The Festa De L’Estendard

You may have wondered occasionally why some streets in Mallorca’s towns and pueblos are called 31 de Desembre (31 de Diciembre). It somehow does not quite feel coherent that a street should be named after the last day of the year, just like that.

Well, it isn’t. The name is given after the date of the capitulation of the last Moorish valí (governor) in Mallorca. Sidi Abu Yahya Muhammad ibn Ali ibn Abi Imran at-Tinmalali was the Moorish ruler in charge of the Almudaina Palace from 1208 to 1229. It was him who surrendered the keys to Madina Mayûrqa, the capital city of the island, on December 31st, 1229. The occasion is celebrated in Palma de Mallorca every year with some aplomb under the epithet of the Festa de l’Estendard, as it will be today. The victorious winner at the time, of course, was Jaume I, as I am sure you do know. The anniversary of the Conqueror’s birth 800 years ago was celebrated all year long in 2008, all over the island.

The winner takes it all, even the historic accuracy. There is more to the story of the Moorish defeat, I am sure, than we are told, but that will be perhaps the subject of some future blog entry. A book written by an Arab scholar, Ibn Amira al-Mahzumi, tells the story through the eyes of the defeated, under the title Kitab Tarih Mayurqa. The book was written in the 13th century and was only recently rediscovered and translated into Catalan as well as, earlier this year, into Castellano. An interesting read.

A Plaça Abu Yahya exists in Palma. My photo shows a detail from an ironplated mural on display at the seat of the Cambra de Comerç (Chamber of Commerce) in Palma, sculpted and forged by Guillem Seguí, commemorating Mallorca’s conquest.

The photo was chosen from my archive. It was taken in Palma de Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: June 16th, 2009. The time was 14:17:39.

The Festa De L’Estendard

How I Missed The Winter Solstice

I have an admission to make: I have failed you. I am terribly sorry.

This is about the event of the Winter Solstice. You may know (or you may have gathered from my blog entry of December 29th, 2008) that La Seu Cathedral in Palma de Mallorca presents us every year with a truly awe-inspiring spectacle of beauty when shortly after sunrise on the day of the Winter solstice, the sun shines through the large rose window on the Cathedral’s eastern façade and illuminates in a horizontal fashion the smaller roseton above the western main portal. Every year, with the precision of a Swiss watch. I wanted to see the spectacle and take a photograph as a proof for you. In last year’s blog entry, I had to borrow a photo from the Internet. I diligently got up at 05h45 in the morning of the 21st, a week ago last Monday, as did my family, and we drove by car to Palma in search of a parking space.

We got there alright, and in good time. No problem with the parking at that early hour. Only, the weather was not in favour of our good intentions. The clouds were too thick and heavy for the sun to come through at all. And it was raining. We got pretty wet in the course of this self-imposed duty as well. I did not get the photo as you can easily gather from the photo (above), even though we endured the adverse weather conditions for over half an hour. But to no avail: we did not get to see the majestic extravaganza.

Instead we should have done what the members of the Societat Balear de Matemàtiques did. They got there a day before us, on Sunday, on a fine day with not a cloud in the sky at this early hour, and not a drop of rain. And what a fine performance they could witness. See the video for yourself:

The photo was taken in Palma de Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: December 21st, 2009. The time was 08:04:39. The video was taken from the Internet, courtesy of YouTube and Societat Balear de Matemàtiques.

Moltes Gràcies.

How I Missed The Winter Solstice

The Flàmules Exhibition

May I inspire you to go and see an exhibition in Palma de Mallorca before January 10th, 2010? Flàmules is a historic name for the beautiful Mallorcan fabrics now known as Teles de Llengües (Castellano: Telas de Lenguas). The exhibition shows materials that are woven in an ancient technique similar to that of Ikat. The Lenguas fabrics form part of the island’s cultural heritage and are, in a way, in acute danger of disappearance. If you like Mallorcan traditions, you will be intrigued by some of the beautiful patterns presented in this superb show, some of which are rather old and some of which originate from the Orient and from Africa (Turkey, Persia, Indonesia, China, Kenya etc.). The lavishly illustrated catalogue is brilliantly edited and contains some competent and well written texts, but unfortunately does not offer any English translations.

The fish pattern in the photo (top) is a contemporary design by the renowned Felanitx artist, Miquel Barceló.

Flàmules, les teles de llengües a Mallorca, at the Casal Solleric (Passeig des Born, 27), Tuesday to Saturday 10h30-13h45 and 17h30-21h00, Sunday 10h00-14h00. Admission is free.

The photos were taken in Palma de Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: December 4th, 2009. The time was 13:39:05 and 13:41:53, respectively.

