• The way in which each society inhabits a region, works the land, recalls it, is familiar with it, represents it and narrates it offers an insight into that community´s emotional perception of the landscape. The Tramuntana area is singularly rich in cultural expression, evoking an extensive, complex past. Likewise, it is also rich in contemporary artistic, pictorial and literary expression, reflecting its landscape values and defining the singularity of local lifestyles that are inseparable [...]

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LIVING LANDSCAPE

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Customs and traditions

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The different municipalities that make up the Tramuntana Mountains have contributed to the creation of a wide range of festivities and cultural events of a religious, pagan and commemorative nature. As well as traditional festivities, a wide variety of regular cultural activities have been created and integrated into the local festive calendar, forming part of the complementary activities on which cultural tourism to the area by islanders and non–islanders is partly based.


Festivities

On the one hand, it is important to mention religious festivities, because with the Christian conquest of 1229 Catholicism was appointed the official religion, and so religious celebrations adhere to the Catholic festive calendar, with highpoints being:

Christmas
All the towns and villages of the Tramuntana Mountains celebrate Christmas. Their streets are decorated with lights and other decorations and, from a religious point of view, on December 24th practically all Mallorca´s churches celebrate Matines, the Christmas Eve midnight mass, to commemorate the birth of Jesus. One of the most emotional moments of this celebration is an ancient chant called the Sibil•la. Generally speaking, this chant, which augers the end of the world, is sung by a young girl with a pure voice, dressed in a tunic, skullcap or hat and cloak embroidered with silk, and she holds a big sword in her hands.

This ancient chant has only been conserved in Alguer (Sardinia) and Mallorca and it can be traced back to the tradition of medieval liturgical Christmas dramas, featuring a voice alternating with musical interludes. The protagonist, dressed in distinctive garments (the sword, tunic and cap) proclaims the arrival of the Day of Judgement.

Likewise, at the religious shrine at Lluc, mention must be made of the Blauets, a children´s choir named after the blue cassocks that they wear during services. This permanent choir of boys and girls sing the Salve Regina every day in public in front of the statue of the Virgin Mary. At the matins mass, a single blauet chants the Cant de la Sibil•la, making this one of the most emblematic events on the island.

Saint Anthony the Abbott
One of Mallorca´s most traditional events is the feast day of Saint Anthony on January 17th each year. It is a festivity that is deeply rooted in popular tradition, dating back to Mallorca´s former agricultural society. Back then, people asked Saint Anthony, the patron saint of domestic animals, to protect animals used in agricultural work. Over the years, the saint has been venerated in different ways, slowly developing into the festivity that we know today, although it has never lost its essence: the adoration of the saint and protection for animals. People flock to church with their animals for them to be blessed (the Beneïdes) by the benevolent Saint Anthony. Two classic ceremonies are held in Mancor de la Vall and Alaró.

The night before, the Revetla de San Antoni is held, a popular festivity when big bonfires are lit in the main streets and squares of towns, which people dance round. Fire, the real core of the celebration, symbolizes the purification and renewal of life at this festivity; the triumph of good over evil.

Easter week
Easter week is a religious celebration that commemorates the death and resurrection of Jesus. At the same time, it is also a popular festivity, whose processions can be traced back to medieval times. Different ´brotherhoods of believers´ process through the streets of different towns in the Balearics, recreating Christ´s final days. In the Tramuntana area, one particularly spectacular procession is El Davallament in Pollença, which takes place on Easter Friday. This procession, when the body of Christ is carried down 365 stone steps flanked by cypress trees from a hillock called El Calvario, is the most important event that day on Mallorca.

Corpus Christi
Corpus Christi, the festivity held 60 days after Easter Sunday, is celebrated almost all over Mallorca, but one prime example is in Pollença, where an ancient tradition has been conserved that is now only exclusive to Pollença: the Ball de les Àguiles and ritual dance known as Sant Joan Pelós.

San Joan (Saint John´s Day)
In Mallorca, as in other places in the Mediterranean, the summer solstice is celebrated to the full, with festivities to welcome in the summer. On the eve of the solstice, traditional foguerons (bonfires) are lit beside the sea. The celebrations must continue until the sun rises, that is "el sol quan balla" (when the sun dances). Saint John´s day is an annual festival in Calvià and Deià.

Sant Pere and La Verge del Carme (The Festivities of Saint Peter and Our Lady of Mount Carmel).
June 29th is an important feast day for mariners, since Sant Pere (Saint Peter) is the patron saint of fishermen. It is celebrated with enthusiasm in almost all coastal municipalities, which have a fishermen´s guild that organize processions by sea. The saint day is also celebrated inland in Alaró, Búger and Esporles. On July 16th, in coastal areas in Mallorca, including the ports of Sóller, Pollença and Andratx, a seagoing procession is held at which the Salve Marinera is sung, with the participation of numerous local boats, decked out to celebrate the occasion.

Other traditional festivities include:

The Valentes dones and Es Firó
During the second week of May, the town of Sóller holds its most popular festivity, known as the Fires i Festes de Maig (May Fairs and Festivities). This commemorates the role of the Valentes dones (brave women) during an attack by Turkish pirates on May 11th 1561, when sisters Catalina and Francisca Casasnoves, far from being scared witless, took the bar used to close the front door and used it to kill some pirates, thus contributing to the town´s victory. The bar still exists today and it features in the commemoration of the event. It is exhibited during the parades and takes pride of place during the programme of events, although the star protagonists are the Valentes dones, represented every year by two young women from Sóller, chosen by the ´Groups of Moors and Peasants´.

