Last week was San Juan, and not everyone knows this was a Christian celebration to honour the birth of Saint John the Baptist from the start. The traditions around this festivity are many depending on where in Europe you are. In Catalonia and Baleares, during a normal year people dress in white and go to the beach to do a lovely barbeque picnic with friends and family. It is the only time of the year you are allowed to make a bonfire on the beach.
Some of the traditions in Mallorca are that you write down 3 wishes on a piece of paper and throw the paper in the bonfire for good luck. The test of San Juan is another where you jump over the bonfire three times for good luck in the coming year. People also walk out in the sea backwards after midnight for good luck and good health in the coming year.
In 1998 I was sent to Mallorca to do a full summer season as a Service manager for a Scandinavian tour operator in Playa de Muro. I came directly from Thailand where I had done a full season of roundtrips with very demanding groups. I knew all about the history and culture of Thailand and the neighbour countries as I was supposed to. The placement to Mallorca came late and was very disappointing. I spoke a decent Greek after a couple of seasons there and I was really looking forward to going back to Crete where I had been the summer before. As for Mallorca I had only been in Magalluf as a 14-year-old. I had no clue about the traditions and festivities on the island. This was even before everyone had access to internet, so the head office sent out a welcome pack with a guidebook, the book “A Winter in Mallorca” by George Sand and the guide manuals for Mallorca mentioned 3 excursions I had to learn, “Market to Sineu”, “Cuevas del Drach” and the “Big Island tour”.
To me the culture shock was huge after living in friendly Greece and Thailand. Me and my colleagues were so into the day-to-day work that we totally missed San Juan that summer. However, the morning after as I opened the service office, I had several clients complaining that the beach was really dirty, like someone had done a party. I went together with them to the beach and found all the bottles, rubbish, and debris from the bonfire the evening before. I remember I got upset about the destruction, but the Ayuntamiento was already there to clear the beach with tractors and extra cleaning staff. Still, this was 1998 and I remember thinking that Mallorca was like a third world country that did not even recycle bottles or cans then.
As soon as I had my first child, the Swedish traditions became very important to me. I decided together with some other Scandinavian mums that we should make a proper Swedish Midsummer party. First, we needed to find the best lawn on the island. This is something that not all people know but to do the Svensk Midsommar you need a lawn, a tree cross with two rings on, to dress in green and flowers. The best lawn was found in the park of seaside Ciudad Jardin, and one of the girls in the group offered to bring the cross.
“I will make my husband design it,” she said and so he did. One of the first songs we teach our little ones is “små grodorna” the song about the little frogs, it goes with a little dance as well very Swedish. We repeat the frog dance on Christmas and Midsummer and a couple of others as well. We involved the Swedish church and did the first picnic style Midsummer in the park in Ciudad Jardin. The first year the party was small we where a couple of families who brought a dish from Sweden and shared. The Church sent two of their staff members who helped with the music and we got to dance our frog dance together around the Midsummer pole. The second year more than 80 people showed up where we shared an amazing buffet and even had some musicians that showed up to back up the dancing and it was totally amazing.
The food is important for Nordics in Mallorca, and we have 4 different shops to choose from, in Palma. I spoke to Lena Eriksson and Nova Thomander who works in Swedish Stuff Spain shop in Calle Dameto 11, Santa Catalina. Herring in different sauces, salmon, caviar, and the typical chocolates and sweets are best selling products. Since the heat came back the pick and mix sweets and soft drinks are very popular as well. Swedishstuffspain are expanding and bringing in more products from this month. The web shop they have is also doing well and they offer delivery all over Spain from this month on.