How to Avoid Bad Luck in the New Year

New Year’s Eve is called Noche Vieja in Spain. In Mallorcan, that would be Cap d’Any. The end of the year is particularly significant this year, both in Spain and in Mallorca, because of La Crisis and the general bad state of affairs, economically speaking. Everybody is hoping for a turn to the better in the coming year; may the good luck start from tomorrow.

Just like every year, Spanish New Year’s Eve celebrations will begin tonight with a traditional family dinner or else, a meal amongst a large group of friends. Some say that Spanish tradition also asks for new, red underwear on New Year’s Eve to enhance good luck. At the stroke of midnight, it is the tradition to eat twelve grapes, one with each chime of the bells. Bad luck awaits those in the New Year who do not finish with their twelve grapes before the bells have finished their last chime. Somehow the twelve grapes have become synonymous with seeing in the New Year in the Iberian world. After the actual countdown of the clock, people greet each other, perhaps hug, maybe even kiss, and then toast with sparkling wine such as Cava or champagne. In Palma, the place to be at midnight tonight will be the Plaça Cort in front of the town hall.

The photo was taken in Palma, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: December 30th, 2011. The time was 14:37:03.

How to Avoid Bad Luck in the New Year

The Festa de l’Estendard

One of the most colourful celebrations in Mallorca is the annual Festa de l’Estendard on December 31st (tomorrow), celebrating the conquest of Madînat Mayûrqa, now Palma, by the troops of Rey Jaume I in 1229.

The Festa de l’Estendard is a festivity with historical, political and military elements, involving beautiful horses, uniforms and music. It is said to be one of the oldest such celebration in Europe, as it was first commemorated during the 13th century.

Curiously enough, there is no mention of any celebrations on the Ajuntament de Palma website, this year. Has the celebration been cut back, or even cancelled, due to La Crisis? I certainly hope not. We’ll just have to wait until tomorrow, and see.

Sadly, the conquest by the King from Aragon and his men also implies the surrender and annihilation of the Moorish population under the last Almohad Wâlî (governor), Abu Yahya Muhammad ibn Ali ibn Abi Imran at-Tinmalali. No mention is made of him in any of the festivity literature. To be fair, though, one has to state that there is a square in his name, the Plaza de Abú Yahya in Palma, up from the 31 de Diciembre, fittingly.

P. S.: I went to Palma today to check on the Festa. Yes, it will be happening. Tonight at 20h00, a tribute will be paid at the Jaume I statue in Plaça d’Espanya. Tomorrow at 10h30, a mass will be held at the Palma Cathedral, followed by a procession of dignities, mounted forces, Cavallets and Cossiers dancers, parading down to Plaça Cort and the town hall. There, at 12h00, La Colcada will be performed by Miquela Lladó and a crowd of schoolchildren, followed by an address given by the Batle de Ciutat, Mateu Isern. The only cut-back, due to La Crisis, was the festive programme. It was simply scrapped. There you go.

The photo (top) was taken in Palma, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: December 30th, 2011. The time was 13:16:33. The photo (bottom) was borrowed from the Internet, courtesy of mallorcaquality.com.

Muchas gracias.

The Festa de l’Estendard

The Weather Man

You may have noticed over time that I have a thing for the weather in Mallorca. I love this island and I am totally smitten with the weather here. More often than not the beauty of our weather patterns is simply amazing.

Take the last few days for example, and the weather we had over the Christmas weekend. Superb. This is why our Mallorcan friends call this type of weather around many a Christmas, El pequeño verano. It was not particularly hot but we had warm sun, gorgeously blue skies, amazingly clear nights with a New Moon first and then a sleek Crescent Moon two days ago. Yesterday, the sky was less blue but instead, we had a beautiful show of amazing cloud formations over the Badia de Palma. These clouds may have been of the Cumulus type, small, lumpy fair-weather clouds. Please don’t hold me to my words though, as I can’t be an expert in everything. Someone out there may know better. In fact, I realize how very little I still know about this amazing island.

The photo was taken in Palma, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: December 28th, 2011. The time was 15:07:53.

The Weather Man

Women in Red

Today is the day of the innocent pranks, Día de los Santos Inocentes (Day of the Innocent), Spain’s version of the Anglo-Saxon April Fool’s Day. Another three days, and it will be Red Knickers Day, here in Spain.

For some strange reason, Spain – and some other heavily Catholic countries – have a traditional custom of greeting the New Year, all dressed in red underwear, lingerie, knickers, panties, undies, whatever you would like to call the unspeakable. It may be a reference to innocence, but more likely to temptation, seduction, submission and passion. It may have to do with anxiety and fear at times of the plague during the Middle Ages, or some superstition, or perhaps a pagan ritual. I am not quite sure what it is, but everybody, female and male, seems to do it. So, if you haven’t prepared yourself for another typical tradition here in Mallorca, I’m offering you the chance to get all ready, well in time.