Moors and Christians in Pollença
On July 26th, festivities begin in Pollença in honour of the patron saint in a civil and religious celebration of ancient origins.The highpoint of these festivities is the Moors and Christians Simulation, which commemorates the battle by the people of Pollença against 1500 Moors led by the pirate Dragut on May 30th 1550. It was the worst pirate attack that the town had ever experienced. The battle was won largely thanks to Joan Mas, who rushed into the main street and warned people of the danger, heading the heroic fight against the pirates.

La Beata Valldemossa:
Valldemossa, the place of birth of the pious Saint Catalina Thomás, is decorated every July 28th in tribute to its patron saint. A procession with the saint´s triumphal float is held at which the saint, represented by a 6-year-old girl from Valldemossa, is paraded through the streets of the municipality with her court of angels. She is accompanied by numerous other floats decorated with coloured ribbons and other adornments, carrying villagers in traditional Mallorcan costume.

The Alaró Cossiers
In this description of key popular expressions of the Tramuntana Mountains´ culture and history, a popular event held in Alaró as part of its festivities to celebrate the village´s patron saint Sant Roc or Saint Roch (August 16th) must not be missed. It features cossiers or horsemen as its protagonists. This event is particularly fascinating because each year it includes the dance of the cossiers. The dancers are usually made up of six men, each in traditional costume, and a Dama or Lady, accompanied by a man who represents both a Dimoni (devil) and musician playing a whistle and a drum. The male dancers dance round the Dama, who stands in the middle of the circle.

Dance of Les Àguiles, Pollença
The Dansa de les Àguiles (Dance of the Eagles) in Pollença shares the same religious background. Dating back to the 16th century, it consists of a parade in front of Christ during the Corpus Christi procession, accompanied by a statue of Sant Joan Pelós (Saint John). The dance is performed by two young women, who wear a cardboard crowned eagle round their waists with the head at the front as if they were riding on it.


Traditional dances

The traditional Mallorcan dance known as a Ball de Bot or Ball de Pagès is very matriarchal. The dances, led by a woman, have an erotic dimension and they are totally improvised. The woman makes her male partner imitate the different parts of her dance, drawing closer or moving away as she sees fit. In olden days, the dances formed part of town festivities to celebrate their patron saints and celebrations organized by the owners of possessions (rural estates) when there had been a good harvest of wheat, olives, figs etc.


Gastronomy

Traditional Mallorcan cuisine is based on fishing and agriculture, two activities from before the tourist boom. One simple dish, sopes mallorquines, reflects how hard it must have been to subsist in rural Mallorca. To make it, whatever products were available in the vegetable garden were used (mainly cabbage, spring onions, leeks and garlic), to which dry bread was added, moistened in vegetable stock. In exceptional circumstances only, meat or wild mushrooms were added.

Despite its traditional self-sufficient economy, Mallorcan cuisine is very varied. The island´s typical dishes and desserts point to a rich gastronomic tradition, reflecting the different cultures that succeeded one another in Mallorca. Pastries like robiols and crespells evoke the Jewish presence on the island during its Islamic domination and the first centuries after the Christian conquest, while cocarrois and panades are clear legacies of the Islamic period. The eating of suckling lamb during the Easter week and by-products from when pigs are slaughtered (sobrassada, botifarró, camaiot, varia) are a reflection of the Christian culture. The origin of the ensaimada (a spiral-shaped pastry) is still the subject of controversy. Its name stems from the word ´saïm´, which means pork lard. However, some uphold its Arabic origins, given its shape evocative of turbans, while others believe it is derived from a ´bulema´ (a very similar roll that Jewish people used to make).

Mallorca also has certain gastronomic traditions linked in with the calendar. It is a custom to cook pork specialities following the slaughtering of a pig on bonfires at Saint Anthony celebrations (January 16th-17th), to roast suckling lamb during Easter week, or eat soup and chicken or turkey escaldums at Christmas. Likewise, on the night of October 20th, when the Revetla de les Verges (Virgin Festivities) are held, young girls give gifts of potato and/or sweet potato fritters and dessert wine to the boys who come to sing serenades to them.

The Carnival is also celebrated through Balearic Island cuisine, with different specialities that add a special flavour to the festivities. The ensaimada, one of the Balearic´s most typical pastries, is adorned in red and green when Carnival arrives, because traditionally on the Thursday before Lent (one week before Ash Wednesday), ensaïmades de tallades are put on sale, with pieces of sobrasada and candied pumpkin.

The island´s wines, one of Mallorca´s oldest crops responsible for an important legacy in terms of viniculture and popular traditions, is an excellent accompaniment when sampling the island´s cuisine and an unparalleled way of taking away the bottled aromas and flavours of the island.


Crafts

Roba de llengües are handcrafted, traditionally made fabrics from the Tramuntana area. To make them, the warp is prepared with white cotton, in accordance with traditional custom, and it is dyed in sections depending on the chosen pattern. This means that the fabric does not have a front or back, because both sides have the same pattern.

Other traditional crafts that can be found in the Tramuntana area, although they are also present in other parts of the island, are:

  1. Typical Mallorcan embroidery, using Mallorcan stitch, chain stitch, linking stitch and cross-stitch.
  2. Mallorcan espadrilles (espardenyes) are still made in traditional style, using only natural products.
  3. Artisan jewellers, capable of making impressive-looking typical gold chains
  4. Artisans who work with wrought iron.
  5. Luthiers who make traditional Mallorcan folkloric instruments (the whistle, bagpipe or drum).