Festivity of Saint Anthony Abbot
The festival of animals with more than 200 years of tradition
Thousands of animals running around the streets of Valencia with their proud owners and you without knowing it? From more conventional pets such as dogs, cats and even horses, to exotic species such as ferrets, turtles, colourful grey parrot, chameleons and snakes in their terrariums. The canine and mounted units of the Spanish security forces also attend. This is not a re-edition of Noah's ark. No. It is the popular San Antonio Abad festivity, better known in this city as Sant Antoni del "porquet" (little pig).
This tradition, which is recognised as a festival of provincial tourist interest, has for centuries attracted a large number of people who have wanted to see how the animals are blessed with a twig, if possible an olive branch, for hours by three priests who, at street level, make every effort to comply with each and every one of the specimens brought in on purpose. Yes, because the times when a single religious was capable of performing the ritual from the rostrum are far away. The growing number of animals gathered in a patient row, several thousand, makes it impossible.
The chronicles say that at the end of the 18th century this custom was already deeply rooted among the people of the city, related to the veneration of Saint Anthony Abbot, patron saint of animals. It is possible that its origin is much earlier. The owners of cavalry, the great majority of whom were farmers, would go to the convent that was built where today we can see the parish church of San Antonio Abad (Calle Sagunto 188) every 17th January. There, they would ride their horses around a very old olive tree that existed in the cloister and take a twig from this tree that they would put as an ornament on their animals, confident that it would rid them of all evil. This explains why, more than 200 years later, the tradition is still maintained today.
When is the date?
On January 17th from 10:00 am next to the parish of San Antonio Abad, when the mass in honour of the saint begins and the subsequent blessing of the animals, at 11:00 am. But you can also enjoy the huge bonfire in honour of the saint and the traditional market that has accompanied it since the previous weekend. Remember that if you travel to Valencia with your pet, you can also come along to parade and receive the blessing. There is a turn reserved for the stragglers at the end of the event!