The Mallorcan Calender For the Illiterate

The traditional white paper doilies in Mallorca used as a Christmas decoration are called Neules.

Many moons ago, neules were hung in churches from a main lamp called the Solomon. Then, neules functioned as a kind of religious calendar helping the priest to let the poblers (villagers) know how many weeks and days would pass in that particular year, from Christmas Day to Dimecres de Cendra (Ash Wednesday), the first day of Cuaresma (Latin: quadragesima, Lent). Either the same number of neules were hung in the church as days were left until the first day of Lent, or larger neules were used for the number of weeks, with smaller neules being used for the remaining days. As the ecumenical year progressed towards Cuaresma, neules were removed one by one to give the faithful congregation a clearer impression of the period getting shorter by the day. Clever, isn’t it? Remember that a hundred years ago or longer, most people did not attend school and were thus unable to read or write, especially people living in the country.

Nowadays, hardly any parish cura (priest) uses the neules as a church calendar any longer. Instead, neules are now purely used for ornamental decoration purposes, and most churches put up an undetermined number of white paper cut-outs. In a way, it is a shame really that a charming tradition gets lost on the way.

Cuaresma in 2013 will start on Wednesday, February 13th (Miércoles de Ceniza [Ash Wednesday]), and will continue for 45 days until Friday, March 29th (Viernes Santo [Good Friday]). Easter Sunday will be March 31st, 2013. This year, that makes 50 days from Christmas (Navidad) to Ash Wednesday, calling for 50 neules. Counting in weeks, that would have to be seven large neules, plus one smaller one for the extra day.

The photo (bottom) was taken in 2009, showing the neules calendar with seven large neules and four smaller ones, taken on the Sunday after Christmas 2009, also at the church of Sant Miquel in Felanitx.

neules(2009)

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