On St. John’s Day itself, 24 June, the festivities begin at 8.00 am with another withdrawal of the horsemen and the start of the first caragols. In addition to the various official events held, this day includes the equestrian competition known as the El Pla Games. The celebrations come to an end in the early hours of the morning after the Caragol de Santa Clara and the last post played by the flute at the palace of the Caixer Senyor.

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