There are many rituals, customs and protocols for the fiesta of Sant Joan. Some are in the lead up to the fiesta in preparation, and others form an official or unofficial part of the three day fiesta.
One of the traditions that form a part of the preparation for the fiesta is for one of the protagonists in particular. For Sant Joan, there are many horses ‘cavalls’, many riders ‘cavallers i caixers’, but there is only one man with the lamb ‘Homo d’es Be’, and only one lamb ‘Es Be’
… Or is there?
Tonight for the ‘Vetla des Be‘ the Vigil of the Lamb, there is only one lamb on display and under vigilance. However the week before, two lambs are picked and prepared from a group that have been carefully selected and cared for since earlier in the year. The lamb chosen must be of the Menorca breed, male with curved horns, be a twin and have the highest quality wool.
The honor of providing the lamb falls to the family and farm of one of the two ‘Caixer Pagès‘. The group of caixers that lead the Sant Joan fiesta changes every two years. Within the group there are two Caixer Pagès, one from the north side of Ciutadella Caixer Pagès de Tramuntana and one from the south side of Ciutadella, Caixer Pagès de Migjorn. The names Tramuntana and Migjorn come from the names given to the wind after the north and south coasts of Menorca. Within the two year turnover of caixers, the first year the lamb and ‘Homo des Be’ come from the family of one Caixer Pagès, and the second year from the other. This means that every year there is a different ‘Homo des Be‘ and a different place where the vigil takes place in Ciutadella.
The group of lambs that are preselected for Sant Joan are kept seperately as the fiesta approaches and the man who will carry the lamb develops a bond with the group so they are familiar and comfortable with him, as well as being on his shoulders. A week before the Day of the Lamb Día des Be, two of the lambs are chosen, washed and kept in a place where they won’t get dirty again. The vigil actually starts from this moment and lasts for a few days where the two chosen lambs are watched and their food is controlled as well. The reason for two, is to have a second lamb ready in case the chosen lamb becomes ill. The night before the Day of the Lamb, the chosen one is taken to the town of Ciutadella and the lamb is on display for the townspeople to visit until 4am in the morning. It is not fed in this last night, is kept awake and on its feet so it is exhausted the next day and will happily sit on the man’s shoulders. The lamb is then taken off display and prepared with ribbons and a head piece.
When the final two sheep are chosen by the family of the Caixer Pagès, the act of washing the lambs has turned into a prefiesta before the fiesta for invited extended family and friends of the Caixer Pagès so that everyone of all ages can participate in this ritual.
We have been fortunate enough to have access to some photos from this year’s preparation of the lambs from the farm of Lloc Nou.
Special thanks to my friend, photographer Caroline Pinnell, who was a guest with her daughter Olivia at the event, and to the family of the Caixer Pagès, Pau Bosch Moll and family.
We wish his brothers, the ‘Homo des Be’ Llorenc Bosch Moll, and his assistant brother Fernando the best of luck for tomorrow.