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The Countdown to Lent

The Mallorcan folks are really quite clever people. They certainly were some time ago, let’s say, a hundred years ago. Then, school education was a matter of the upper class and land owners only. Girls did not even enjoy the benefits of a school education. So, people and in particular, country folk were illiterate. They could barely write, and reading, well I think, not so much. They were church goers, though.

In church, the Neules (paper doilies) Christmas decorations were used to simply tell the faithful how many weeks were still to go, plus how many days, until Cuaresma (Lent). As a matter of fact, this Neules calendar is still being used by a large number of Mallorcan parish churches even though most people nowadays are educated and literate. Some of the older ones Pagesos may still find it difficult to read or write anything more elaborate than their own name but there you are.

The way it works is to use larger Neules for the number of weeks left until the first day of Lent, and smaller Neules being used for the additional days. As the ecumenical year progresses towards CuaresmaNeules are removed one by one to give the congregation an idea of the remaining period getting shorter by the day. Clever, isn’t it?

Cuaresma will start this year on Wednesday, February 22nd, and will continue for 39 days until Saturday, March 31st. Easter Sunday will be April 1st, 2012.

The photo was taken in Felanitx, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: January 15th, 2012. The time was 16:30:13.

4 replies »

  1. Thanks for another fascinating post. You know so many interesting things about Mallorca and never fail to surprise me. I wonder how long you have lived there. I visited Mallorca for a couple of weeks in 1968 and again in 1970 (I’m a year younger than you) when I went on to live on Ibiza for five months. I am sure things have changed a lot since then. In 1968 in the countryside people were still using horses and carts and wearing traditional clothing. I love the unique things that you choose to photograph and tell us about, making the island’s people and history accessible to the rest of us. Thank you!

    • hi signe from norway (?),
      i am flattered by and grateful for your comments. we have lived here permanently since 1987, having been coming here on and off since 1971. yes, things have changed a lot here too. i’m trying to keep memories alive by offering glimpses into some of the real mallorca of yesteryear, and of things contemporary just below the surface. it’s my way to say thank you to this island and its people.
      thank you for stopping by.
      klaus

  2. In addition to being very practical and steeped in tradition, these neules are quite beautiful and intricate. I hadn’t realized the significance of the doilies when I saw them in the churches. Very clever, indeed!

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