Les Matines and the Cant de la Sibil·la, Mallorca’s most characteristic Christmas tradition - Nivia Born Boutique Hotel
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Les Matines and the Cant de la Sibil·la, Mallorca’s most characteristic Christmas tradition

Christmas Eve in Mallorca is not only filled with special dishes, gifts, nougat and carols. There is a ceremony, the Misa del Gallo, on the island known as Matines, which marks the beginning of the Christmas festivities. This Catholic mass is one of the most eagerly awaited and significant for the Mallorcan community, who congregate in the churches on the night of 24th December to take part in this liturgical ritual commemorating the birth of Jesus of Nazareth.

The Matines ceremony begins in the late afternoon or at midnight and is special because of its emotive nature and the passion it arouses among the parishioners. In the Cathedral of Mallorca (La Seu), one of the most emblematic places to enjoy this religious service, the Midnight Mass begins at 11 p.m. with the Sermó de la Calenda, a sermon given by a boy or girl who narrates the birth of Jesus. After a Eucharist presided over by the Bishop of Mallorca, Sebastià Taltavull, it is time for the moving Cant de la Sibil·la, which consists of the recitation of prophecies about the birth of the Messiah and the Last Judgement. A child performs this prophetic chant in a solemn tone. The music, the costumes and the liturgy contribute to create a unique experience that transports the faithful back in time.

The Cant de la Sibil·la, a tradition that only survives in Mallorca and Sardinia, dates back to the Middle Ages and was declared Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 2010. Another of the most popular places to witness the Cant de la Sibi·la on Christmas Eve is the Santuari de Lluc, where a member of Els Blauets – as the Escolania de Lluc, the oldest choir on the island, is popularly known – sings the chant of medieval origin and Gregorian melody to the expectation of dozens of attendees from 7 pm onwards.

Sweet farewell to Christmas Eve

After Midnight Mass, Mallorcan tradition dictates that it is time to enjoy another distinctive element of local culture: ensaimadas, often accompanied by hot chocolate. Families and friends gather to prolong the celebration and communion by sharing these sugar-topped buns, symbol of Christmas. It was from 1940 onwards that this custom became widespread. In those days, large Christmas Eve dinners were not common and all efforts went into preparing the Christmas meal.

One of the most popular cafés for Mallorcans to enjoy a delicious cup of chocolate with an ensaimada or quarto is Can Joan de s’Aigo, which has been standing since 1700. It currently has premises in Carrer Baró de Santa María del Sepulcre, another in Carrer Sindicat and a third in Carrer Can Sanç.

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