The Flàmules Exhibition

Live Nativity Scenes

You may well suspect by now that I am somewhat infatuated with Beléns (nativity scenes). Now is the time to enjoy an untold number of smaller and larger ones, here in Mallorca, between now and Reies (Three Kings), and I for one am pleased.

Usually the Christmas nativity scenes are built in miniature form and over the years, the sets have been portrayed in many ways. Some nativity scenes are even acted out live, here in Spain, and in particular, in Catalunya. In that case one speaks of pastorets or pessebres vivents. Some 15 years ago, I saw a beautiful live nativity scene here in Mallorca, on daily display at Abacanto, just outside of Palma, made up of a real woman, a real man, a live donkey and a very lively sheep. Only Baby Jesus was substituted by a doll. It was wonderful. Sadly, I did not take a photo at the time, or, if I did, I can not find it now.

Many church services in Mallorca include such a tableau vivant on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, albeit without any livestock. My photo (top) was taken just after the service yesterday morning, Sunday, in Felanitx.

The photo (top) was taken in Felanitx, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: December 27th, 2009. The time was 12:52:24. The photo (bottom) was taken from the Internet. Thanks are due to

Moltes gràcies.

Live Nativity Scenes

The Appaloosa Horse Breed

In Mallorca, you never know what you might come across next, just round the corner from your daily routine.

A few years ago, I was involved in some correspondence with the Appaloosa Horse Club in the USA, on behalf of a friend here in Mallorca. The ApHC is the international breed registry serving members and Appaloosa enthusiasts by recording and reserving the horses’ heritage and history, and by providing services that promote, enhance and improve the Appaloosa, a breed defined by ApHC bloodline requirements and preferred characteristics, including coat pattern (to quote from the ApHC website). At the time, we were required to send in hair from a horse’s tail to facilitate a DNA (Deoxyribonucleic acid) genetics test.

The Appaloosa breed are unique and beautiful horses. The steed is easily recognized from the spots and splashes of colours over their coats. Appaloosas are extremely versatile, and have set records in speed on race racks, earned high honours in dressage, games, roping, endurance, jumping and reining. Appaloosas have gentle dispositions and are eager to please their owners. The name Appaloosa came from white settlers that arrived in the Northwest Palouse region of the USA during the 18th century, slurring the specification for horses from the Palouse area.

More than half a million Appaloosa horses are registered with the international breed registry in the USA, including a dozen or two of them here in Mallorca, some of which are owned and were bred by my friend Bernat, near Felanitx.

The photo was taken in Porreres, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: November 22nd, 2009. The time was 14:41:26.

The Appaloosa Horse Breed

The Neules Calendar

The tradition of paper doilies in Mallorca used as a Christmas decoration is called Neules.

Many moons ago, neules were hung in churches from a main lamp called the Solomon. Then, neules functioned as a kind of religious calendar helping the priest to let the poblers (villagers) know how many weeks and days would pass in that particular year, from Christmas Day to Dimecres de Cendra (Ash Wednesday), the first day of Cuaresma (Latin: quadragesima, Lent). Either the same number of neules were hung in the church as days were left until the first day of Lent, or larger neules were used for the number of weeks, with smaller neules being used for the remaining days. As the ecumenical year progressed towards cuaresma, neules were removed one by one to give the faithful congregation a clearer impression of the period getting shorter by the day. Clever, isn’t it?

Nowadays, hardly any parish cura uses the neules as a church calendar any longer. Instead, neules are now purely used for ornamental decoration purposes, and most churches put up an undetermined number of white paper cut-outs. In a way, it is a shame really that a charming tradition gets lost on the way.

Cuaresma in 2010 will start on Wednesday, February 17th, and will continue for 46 days until Saturday, April 3rd. Easter Sunday will be April 4th, 2010. This year, that makes 55 days from yesterday (Navidad) to Dimecres de Cendra, calling for 55 neules. Counting in weeks, that would have to be seven large neules, plus six smaller ones for the days.


I added the photo (bottom) a day later, showing the neules calendar with seven large neules and four smaller ones, taken on the Sunday after Christmas 2009 at the church of Sant Miquel in Felanitx.

The photo (top) was chosen from my archive. It was taken in Artà, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: January 5th, 2009. The time was 13:58:14. The photo (bottom) was taken in Felanitx, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: December 27th, 2009. The time was 12:54:42.

The Neules Calendar

Bones Festes

Bones Festes. Bon Nadal. Feliz Navidad. Merry Christmas. Joyeux Noël. God Jul. Fröhliche Weihnachten. Buone Feste Natalizie. Milad Majid. Vrolijk Kerstfeest. Feliz Natal. Nollaig chridheil huibh. Kurisumasu Omedeto. Natale Hilare. Molts d’Anys.

Whatever your language, have a happy holiday. And many thanks for dropping by.

The photo was taken in Santanyí, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: December 24th, 2009. The time was 22:51:31.

Bones Festes