It is hard to go anywhere on the island this weekend without bumping into a fierce-looking demon, a hooded figure with long beard or carnival figures wearing huge papier mache heads. For we are in the middle of the fiestas in honour of St Anthony, or Sant Antoni, as he is known popularly. This means bonfires (fogueron in Majorcan) and barbecues (torrada) tomorrow (some places start tonight) and parades and blessings of animals (ses beneïdes) on Monday, the actual feast day. Like many of the local traditions, it is believed to have been brought to the island by the Catalan troops who accompanied King Jaime during the Conquest from the Moors in 1229. By 1357 there was a church dedicated to St Anthony in Sa Pobla, and the earliest mention of the fiesta in local records dates from 1365 - in Sa Pobla. It is no coincidence that this is where the biggest celebrations are held today. By 1400, there was an altar dedicated to the saint in the Cathedral, and soon after that a chapel in Llucmajor. He was honoured in Pollensa from 1384 and Artà from 1564. The animal parade in Palma may be longer, but the animals are domestic pets, with some horses and riders and a few floats. In the outlying towns and villages, particularly farming towns, farm animals are often brought to be blessed and there are generally more floats, most of them depicting scenes of rural life.

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