Celebrating Saint Anthony in Spain
Every January, the Spanish hold celebrations to Celebrate Saint Anthony, the patron saint of animals on the holiday aptly named Saint Anthony's Day with two starkly different celebrations. On the day of the celebration, pet-owners lined up around the block of the Church of San Anton in central Madrid to wait for a priest who stood at the entrance of the building to sprinkle holy water on Dogs, cats, rabbits and even iguanas, many of which were dressed in colorful sweaters to keep warm.
After having their pets blessed, citizens can be seen lined up outside church windows to buy bread rolls, one of which is traditionally kept for a year alongside a coin to ensure work and health and to guarantee the blessing of the saint.
The more controversial event takes place on the eve of St. Anthony's day in the village of San Bartolome de Pinares and is dubbed "Las Luminarias Festival.” It’s traditions combine the pre-Christian rituals of local peasants with Catholic beliefs that were brought into the culture by missionaries.
Approximately 600 people gather on the outskirts of the city to conduct a fire ceremony for the purification of their horses, and it’s believed that those able to finish their ride through the flames will be protected from misfortunes for the remainder of the year. The ceremony has faced much backlash over concerns of animal mistreatment over the years, however the town’s mayor, Maria Jesus Martin Gomez disagrees with critics by stating: “The only thing I have to say is that the animals don’t suffer anything at all.”
We hope you've enjoyed learning about the celebrations surrounding Saint Anthony's Day in Spain. What do you think about the dichotomy between the Las Luminarias Festival and the blessing of the pets? Let us know in the comment section below!