Blessed be… our pets: The fiesta in Spain’s Valenica where animals go to church

THE popular San Antonio festival returns to Valencia this weekend (January 16) after being cancelled last year because of COVID. 

For centuries owners have bought their animals – from dogs and horses to more exotic animals such as ferrets, turtles and parrots – to be blessed by three priests with an olive branch. 

The fair also features the giant bonfire (foguera) burnt in honour of St Anthony, which is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s largest bonfire. 

San Antonifestival Calendar Of January 2020 3
The bonfire during Valencia’s San Antoni festival. Photo: creative commons on flickr

The fiesta goes back to the 18th century where farmers would ride their horses to the convent that was built by San Antonio Abad church in Calle Sagunto.

They would then ride their horses around an ancient olive tree, decorating their animals with a twig from the tree to protect them from evil in the year ahead. 

This is the program of events for Sunday, January 16, next to the parish of San Antonio Abad:

10:00 h . High Mass in honor of the patron Sant Antoni Abadt Presiding: Elme. Rev. Cardinal Archbishop of Valencia, Antonio Cañizares Llovera. Blessing of the rolls that will later be given to the animals participating in the party.

11:15 a.m. Blessing and parade of animals in the following order:

– Release of pigeons by the Falleras Mayores de Valencia 2022.

– Public with pets.

– Local police mounted in gala uniforms.

– Solemn entry of the Falleras Mayores of Valencia and the Honorable Clavariesa of the Vicentine Festivities and the Queen of the Rat Penat floral games, in gala carriages escorted ahead by the Local Police in full dress uniform.

– Cavalry units of the National Police and cavalry squad of the Civil Guard in full dress.

– Tabalet and sweets.

– Canine units of the Civil Guard, National Police, Local Police of Valencia and Military Emergency Unit.

– Crop shooting carts.

– Luxury hitches and carriages.

– Horse riding and picadors.

– Amazons and horsemen.

– Public with pets.

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