Saturday, October 18, 2014

Saint Luke And The Fairs Of Inca

Inca, the administrative and legal centre for the north of Mallorca, stages the first of its four autumn fairs this weekend. But how was it that Inca came to have these fairs?

The town, along with Sineu, were granted royal privileges in the fourteenth century to stage fairs in the "part forana", i.e. outside of Palma. Historians say it is not possible to determine exactly when these fairs started, but as Sineu can place a date on its May Sa Fira to 1318, they would date from more or less the same time. Indeed, Inca did apparently at one time have a spring May fair but, because the two towns operated a form of duopoly, the decision was made to switch Inca's fairs to the autumn. Inca's importance as a commercial centre, which was the case in the years after the Catalan conquest, partly explains why there are four fairs, but that's not the whole story.

The first fair was, in mediaeval times, held on the feast day of Saint Luke, which is today, 18 October. The second and third fairs took place on the two following Sundays, while the fourth, which was to come to be known as Dijous Bo, was not permitted to be held on a Sunday. That was because it was the day to celebrate Santa Maria la Major. It was moved to the Thursday and in the process created additional excitement, greater participation and what was eventually to lead to its name. There is an old expression - "quin dijous més bò - what better Thursday. The name Dijous Bo may well have been around for much longer, but a documented record of the name appeared for the first time in 1807.

The fairs still follow this pattern but not quite. In 1542 the town of Llucmajor petitioned Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor, to be allowed to hold a fair. Inca and Sineu were having none of it and so they took the matter to court. They lost. In 1545 Llucmajor held its first fair. The problem was that, in addition to a breaking of the duopoly, its fair was going to clash with Inca's first fair. It would in fact be a series of markets from the feast day of Saint Michael (29 September) up to and including Saint Luke (incidentally the Catalan name Sant Lluc plays no part in Llucmajor's name, that has to do with an ancient word for forest). Inca, therefore, compromised and moved its first fair to the first Sunday after Saint Luke, which is still the case. Though there are events for the fair in Inca today, the main day is most certainly tomorrow - the first Sunday after Saint Luke.

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