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What to expect from Mallorca's Fiesta Sant Joan

One of the biggest parties in Majorca on the 23rd June

Featured in: | James Fisher, Mallorca Video Reporter | Published
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The people of Mallorca, like their mainland brothers, love a fiesta. Almost every weekend there seems to be a saint or a historical event that requires face paint and explosions, or at the very least a market. The Fiesta Sant Joan in Mallorca celebrates the life of John the Baptist and in Majorca Sant Joan is a very big deal. Every other street, shop and restaurant seems to be named after him, he's the Patron Saint of four towns and he even has a town named after him.

Fortunately the people of Mallorca have managed to combine the celebration of a desert dwelling, locust eating prophet with the celebration of midsummer, so the fiesta is not too austere. In fact it gets pretty crazy.

The celebrations of Sant Joan take place all over the island and in many different forms. In some towns, like Deia, Mancor de la Vall, Muro and Son Servera, where St John is the patron saint, the celebrations can run for about two weeks.

In Deia, for example, the festivities run from the 16th June to the 1st July with competitions, music and theatre as well as a mass on Sunday evening. The Deia events programme is pretty full and there is something for almost everyone.

A similar set of events will be taking place in Son Servera throughout the week, although the details for this are all in Catalan you can find out about the timings from their official programme.

The fishing competitions and arts & crafts are all well and good but the highlight of the celebrations are the fire processions. In Deia this will take place on the Sunday 24th and in Palma the "Nit de Foc" happens on the 23rd.

I stumbled upon the "Nit de Foc" a few years ago. I had been told by friends that the festival involved everyone gathering on the beach at Portixol and enjoying a meal together. Then, once the sun goes down, people wade into the water for a cleansing swim that purifies the soul.

This is very true but it is the pre-watershed, PG, edited for airlines version. If you want the "This festival contains contains loud music and flashing images with a very real chance of spontaneous human combustion that some tourists may find distressing" version then you should head down to the lake (Parc de la Mer) in front of Palma Cathedral after about 10 pm on the 23rd June.

Like the Moors and Christians festival that took place in Soller at the end of May, the Nit de Foc is not overly concerned with trivialities like health and safety and I'm fairly sure you wouldn't be allowed to throw a party like this in Britain.

A large stage is set up and on it is a percussion band dressed in rags and masks. These are the devils and some of them walk in the crowds among the mortals setting off flares and fireworks. The devils, a throwback to a pagan midsummer celebration, are just one of the terrors that await at the festival. In an effort to prove themselves, the young men would traditionally jump the fires to show their bravery. These days flares are thrown on the ground and people are encouraged to jump through their sparking flames. Meanwhile there are large towers erected on either side of the crowd and from the top of these fireworks and flame throwers launch light into the night sky.

The atmosphere is similar to a rock concert. Although from the outside it looks like a sea of craziness, in amongst the fiery mosh-pit there is a sense of camaraderie and everyone looks out for everyone else, and should their attention waver, the fire brigade are always present.

Like the running of the bulls in Pampelona or the human towers in Seville this is one of those festivals you can't imagine in the UK so if you have the chance we'd recommend going to see it. Not that the discerning, fashion conscious readers of would ever need reminding but don't wear a shell suit. They melt.