Almost every town in Menorca will hold a celebration at some point during the year to honour their respective patron saints, but summer is high party season. Each celebration carries its own customs and traditions that stretch back centuries in some cases. At the Fiesta de Sant Joan in Ciutadella, those traditions include a very woolly life of the party.
The Fiesta de Sant Joan honours Ciutadella’s patron saints, which English speakers know at St. John the Baptist. Origins of the annual holiday, which is held the week of the saint’s birthday on 24 June, can be traced all the way back to medieval times. The five-day celebrations include a cavalcade and parade (featuring the famous black Menorcan horses), live music, games, and plenty of gin and lemonade. The celebrations can only begin in earnest, however, after the Dias de Bes – the ‘Day of the Lamb’.
The Day of the Lamb
The official start of the celebration is always the Sunday before the saint’s birthday. The Homo des Be (‘Man of the Lamb’) walks through the streets of Ciutadella with a white lamb on his shoulders, an act which symbolises St. John carrying Jesus Christ, often called ‘the Lamb of God’.
This is not just any baby sheep, however (and it certainly won’t end up on the dinner table later). This woolly celebrity is prepared all year long for its turn in the spotlight according to a specific protocol. It must be a male twin animal of the Menorcan breed, have curved horns, and the highest quality wool – a tall order. Several contenders will be pre-selected for the occasion, but only one will make the cut. Well before the event begins, the lamb and the man who will carry it get acquainted so that the animal is comfortable being carried through the streets.
Naturally, this party star has to look the part. The animal is washed to purest white, then adorned with ribbons, rosettes, and even a small crown, which is placed between the horns. When everything is finally prepared, the Homo des Be hoists the fluffy creature onto his shoulders and makes his way through town, accompanied by a police escort as well as the traditional flute and drum players. At various points the Homo des Be will stop to visit local homes, where family can pet the animal and take photos.
When the celebration is over, the lucky lamb is given as a gift to the Homo des Be, who will care for it on his farm. Obviously, fame does have its perks! If you’re interested in witnessing the Day of the Lamb for yourself, look into our properties in areas surrounding Ciutadella. You just might get a front row seat to all the action.