The 17th of January marks the Feast of Saint Anthony, also called the Day of the Patron of Menorca. Known locally as Sant Antoni, or Diada del Poble de Menorca the day is a public holiday marked with various activities in every town. Sant Antoni is also celebrated in a big way on the other Balearic Islands, but in Menorca the day represents the freedom of the island from the Islamic rule of the Moors. Due to its strategic location in the Mediterranean Sea, Menorca is the Balearic Island with the most diverse history. It was occupied by various different countries and cultures for many centuries. Sant Antoni celebrates the victory of King Alfonso III in 1287 regaining the rule of Menorca from the Moors after almost four long centuries.
All around the island Sant Antoni is recognised with different events to mark the occasion. Some of these events include concerts, exhibitions, traditional dance displays, family entertainment, games, an outing of classic Menorcan fishing boats, street fairs, an official address by the local mayor, and special church services.
The Patron Saint of Animals
As Saint Anthony is also the patron of animals many locals bringing their pets to be blessed outside after Mass. This is a tradition which takes place in Es Mercadal, Es Migjorn, Sant Lluís, Es Castell and Maó where the largest gathering of pets and owners can be found. Pets of all shapes and sizes including fish, mice, guinea pigs, rabbits, birds, goats, dogs, cats, ponies and horses have been blessed amongst others! Menorcans love animals and many locals are constantly surrounded by them in family farms.
First Class Food & Craftsmanship
In Ciutadella, the Plaça de Sant Antoni is the first stop for most families to participate in the custom of buying oranges and fresh dates. The adjoining street of Sa Contramurada hosts a fair each year where the main road is closed and filled with stalls offering typical Spanish food, handicrafts and products local to the Balearic Islands. Made in Menorca products consist of wines, cheese, biscuits, handmade wood pieces, jewellery, leather bags, traditional wicker baskets, soaps and beauty products along with other items. Included also are handmade products from neighbouring Mallorca and mainland Spain such as olives, sweets, bread and cakes, cured meat products and ham, roasted nuts of all kinds, handmade knives and tools, homemade teas, incense, body creams and ceramics items. It’s worth having a browse just to see the incredible display of quality products, with the best of Spain laid out before you in one street. It is impossible to reach the other end without buying to try just a bit of all the irresistible food!
At the other end of the street fair lies the Plaça d’ Alfons III otherwise known as Sa Plaça de Palmeres. The latter name is more common referring to the palm trees in the square; however the official name references the historical significance of the day’s celebration. Crowds gather around midday after Mass to await the ceremony of Tres Tocs which means ‘three taps’. This tradition originated when it is said that King Alfonso III tapped the ground three times with a flag pole indicating the Moors to surrender the town. Each year the same ceremony is carried out where the town’s flag is tapped three times on a single tile marked with the cross of Saint Anthony in the middle of the square. A procession with three horsemen, the town flag, council officials, clergy and the town brass band make their way to the town hall which is especially dressed in red banners displaying the town emblem.
The town itself is a lively picture with many houses hanging flags from their brightly painted homes with contrasting coloured shutters.
Take a peek at our photos to get a feel for how the people of Ciutadella celebrate Sant Antoni.