With the arrival of winter cold, the town of Sóller gets ready to celebrate one of the most ancient and pagan festivals of the traditional repertoire of Majorcan culture, we’re referring to Sant Antoni Abat. This festival is held on 16th and 17th January and is characterized by being full of symbolism that has been lost over time. The fire, the demons and the animals are the backbone of the party, which is divided into two major acts.
On the eve of January 17th “the Revetla” is celebrated. Lots of families, neighbours and other groups prepare large bonefires to start the party. People gather around the fire, drinking wine, roasting “botifarrons”, “sobrassada” (traditional Majorcan sausage meat products) and “xuia” (pork bacon), all of them made in typical pig slaughter. In the background, accompanying the sound of “ximbombes” (unusual rustic handcrafted drums) and “xeremies” (bagpipes) people sing glosses and other songs typical of this festival. Many of these songs are again full of symbolism of the fight between good and evil that is represented by Sant Antoni and the devil, as well as other juicier songs.
In the fire organized by the municipality of Sóller in the square, the “esclatabutzes” (traditional Sóller devils) dance to the sound of drums around the fire, with a firework display typical of this celebration.
According to some scholars, the figure of demons seems to be a shaman influence of ancient times, who directed fertility rituals for the tribe’s survival. These magicians, through ritual dances around bonfires, invoked the sun as a source of life and creation. Therefore, it appears that the history of this festival dates back to ceremonies commemorating the winter solstice. The fire in honour of the sun worship was a symbol of renewal and fertilization of the earth, and thus the purification of evil.
On January 17th, Sant Antoni Abat’s Day, the traditional “beneïdes” (blessings) are held. People gather outside the parish of San Bartolome of Sóller as a procession to receive the blessing for their pets from the patron saint. Leading the procession, to the beat of the bagpipes, there are two bigheaded figures representing Sant Antoni and the devil who dance and scare children. A peculiarity of the Beneïdes in Sóller, is that relatives give children “confits”, the way locals call traditional sweets.
In the past this event was of vital importance to Majorcan families, as their animals, which were the basis of their livelihood, received holy protection. So the image of Sant Antoni usually appears represented with a pig, basic animal of Majorcan pantry.
The Es Port Hotel takes the opportunity to congratulate all those called Antonia and Antonio, a very common name in our island.