Sant Joan and The Tourism
The celebrations of Sant Joan in Ciutadella are unique and spectacular. For a few days the city of Ciutadella is transformed into a place where more and more people celebrate a very fun and family centered parties.
Sant Joan festivities have become over the years an increasingly popular tourist attraction, so people from all over Europe and especially Catalonia travel to Ciutadella in late June .
The history of the holidays is largely unknown by most foreign attendees. It’s a celebration that dates back to the fourteenth century and has religious motivations (although no one can verify the fact). With the time the celebrations have been modified to add some acts that differ from the original celebration to give a different feeling to the party.
One of the most curious characteristics of the festival is the representation of different social classes of the society of the time. The “Caixer Senyor” represents nobility, “Caixer Capellà” represents the clergy, “Caixers Pagesos” represent the farmers and “Caixers Menestrals” representing craftsmen.
The celebrations of Sant Joan consist of a series of distributed events along approximately one week (actually there are 5 key days). The busiest days are 23 and 24 June, but are also interesting the day known as “Dia des Be” . Below you can see a brief summary of all the events of the celebrations.
“Vetlla des Be”
The Saturday before the day of Sant Joan. A lamb, prepared thoroughly for the holidays, it is veiled overnight. It is spectacular to see how white and spotless the lamb is. You’ll never see a cleaner animal.
“Dia des Be” – The Day of the Lamb
The Sunday before Sant Joan. It’s generally considered the start of the celebrations. The members of the Board of “Caixers” meet at the Caixer Senyor’s house.
On this day you can see l’Homo des Be (Man of the Lamb), which represents Saint Joan Baptist, walking barefoot through the streets of Ciutadella with a white lamb on his shoulders. In the afternoon, at approximately 20:00, there is a “war” of hazelnuts on Avinguda de la Constitució street.
The 23th of June is the eve of Saint Joan. Ciutadella is already crowded with visitors from all over the island. At 14:00 the “fabioler” (a man with a flute and drum, mounted on a donkey), visits the home of “Caixer Senyor” to start the gathering of cavallers.
At 18:00 takes place the “Caragol des Born”, one of the first mass events at some risk for attendees: the horses go around the Plaça des Born square with the rhythm of live music played by an orchestra.
If at any time the music stops suddenly, it means that someone may have been hurt.After this event, the battle of hazelnuts (good event for children and older people) starts on Contramurada street.
At night you can see the Caragol de Santa Clara, where riders and horses go around the streets of Ciutadella and enter the houses of the people. It is an appropriate time for all ages, and you can step inside most of the houses and take pictures, just ask kindly.
24th June: Sant Joan
Sant Joan’s Day is the “biggest” day of the holidays. At 08:00 am the “fabioler” goes to Caixer Senyor’s house to start the celebrations. During the morning tests are performed at the same place where that same night will take part the famous “Jocs des Pla” (splanade games). I’ve never had the pleasure of attending the trials.
Around 17:00, you will see how the streets near to “Es Pla” begin to be really really crowded. People prepare for one of the most spectacular (and very dangerous) events of all: the Jocs des Pla, which will take place from 19:00 disregarding the possible delays (sometimes at 19.00, sometimes at 21.00, it depends on too much factors and it’s unpredictable).
The Jocs des Pla are for me the most fun and entertaining events. The Games are sepparated in several parts.
During Carotades (maks) two horsemen ride in parallel and while one of them holds a mask, the other one tries to break it with a stone. Try to stay away at all costs when the mask is broken, since local people will jump in brutal form to try to catch any of the small pieces or splinters of the mask falling to the ground.
In the Jocs de s’Ensortilla (Ring games), riders will ride at a gallop and with a spear in his hand from one end of Es Pla. At the other end you can see a ring or “ensortilla” hanging from a cable. The rider will try to hit with his spear the ring, a few centimeters in diameter. The difficulty of this game is extreme, and every time a rider hits the target live music is played by the orchestra and people will start to dance like there is no tomorrow with joy.
In 2014 a 66 year-old woman died during the Jocs des Pla (Games of Es Pla) when she was hit by a galloping horse.
Which Are the Most Recommended Events?
If you go by Sant Joan to Ciutadella, you may feel like you do not know which of the dozens of small and big events held during the holidays. I personally recommend to attend, whenever possible, to the walk of l’Homo des be (the Sunday before Sant Joan).
I also recommend watching the Caragol des Born (June 23) and certainly the Jocs des Pla (June 24). Plan your schedule well as to see Jocs des Pla from a good place and without risk, you should go at least an hour or two (or three!) before.
Before Travelling to Ciutadella in Sant Joan
If you go by Sant Joan in Ciutadella you’re not going to regret it, but there are a number of things you should better know before you get there.
- The city is fully crowded during the holidays. Look for accommodation and car rental well in advance.
- The Caragol des Born sometimes can be dangerous, especially for short people or children. When you see agitated movements of horses, you should get away a little of the crowded areas.
- In the Jocs des Pla, during games “Carotes” (masks) people are crazy about getting a piece of a mask. Try not to be in the middle when the mask breaks! Also, during Jocs de Sensortilla (Ring games) it is very dangerous to approach in excess of the main corridor.
- The most important characters of the holidays are horses and riders, and if you ever forget it people will remember you the fact not very kindly.
- If you do not like the Gin amb llimonada (Ginebra with Iced Lemon) I’m sorry for you, it’s like THE official drink.