The Jaia Quaresma is the traditional symbol of Lent in Mallorca in the time leading up to Easter. The Jaia Quaresma is also known as Vella Cuaresma or Jaia Corema, depending on whether you speak Castellano, Mallorcan or Catalan.
Lent is the time of fasting, when one should refrain from eating meat and instead, one should eat fish. People are used to that change in eating regime, but the Jaia woman is meant to instill the seven week-long habit into the younger ones. To ensure a successful conversion into fish eaters – remember, we are talking about a time when fish fingers were not yet invented and certainly not known here in Mallorca, some sixty years ago or more – the Jaia figure was used as a threat, as in, “if you eat meat and not your fish the Jaia Corema will come and saw your leg of“. Hmm. Strong stuff. The Jaia figure has seven legs for the seven weeks of Lent. Each week, one leg is cut off for the week gone past, illustrating the point that there surely was one meat-eating offender amongst the children at school. In my photo, there are four legs left to go.
Times have moved on, one would have hoped. But in the old days, a traditional Mallorcan period of Lent would mainly consist of Sopes amb Oli, a soup with bread, vegetables, water and olive oil. Only on Sundays fish was allowed to be eaten. It is for this reason that the old Jaia woman would always hold a fish in her hand, mostly a piece of cod.
The photo was taken in Felanitx, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: March 12th, 2011. The time was 12:09:14. The illustration was borrowed from the Internet, courtesy of ikoukladethelei.blogspot.com.