January 20, 2018

Saint Antony ... for some people animals are important. For others, they are simply disposable

MADRID - On 17 January, 'the day of the animals' is celebrated everywhere in Spain on the name day of San Antonio Abad, Saint Anthony of Egypt. On this day, the Tres Tombs celebrations are held in Catalonia and the Comunidad Valenciana region, where special church masses are organized where owners of their pets or any other animal can go to receive a blessing. In other places such as in Canals, Valencia, on the night before the name day a big bonfire, La Hoguera, takes place, the largest in the world, while in various villages and towns in Andalusia special activities take place and in Madrid it is a madhouse at the most important church.

If you happen to walk past a church on Wednesday 17 January and see a crowd of people, do not think of a wedding or funeral. It is on that day that the church blesses the animals because this is the name day of San Antonio Abad, the patron saint of all animals. It is not unusual to see hundreds of people with their cats, dogs, parrots, pigs, horses, donkeys, rabbits, turtles, snakes, etc. at the church where they hope that the priest will give their beloved animal a blessing. It is now an annual tradition that is taken seriously by many believers.

In many places in the country there are special masses that are usually held on the street in front of the church because it is so crowded and the animals prefer not to be in the church. That is the case, for example, in the church located in Madrid near the Iglesia de San Antón in the Calle de Hortaleza. This church is, as the name implies, named after the patron saint and so this is the place par excellence for the animal lovers and church-minded. However, Madrid is not the only place where animals can be blessed. This also happens in many places in the state of Catalonia where the Tres Tombs parties take place. In the Valencia region people celebrate this joyous fact with bonfires, called hogueras.

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