The Sunday of the Lamb (Dia Des Be) is the first official day in the celebrations of the fiesta of Sant Joan. It occurs every year on the Sunday before the 24th June and involves a man (Homo des Be), representing Saint John the Baptist, dressed in sheepskins and a headdress with bare feet and hands, carrying a lamb on his shoulders, walking through the streets of Ciutadella visiting selected houses of local town’s people.
He is accompanied by the committee of official horse riders and an assistant as well as a police escort to help the group pass on foot between the crowds. The list of official visits for this day normally includes over 100 houses of all the official horse riders, past and present, the bishop, the man with the lamb, local town hall and the performance of the play called Foc i Fum.
The day starts early for the carers of the lamb, who soon after 5.30am start the process of adorning the lamb with coloured ribbons and rosettes which are sewn to the lamb’s wool so that they don’t fall off. A special crown in the form of a disc is also placed on the sheep’s forehead between the horns.
The proceedings of the day commence at 9.00am with the transfer of the flag of Sant Joan from the Caixer Senyor – the head horse rider selected from the noble families of Ciutadella – to the Caixer Fadri, an unmarried horse rider whose sole responsibility is the flag for the duration of the events on the days of the fiesta. The Fabioler(flute player) requests permission from the head horse rider to play the drum and whistle for the first time and start the day’s events. Normally this occurs at the open house of the head horse rider to a crowd of hundreds gathered in the entrance way and street outside.
The group including the committee and the man with the lamb accompanied by police escort then start the day’s visits, with the flute player playing the drum and whistle leading the way. Crowds follow the group on foot, all day from house to house where the arrival of the Homo des Be is eagerly anticipated. The sound of the drum and whistle can be faintly heard in the distance throughout the whole day, which is normally extremely hot, with the horse riders and man with the lamb lasting the distance in suits and sheepskin. The flute player repeats the same tune, the tune of the fiestas, at each house, with the exception of the homes where a ‘Toc des Dol’ is played. In this instance the house is not open for visit, but closed in mourning for the recent passing of a loved one. The group pauses respectfully whilst the Toc des Dol is played before recommencing their route to the tune of the fiesta.
At each home the group enters to sit and take refreshments, the lamb is put on the floor for the family to pat it and take photos. The visits are very short, as there are so many, but all the same it is hard to keep to a tightly timed schedule.
Once all the visits are completed well into the night, the group retires to the home of Caixer Casat, one of the married official horse riders for what is known as the Beguda, a reception of typical food and drink from Menorca. The care of the flag is transferred from the Caixer Fadri to the Caixer Casat, whose wife each day hangs the flag outside their home at sunrise and retrieves it each day at sunset.
The end of this day is celebrated with a concert for families outside Calos, next to Plaça Federico Pareja where locals enjoy the festive spirit and the tradition of tossing hazelnuts.
The Lamb, at the end of its duty, is given as a sentimental gift to the man who has bared him to be kept at his farm and live out a happy, peaceful life!