The calendar for the popular fiestas is as follows:
June 23rd and 24th: Sant Joan in Ciutadella.
End of July: Es Mercadal, Fornells and Es Castell.
August, almost every weekend: Es Migjorn Gran, Llucmaçanes, Alaior, Sant Climent, Ferreries (24th and 25th, Sant Bartomeu) and Sant Lluís.
September 8th and 9th, Mare de Déu de Gràcia in Maó.
The most traditional of the fiestas is that of Sant Joan. It dates back to the beginning of the 14th century and is religious in origin. The vestry-board of the saint heads in pilgrimage on horseback, to a small rural chapel in order to honour their patron. The "caixers" are riders who represent the social strata: the church, nobility, craftsmen (master and apprentice) and country people (farmers, one from the north and one from the south of the city limits). The "cavallers" (riders) who make up the majority of the "qualcada" (cavalcade), are all country people of different ages, from 7 or 8 to more than 70!
The fiesta starts on the Sunday prior to the 24th June, known as the "Día des Be". A countryman, dressed in lambskin, similar to Saint John the Baptist, walks barefoot through the old streets of Ciutadella accompanied by the "caixers" (riders), who are also on foot, inviting everyone to the fiesta that is approaching. On the 23rd at precisely 2 p.m., the fiesta starts at the palace of the "Caixer Senyor" (the nobleman) who presides over the fiesta for a two-year period. The fiesta starts with the "primer toc" , which is the first playing of a flute known as the "flabiol". This is a simple flute made out of cane and this, together with a small drum, permanently marks time for the celebration.
The main events and the times of the fiesta are as follows:
23rd June: 2 p.m.: palace of the "Caixer Senyor"; 6 p.m. Plaça des Born, where horses and riders demonstrate their skills and elegance to the rhythm of the "jaleo", the typical music of the fiesta; 7.30 p.m.: rural chapel of Sant Joan de Missa, which is 3 kms. from Ciutadella; 9 p.m.: calle de Ses Voltes, plaza de la Catedral; 11.30 p.m.: the narrow streets between Ses Voltes and the museum of the Bastió de Sa Font and Santa Clara.
24th June: approx. 10.00 a.m.: trials for the Medieval games in Pla de Sant Joan in the port of Ciutadella. The evening events are repeated in the medieval streets. At 6 p.m. the "convidada" takes place. This is when the noble rider invites the town hall to view the games that take place in Es Pla an hour later: These games are the most spectacular and dangerous of the fiesta and the most experienced riders take part in these games. They consist of three trials of equestrian skills: "Ensortilla", which is a test of equilibrium and aim; " rompre ses carotes", which is a jousting test between two riders and finally a more dangerous test in which two horses set off on a gallop together, with their riders arm in arm.
The typical drink of the fiesta and of all fiestas of the island is "gin", a heritage of the English, which is drunk with lemonade or fresh lemon juice. This drink is known as "pomada" in most of the island.
During Sant Joan and the other summer fiestas, the Minorcan breed of horse has one of the most important roles, even though other breeds of horses also take part. The Minorcan breed of horse, officially recognized as an indigenous breed in 1989, should be completely black in colour and slender, with rounded eyes and a lively look, muscular and powerful, with long extremities, a noble character, energetic and strong with an elegant and rustic appearance. These horses are suitable for any type of saddle or harness. The Association of Owners and Breeders of the Minorcan horse work tirelessly to improve the genes of this horse, that is very popular with European breeders, especially Catalan, German and Italian breeders. According to the latest research, this breed is of Berber origin and it is one of the few totally black horses preserved in Europe. As work in the fields was traditionally done using donkeys, the horse has maintained its slenderness and agility of movement. Today, there are examples of this horse of great beauty and continuous interest.
The patron saint fiesta is repeated in other fiestas of other towns and villages of the island, but the "Caixer Senyor" (nobleman rider) is replaced by the "Caixer Batle", who is the mayor or a member of the town council.
The patron saint fiesta of the island takes place on January 17th and is known as "Sant Antoni". On this day, the arrival of troops from the Catalan-Aragonese king, Alfonso III the liberal in 1287 is remembered. From this date, the island was incorporated into the kingdom of Aragón, after having been under Muslim domination for nearly 400 years.