Usually at this time of the year, with September safely tucked up in bed, we would have had fiestas coming out of our ears for months, as towns and villages across the island celebrated their annual summer and autumn shows. Whether it would have been a simple ‘produce’ fair showcasing honey and herbs, an artisan craft fair or a two day extravaganza celebrating absolutely ‘everything’ under the island sun, the input and enthusiasm surrounding these customary events is always astounding.
Some fairs are very low key, others are wildly boisterous. Yet irrespective of size or content, the emotion behind the island’s ‘fiesta’ culture commands great respect. Sadly, with the current Covid controls, the fiestas this year have been very thin on the ground, although there have been a few diluted attempts, which resulted in concern for the consequences rather overshadowing the celebration itself. Perhaps it would have been easier, and kinder to simply postpone all fiestas for 2020 rather than putting on a half baked effort with a disappointing icing, and no cherry at all!
It has just been announced that this years Dijous Bo, the largest, busiest and most popular fiesta on the entire island, has been cancelled. And although terribly disappointing for many, it’s probably better for Majorca to stay safe and not encourage a further spread of the virus by indulging in a celebration that this year, with all the restrictions, simply wouldn’t have come up to expectations.
Fiestas in Majorca, as well as across Spain, have always played a very important role in maintaining the cultural footprint of Mediterranean society, adding colour to the tapestry of everyday lives on both our own island, along with the mainland. The Majorcans, like their Spanish cousins, just love celebrating in crowds. They love their loud music, their rhythms of colour, lively laughter and the big get together, regardless of what else is going on in the world around them. A few drinks don’t go amiss either, not to mention the opportunity to eat on the hoof whilst being entertained ‘al fresco’ and surrounded by their heartfelt traditions.
Having lived on the island for over fifteen years, I have witnessed a fair amount of fiestas, along with all the parades, pageantry, dancers, musicians, demonis, drummers, fire runs etc. that make their anticipated appearances year after year; fiesta after fiesta. For the locals, it’s something to really look forward to, like their parents and their grandparents did before them, down through all the generations since fiestas began. It’s outdoor living. It’s fresh air and fun. And it’s as necessary as breathing – hard to understand if you’re not Spanish or Majorcan!
Like most dedicated followers who regularly patronise these annual events, Other Half and I have never become complacent, tired or bored with it all, even if we have been there before, done it all and bought the T’shirts to probably every village fiesta on the island. We both simply love it, and have sorely missed all the local fairs and traditions this year, that keep Majorca’s valued culture alive and kicking with their ‘free’ island wide entertainments.
But all this culture comes at a price, and I don’t mean the obvious financial cost, although local bars and economies are boosted by the fiesta event. I’m talking about the dedicated teams of organisers and performers who regularly give up hours of their own time in order to keep these local customs living and breathing for future generations to enjoy.
Take traditional Majorcan folk dancing for example. Those colourful troupes, consisting of both male and female dancers, are accompanied by singers and musicians, all of whom are committed and dedicated to hours of practice and rehearsal, simply for our entertainment. The dancers start learning the moves as young as four years old, and although it all begins as a bit of fun at school, it develops into a passion for preserving the island’s history of tradition which drives these performers forward.
It is probably a little easier for the girls to grow up and become part of a regular dance troupe than for the boys, I imagine it takes a lot more determination to continue with dance classes and constant rehearsals when there is the permanent distraction from x-box, computers, social media, football and lads’ stuff that could easily drive a potential dancer of around fourteen/fifteen years old, ‘off piste’. So a big ‘well done’ to all those young lads who smash it, support the valued preservation of their age old customs and twirling traditions, and are proud to do so.
The musicians, ‘xeremiers’ and ‘batucada’ drummers also start very young, and are as equally committed to the cause. Although, as an outsider, it might seem much more fun for a fourteen year old lad to bash a noisy drum than spin himself dizzy in baggy pantaloons and dance pumps. That’s why they are all so individually brilliant, for embracing these heart felt traditions, which have been passed down from generation to generation, and taken responsibility for keeping the identity of Majorcan culture available to the community.
Very few of these enthusiastic performers are professional. Most hold down jobs and simply volunteer their talent out of sheer generosity for the occasion. The same goes for all those volunteers who, although not performing themselves, are helping out in the background to make sure the party goes with a swing.
When you think how some youth cultures spend a lot of their time stressing over how many ‘likes’ their latest selfie posting has flagged up, or posting nonsense, it makes me proud to be living in a community alongside youngsters who are not blatantly wasting their lives with trivia, but contributing to a very real and living lifestyle, simply because they care about Majorca’s cultural future.
And in a current world where there’s not much to jump up and down about at the moment, thank goodness for these colourful island traditions, which are just waiting to show their faces again, and resurface in joyous celebration when this Covid19 pandemic is over. The rainbow is out there!