Holiday Season in Mallorca

Everyone loves summer in Mallorca, but we kind of think winter is the most charming seasons of them all, especially around the holidays. Christmas markets and nativity scenes start cropping up across the island, spreading festive cheer, and twinkling lights illuminate quaint towns and villages nestled in the mountains. Things get cozy and magical. And some of the holiday customs and rituals, steeped in long-held traditions, might surprise you. We consulted with our Mimo Mallorca team to find out more about what happens during the holidays on the island.

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Christmas markets

Christmas fairs and markets here are enchanting, and a great place to shop for some handmade gifts. In Palma, the main markets are in Plaza Mayor and Plaza de España. You’ll even find a bit of Scandinavian holiday cheer on this Mediterranean island – the Swedish Church in Palma is home to a Christmas Bazaar every year, with Swedish decorations and foods like gingerbread and glögg (Swedish mulled wine). To add even more cheer to this jovial cityscape, festive lights twinkle to life at the end of November and last through Three Kings’ Day in January.

Song of the Sibil-la

The most celebrated day is Christmas Eve, la Nochebuena, a day for family gatherings, joyful eating, and midnight mass. If there’s one thing you do when in Mallorca for the holidays, let it be the Misa del Galo. Palma’s cathedral is packed for the occasion, as are most churches across the island. One of the most important and special moments of the mass is when El Cant de la Sibil-la (The Song of the Sibyl) is performed, a tradition that originated in the 10th century and was brought to Mallorca by King Jaime I. A child dressed in medieval clothing carries a sword through the cathedral and sings this ancient song – a Gregorian chant – that announces the arrival of the final judgment. The apocalyptic words alone paint quite a picture: “Great fire from the heaven will come down; seas, fountains and rivers, all will burn. Fish will scream loudly and in horror losing their natural delights.” It’s a magical yet eerie moment.

The song is performed in churches across the island. Forbidden by the pope in the 16th century, this tradition all but disappeared across Europe. Mallorca remains one of the only places where the ancient song is still alive, and was declared a UNESCO Intangible Heritage Tradition in 2010. Another great place to watch this thousand-year-old tradition is in the Sanctuary of Lluc, a monastery in Escorca.

After midnight mass, most people go for a cup of thick hot chocolate and ensaïmada, meeting with friends and families over a sweet bite. Cafes stay open and the streets stay lively on this special day.

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By comparison, Christmas Day is a more low-key affair, a day to be spent with family around the table. The main meal is the Christmas lunch, a feast that can last for hours. Some people choose to exchange gifts on this day, but the more typical and traditional time to do that is Three Kings’ Day in January.

Festive food

Christmas Day feasting is a rich, delicious, and lengthy endeavor! The main event is a juicy roasted suckling pig, porcella, or sometimes a turkey stuffed with wine-soaked apricots, prunes, raisins, and nuts. Other standards include the sopa de Nadal, a Christmas soup that’s a broth filled with large shell pasta stuffed with minced meat. This is the most popular one, but there are several other types of traditional soups that may make an appearance on the Christmas table, such as sopa dorada, which is with onion, meat, and sobrassada as well as some sherry, or the crema almendra, creamy almond soup.

Almonds, an important island crop, also make an appearance in the desserts. Almond cake is popular as well as tambor d’ametlla (almond nougat), and turrón is always around to sweeten up the meal.

New Year’s

Like the rest of Spain, New Year’s Eve in Mallorca is celebrated by eating 12 grapes at midnight. People congregate in town squares for the big event, awaiting the bell toll signaling the New Year – and eating one grape for every chime – for good luck. The San Silvestre Race and a Flag Celebration, L’Estandart, which commemorates King Jaime I’s arrival in Palma in 1229, round out the festivities on this special day.

Three Kings’ Day

One of the biggest days in Mallorca is Three Kings’ Day, or actually the eve of, January 5th. This day of grand festivities is a highlight for kids and when most of the gift giving happens. The Three Kings parade through town, theatrically arriving by boat in Port Vell. Fireworks, floats, music, and tons of people greet the highly anticipated guests, who parade through the city on camel, throwing candy into the crowds along the way. Though the main event takes place in Palma, this festive parading is replicated in towns across Mallorca.

Common fare on this day? A crown-shaped Three Kings Cake, Roscón de Reyes, that hides a surprise: a bean and small figurine of a king is baked into the cake. The lucky finder of the king gets to be “king for the day,” complete with golden paper crown, while the discoverer of the bean has to buy next year’s cake.

 

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