by IRENE TAYLOR
A new exhibition which opens at the Museum of Majorca today aims to show that contrary to what most people believe, the Christmas tree was not introduced to the island during the tourist boom of the 1950s and 1960s, it was known here at the end of the 14th century. To make its case, the exhibition shows pictures, sculptures, pieces in gold and written records, some from the Museum's own archives, others on loan from private collections. The exhibition was presented yesterday by Catalina Sureda, Balearic director general of Culture, and Joana Maria Palou, the curator of the Museum.
One of the most valuable exhibits is a relic case dated 1445, of embossed silver.
The exhibition includes reproductions of what the first Majorcan Christmas trees were like -- quite different to the ones we know today, but they were used to decorate Palma in 1397, whan, Palou said, 2'500 decorative neules or wafers, two somades (the amount of material a mule could carry) of myrtle and reeds and wire. The decoration of the ‘tree' was completed by fruit such as apples, oranges and grapefruit. With its limited budget, the Museum has used a hundred wafers and has set up one of these old trees in a strategic part of the exhibition.
It also illustrates another old Majorcan tradition, in this case imported from Catalonia.
The Tió was a hollow trunk filled with almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, chestnuts and figs, which children were allowed to hit with sticks and extract the treats while waiting to go to Midnight Mass. According to Fr Gabriel Llompart, who has written an introduction to the exhibition, the present-day Christmas tree stems from the evolution of both these old customs. Aesthetically it is now more like the traditions of the north of Europe which reached Spain via the United States after World War One. This is the fourth seasonal exhibition dedicated to Christmas held in the Museum. The first, in 2002, was on the origin of the Majorcan Nativity Scene.
The Museum is in Calle Portella, near the Cathedral, and the exhibition will be open until January 5. It is open from 10am to 7pm on weekdays and 10am to 2pm on Sundays. Admission 2.40 euros.

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