In China, if you’ve ever been there, the same tradition is rife around the time of the Chinese New Year. According to Chinese tradition, it helps to wear red as a precaution against any dangers that might befall you in the New Year. Red is a lucky colour in China, standing for loyalty, success and happiness. If you’re really traditional, you should wear red every day, all year long. If you’re not a big fan of the colour red in your outer wardrobe, red underwear is an easy way to protect yourself against the hazards of life. In China and elsewhere. And pigs can fly.

The photo was taken in Palma, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: December 21st, 2011. The time was 13:46:43.

Women in Red

The Església de Jesús-Maria in Sineu

The Església de Jesús-Maria in Sineu was built between 1793 and 1812, replacing an earlier temple dating from 1667. The church formed part of the convent of the Orde dels Mínims (Latin: Ordo Minimorum, Order of Minims). The adjoining Convent dels Mínims was built in 1693. Property of both, convent and church was expropriated in 1821 by the Spanish Cortes, together with other convents of the Mínims order in Mallorca, such as those in Muro, Campos and Santa Maria. The monks in Sineu were expelled in 1835.

Nowadays, the monastery serves as the seat of the Ajuntament de Sineu. The church next door is not used any longer except for occasional services, on perhaps two or three occasions per year. Above the unadorned church portal a splendid sundial can be seen, dating from 1810, as well as an enormous plaque with an inscription in Latin, dating from 1793. I wish I could decipher the meaning of the inscription. Can you?

The convent as well as the church were declared a Bien de Interés Cultural (BIC), a sort of heritage protection status. You should pay a visit, if you haven’t done so already.

The photo was taken in Sineu, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: December 11th, 2011. The time was 11:44:02.

The Església de Jesús-Maria in Sineu

The Day of the Innocent

May I remind you that the day after tomorrow, December 28th, Spain will celebrate the Día de los Santos Inocentes (Holy Innocents’ Day), a day for pranks, equivalent to April Fool’s Day in many countries. Someone may try to send you up the garden path, especially if you are of the younger generation, and all in good-humoured innocence. Be careful as to what you believe when you read the Spanish newspapers on Wednesday, as not everything will be reported truthfully and objectively.

The saint’s day refers to the biblical legend of the Slaughter of the Innocents, an episode of infanticide by the King of Judea, Herod the Great. According to the Gospel of Matthew, Herod ordered the execution of all boys under the age of two in the village of Bethlehem, to avoid the loss of his throne to a newborn King of the Jews, whose birth was announced to him by the Three Wise Men.

As far as I know the Day of the Innocent is celebrated in a similar fashion throughout the Spanish-speaking world.

The photo was taken in Felanitx, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: August 28th, 2011. The time was 14:42:23.

The Day of the Innocent

Nit Sant and the Sibil·la Chant

Last night, Mallorca celebrated Nit Sant (Christmas Eve). A special church service is held on the Noche Buena (Christmas Eve) called Matines de Nadal. These masses are probably the most important ones of the year here in Spain with the possible exception of the Easter liturgy.

There were three separate church services last night in Felanitx. I went to two of them because I had a reason. The attraction about the Matines de Nadal is the Cant de la Sibil·la (Chant of the Sybil), and I am attracted by this ancient chant with all its archaic and prophetic connotations. Why there were three separate Sibil·la performances last night in Felanitx I cannot say. I am not sure that there ever have been three concurrent ones in the past. I certainly enjoyed the opportunity and pleasure of being able to listen to two of them even though it was a bit of a rush. There were a few dozen Sibil·la performances all over Mallorca last night, from Palma to Inca, from Andratx to Pollença, from Binnissalem to Manacor. Perhaps you were eager enough yourself to go and take one in. Even though I have to say that I saw no foreigners attending any of the two services that I went to last night which surprised me quite a bit. It also made me a bit sad, really.

Let me remind you that the Cant de la Sibil·la was chosen by UNESCO in 2010 to be included in the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, with an emphasis to the Need of Urgent Safeguarding. I think the Mallorcan Chant of the Sybil is a treasure to behold and an absolute treat to the eye and the ear, not to speak of the soul. In case you missed hearing one last night, try and earmark the occasion for this time next year.

The young woman in the photo and the video as well (2009) is Xisca from Cas Concos des Cavallers. She chanted at the Església de Sant Miquel, the Felanitx parish church, for the ninth year this year. She performed the Chant of the Sybil with an absolutely beautiful voice. It almost made me weep.

The photo was taken in Felanitx, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: December 24th, 2011. The time was 20:16:09. The video was borrowed from the Internet, courtesy of YouTube and guingaia.

Thank you, and

moltes gràcies.

Nit Sant and the Sibil·la Chant