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A Mallorcan Christmas Tradition: Neules

neules

Delicately cut-out paper disks are a Mallorcan Christmas tradition going back perhaps 200 years: Neules. They are a sort of doily cut out of white paper. Some of these decorations are outright beautiful due to their intricate motives. You can see for yourself, for instance in the churches of Sant Nicolau, Sant Francesc, Sant Miquel, or Sant Jaume, all of which are in Palma. Or try your local parish church.

Originally, Neules were giant communion wafers that hung above church altars, later to be given to the children of the parish as a sweet treat. The wafers were ultimately replaced by white, mostly round paper disks of perhaps 20 cm in diameter, carefully decorated by means of scissors or a sharp knife with geometric patterns or figurative scenes. Traditionally the local parish churches were decorated with a quantity of these paper cut-outs, mostly made by nuns. Often the nuns or novices created Neules year after year, thus developing a particular skill in their artistic perfections.

neula

In the past this was thought of as a good way for families to create decorations for the windows of their homes. Today, some people in the villages of Mallorca still continue this endearing tradition, although many Mallorcans are now moving towards more contemporary Christmas decorations, mainly from China, mostly machine made, and mainly made of plastic.

The prettiest Neules were often, and still are, sold for charitable means. The craft of the doily making is often taught to the younger ones by their parents or grandparents. Some village nurseries or primary schools also maintain this tradition, but I dare say, on a declining scale. In Palma you can still find a stationery shop or two that will sell you traditionally made Neules. Or try one of the Christmas markets that are open in Palma, either in Plaza España, in Plaza Mayor or in the Rambla.

The photos were taken in Escorca, Mallorca, Spain. The date: December 23rd, 2008. The times: 09:14:16 and 18:41:09.

5 replies »

  1. I am a member of the Guild of American Papercutters (GAP) and am doing an article on this ancient tradition for our newsletter, FirstCut. Would like to use your photographs of the Neules hanging in the churches, etc. with your kind permission.
    I can of course, give you credit for the photos, etc. Just tell me how you would like your info to be listed in the article. I can also arrange for you to receive a complimentary copy of the magazine. Please let me know at the following email addy:
    sassh48 (at) yahoo.com
    thank you kindly,
    Susan Hahn

    • hi susan,
      just a quick note to let you know that i am in agreement in principle with your request. i checked on the GAP website and it seems a worthy cause. i’ll be in touch in a day or two by private e-mail with more detailed specifics.
      klaus

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