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Formentera & the Fiesta de Sant Jaume

Going to Formentera this week? Don't miss the Fiesta de Sant Jaume!

This Thursday, 25th July, is the Fiesta de Santiago, a highly religious national holiday throughout the whole of Spain, to celebrate the country's patron saint.

In Formentera, this is known as the Fiesta de Sant Jaume (Catalan for Saint James). Unlike Santiago, its roots are of a much more recent origin and, most unusually for Spanish fiesta days, there are no religious connotations and very little homage is paid to the saint himself.

The story behind Formentera's homespun fiesta begins in the 14th century when, due to a series of epidemics, in particular, the Black Death, Formentera was completed abandoned. For three centuries, pirates ruled the seas around the Pitiusan islands, making the tiny and defenceless Formentera too dangerous a place to live.

By the end of the 17th century, the Ibicencos decided that enough was enough, and a counter-offensive of corsairs was formed which, over the years, managed to overcome the pirates. By the end of the century, families from Ibiza started to move back across the water and reclaim Formentera as their own.

Oddly enough, it turned out that a high proportion of the men who settled back on Formentera were named Jaume…and it also just so happened that the Fiesta de Sant Jaume fell within a relatively quiet time in the agricultural calendar, so this was considered the logical time for a celebration of thanksgiving for a bountiful life. People from Ibiza would travel by boat to pay a visit to family and friends on Formentera, and the perfect day for this reunion was, of course, the Fiesta de Sant Jaume.

Today, many people still travel from Ibiza to Formentera to celebrate this fiesta. There is much traditional folk dancing and singing, including the "cantada" - a country folksong between a man and a woman who settle their differences by singing in turn to each other.

As most of the families who live on Formentera originally came from Ibiza, the Fiesta de Sant Jaume has always been an opportunity for families from both islands to get together, but the local people are very welcoming to any holidaymakers who want to join in the celebrations.

So, if you are lucky enough to be in Ibiza or Formentera on the 25th, this fiesta will be well worth a visit because as we all know by now...the locals certainly know how to party!

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