Sant Llorenç, or Saint Lawrence to English speakers, was a deacon of Rome during the third century AD, and faced persecution at the hands of the Emperor Valerian. After the execution of Pope Sixtus II on Valerian’s orders, the prefect of Rome demanded that Lawrence surrender the Church’s treasures. As the legend has it, Lawrence spent three days gathering the treasures and distributing them to the poor. When called forth to present the treasures, Lawrence brought forward the poor, ill, and suffering of Rome, claiming that they represented the true wealth of the Church. Lawrence suffered a martyr’s death for his disobedience, and is today one of the most widely venerated saints in the Catholic Church, and the patron saint of several towns and cities around the world.
Alaior honours its patron saint with a celebration every summer during the second weekend in August. If you’re staying in or around Alaior near that time, it’s a party that you won’t want to miss. The fiesta follows the same schedule every year, so here’s a rough outline of what to expect:
Friday evening – Around 20:30, the mayor of Alaior presents a flag to the head of the cavalcade. This constitutes the official go-ahead for the festivities to begin.
Saturday – The flute player (fabioler) gathers the horse riders (caixers) to begin the cavalcade. The cavalcade leads the parade, which features huge papier-mache figures called gegants i capgrossos (giants and big heads). After evening Mass at 20:00, the cavalcade returns to the town square, where the caixers and their horses perform a dance called jaleo, in which the horse is drawn onto its hind legs. Daring party-goers may try to touch the horse’s heart for good luck.
Sunday – The fabioler begins the festivities in the same fashion as on Saturday. The caixers and town authorities attend Mass at Saint Eulália Church, at which time rosewater (l’aigua-ros) is sprinkled upon the congregation. After Mass, the cavalcade laps the town once more and the jaleo is played again. After returning the flag to the Town Hall, the cavalcade retires.
These activities form the backbone of the event’s proceedings, but you should also expect to see fireworks, public dances, and parade floats, along with the frequent appearance of a traditional drink, a gin-and-lemonade mix called pomada.
The best way to experience the fiesta is to rent a villa just outside Alaior – the nearby beach resorts of Cala en Porter and Son Bou are both popular choices. Remember to bring along plenty of water, sunscreen, and comfortable walking shoes for a weekend of authentic Menorca partying!