San Sebastian was a Roman military officer who was persecuted for his Christian faith. Palma was in the grip of a plague, when in 1524, a relic (a bone from his arm) arrived from Rhodes, bringing the plague to a miraculous end, which is why he is considered as the Patron Saint of Palma. The relic can be seen in Palma Cathedral.
For the crew, and indeed owners, of superyachts currently moored in or around Palma, or going through any refit and repair, it is a great night to get away from the boat, and to experience a well-loved cultural tradition.
The celebration of San Sebastian is a nearly two week affair from 11th – 26th January, throughout this period there is an exciting programme of events – guided tours, performances, exhibitions, sport, parades, children’s entertainment and workshops – but all the focus is on the evening of 19th – the Revetla de Palma – definitely an event not to be missed!
The Giants (Geants) parade from Plaza Cort with Drac na coca, a large fire breathing crocodile, to Plaza Major and about 20.00 Drac na coca will light the enormous bonfire – that is the signal for the rest of the fires (foguerons) round the city to be lit, and for the festivities and fun to begin.
In almost every square around the city free music covers every spectrum – folk, flamenco, rock, indie, jazz, the choice is yours. The stars of this year’s 32 groups are Hings, Las Migas, Chuchito Valdés, Funambulista, Derrick Carer y L’Ultim Indi.
Plaza Joan Carlos 1 (also known as the Plaza de las Tortugas) – is the place for rock, indie, metal, hardcore and punk.
Plaza de España – Furius Monkey House, Funambulista, Inot by Without String
Plaza de la Reine – where you want to be if you like Andalusian, Flamenco and Rumba
Plaza de Cort – for funk and jazz
La Feixina – electronic – the music with the most decibels!
Plaza de Olivar – here you can dance – to swing, salsa and cumbia
Plaza Major – popular folk music
There will be fires in every square, so bring food to grill – favourites are sobrasada, butifarron and chorizo, but any meat will do; toast Mallorcan bread to use as plates, and plenty of wine! (Don’t forget bbq tongs and a corkscrew!). But don’t worry if you come unprepared, there are lots of stalls / bars where you can buy food and something to drink.
Grab yourself a programme (or go online) to find out what’s going on and especially what music is being played in what square. Then there’s always the conundrum – do you go and watch Drac na coca light the first fire in Plaza Major – with all the build-up of excitement, or do you hot foot it to your favourite square / band to make sure you get a good fire and a good spot?
Finally, on January 26 San Sebastian will come to a grand finale with the Castellers de Mallorca (human towers) and the traditional Correfoc! Correfoc de San Sebastian – you just cannot imagine the thrill and excitement of dancing with fire breathing, whirling Devils (dimonis), with their tripods of fire. It’s good luck to dance with the devils underneath their showers of sparks – the drummers drum a very atavistic pounding beat, which gets everybody going – the smoke, the fires, the noise, the excitement as hooded devils charge through the streets showering one and all with sparks from their torches – terrifying, but a good way! Just make sure you are wearing long sleeves and have a scarf to cover your hair, especially if you are going to dance with the devils!
- It can be a bit confusing because the 17th of January is Sant Antoni, the patron saint of animals, and the celebrations, which take place all round the islands are very similar to those of San Sebastian – bonfires, devils and fireworks. The only real difference is that on the 17th people bring their animals to their local churches to be blessed.