While thoughts are turning to celebrations for Christmas, New Year and the Kings, other thoughts are projecting a little further ahead and to celebrations that are arguably more anticipated than those of the festive season - Sant Antoni.
Ravaged in January this year, the fiestas are due to return with more or less all their glory in January next year. One says more or less, as Covid measures will still be in force (but hopefully not in greater force than at present) and there are certain events that definitely won’t be happening. In Sa Pobla, that means the pyromusical.
The latest meeting to discuss the fiestas was held earlier this week, and it confirmed that there would be no pyromusical. More than this, the future of the pyromusical was left up in the air - neither ruled out, nor ruled in.
If you’ve never attended the pyromusical and don’t know what it entails, I should stress that this is no ordinary fireworks display. It is a synchronised spectacular, an utterly extraordinary show that typically combines mystery, chilling choral work, lights and fireworks. It is one of the very best fiesta attractions of the year on the island, and its attraction is a reason why its future is in doubt.
This may seem somewhat contrary. A highly popular event, why would it not happen again in the future? The problem lies with the popularity and all the people who gather in the Plaça Major. Pre-Covid there were safety concerns because of the numbers, and access to the square had to be controlled. Covid, it would seem, has offered the pretext to reduce these concerns now and in the future.
There is something else. And that is tradition. At the meeting this week, they also discussed the dancing of demons, the Compline service and the election of the clamater, the person (or persons) who offer the proclamation “Visca Sant Antoni”. Demons, service, clamater - these are all representative of the Sa Pobla Sant Antoni tradition.
The pyromusical, on the other hand, isn’t. There may have been one for years, but it doesn’t have the roots of tradition. It is what it is - a sort of high-tech fireworks display - and high-tech sits somewhat uneasily alongside ximbombas, prancing demons and recalling the time in the past when Sa Pobla reclaimed the right to Sant Antoni from brethren in Palma who had sought to usurp the saint.
Old stagers have in the past been critical of this lavish show because it isn’t representative, while there are now some new stagers who would also like to revert to the true roots of Sant Antoni.
Nothing has been decided, but if a decision were to go against the pyromusical in the future on safety grounds as opposed to tradition, then what about other events for Sant Antoni? The climb of the Ternelles pine in Pollensa’s Plaça Vella? That isn’t exactly blessed with one hundred per cent safety, as was experienced in the recent past when the pine snapped because it was too long and there was a hell of a problem squeezing it round the corner into the square. There were a couple of injuries. And then there are all the people crowded into the square.
The pine does at least have tradition on its side in a way that the pyromusical does not. And for the sake of tradition, let’s hope so.