Any conversation in which Menorca and the month of June come up will be unquestionably linked to the increasingly popular Festivities of Sant Joan in Ciudadela. This celebration has transcended borders in recent years bringing together people from all over Spain (although mainly from the rest of the Balearic Islands and Catalonia) and which has as its true protagonists the horses and its riders. In the following, we are going to provide more information on this festivity; its history, its traditions and its most emblematic days. We only have to wait for the first notes of the “fabioler” to ring in order to start enjoying!
History of the party
The first news that we find on this festivity take us back to the 16th Century, in midst of the medieval times. The devotees of San Juan created a commission for the maintenance of the San Juan de Artrutx hermitage (Sant Joan de Missa), a sanctuary to which they pilgrimaged dressed in traditional costumes accompanied by a large part of the town.
The bulk of the procession was formed by ‘cavallers’ (peasants of all ages), and ‘caixers’, representing the different strata of society – church, nobility, artisans and peasants- gathered in the so-called ‘Junta de Caixers’. Over the years, this pilgrimage has evolved, growing in number of participants, in days and in festive activities.
Most important dates
At the moment the Festivities of Sant Joan in Ciudadela take place during one week, from the Sunday right before June 24th until the day of Sant Joan. Nevertheless, these are the three most important days: Día des Be (Sunday before Sant Joan), June 23rd and June 24th.
“Dia d’es Bé”
The Sunday right before June 24th, the Board of “Caixers” meets at the “Caixer Senyor” palace at 9 o’clock in the morning to officially deliver the flag to the ”Caixer Fadrí”. When the “fabioler” first plays his drum and his “flabiol” (a simple flute made of a cane with two holes) a peasant dressed in animal skins and with a white lamb on his shoulders, will walk on the streets of the centre of the village announcing the beginning of the festivity in what could be considered the “chupinazo” of the citizens of Ciudadela.
This procession will visit the Town Hall, the Episcopal Palace, the hospital and the houses of the most relevant people in Ciudadela to invite them to the celebrations. At sunset, we will attend the first “avellanada”, which consists in throwing around hazelnuts while the local music band plays the first ‘Jaleo’. The party has started!
Sant Joan Evening
From 2:00 pm on June 23th, the “fabioler” will fulfil the mission of bringing together all the ‘Qualcada’ (the set of horses and riders that will participate in the parade) to enter together the Plaza des Born (around 6:00 pm). This marks the beginning of the most representative act of the whole festivities: the ‘Caragol des Born’ (Circuito del Born). It’s really impressive to see how the horses go around the plaza while practicing their best ‘jumps’, rising on their hind legs between hundreds and hundreds of people who gather and dance around it.
Once this incredibly popular parade has come to an end, the horses go to the hermitage of “Sant Joan de Missa”. From there, once the sun has set, the ‘Caragol de Santa Clara’ starts. In the past, this trip was made with the intention of greeting the nuns who lived in the convent; but nowadays people enter different houses with the permission of their owners while the kids engage in the ‘sa caparadeta’ (cherishing the horse’s head). The day usually ends at daybreak with the farewell on horses of the “Caixer Capellà” and “Caixer Senyor” in front of their houses and with the celebration of the ‘Beguda’ (refreshment for the entourage) in the palace of the “Caixer Senyor”.
Sant Joan Day
There are many acts that are celebrated during this day, beginning at 8:00 in the morning with the “fabioler” playing his instrument and announcing that the festivities have begun and that the ‘Qualcada’ will gather and will carry out the trials for the games of the afternoon. While, in the Cathedral, the faithful go to the traditional ‘Mass des Caixers’.
In the afternoon, the famous ‘Jocs des Pla’ (pla games) will take place. During these, the riders will once again show their skills on their beautiful Minorcan race horses. The most popular games are ‘Rompre carotes’ and ‘Ensortilla’. The first one consists of watching two riders race in parallel; while one of them is wearing a mask the other one will try to break the mask with a stone. Be aware that when this happens the crowd will run unceremoniously to get a piece of that mask. During the “Ensortilla” the riders gallop with a spear in their hand from one end of the square. At the other end of the square you can see a ring hanging from a cable that the rider will try to pierce with his spear.
Once the games and the ‘caragols’ of the afternoon have come to an end, the ‘qualcada’ will be collected to end the festivities with one last ‘caragol’, the one of “Santa Clara”, and the final ‘Beguda’ in the palace of the “Caixer Senyor”.
Lastly, we highly recommend you to make these plans in advance, in order to get a good spot during the different acts and to comfortably enjoy them, since most places are going to be very crowded and we want you to enjoy the Festivities of Sant Joan in Ciudadela. Further, don’t forget to refresh yourselves (always in moderation with the delicious “Gin amb llimonada” (without asking for it by the name of ‘pomada’, as they do in other places of Menorca). With that said, we wish you all: Bones Festes!f