January 2nd, 2013
So you thought that the party was over? But it’s just getting started in Spain! This weekend sees the arrival into every village square and city plaza of the esteemed Three Kings, those noblemen bearing gifts. They’ll dress up and hand over gifts and throw sweets high in the air for the children to catch - Spanish Christmas, if you like. If later in the month is when you plan to visit, and you’re still in the mood for more fun and fiesta, then make it on one of the Saint’s days – celebrated somewhere in Spain, every day of the year!
Start with San Antonio – and book yourself into the Balearics!
As children, if we lost or mislaid something, then Saint Anthony would be called upon or summoned, and pressed into action. A quick prayer, with the promise of payment usually assured us of finding the item in question.
Even though I still mislay items on a daily basis, I have lost that habit of calling him, although as I get older, with far more senior moments than blonde moments, I think maybe I should re – employ him!
It’s all about the animals
Here in Spain, and according to the Catholic church, San Antonio is the patron saint of animals, and his day is used as the perfect opportunity to bless all creatures great and small throughout the land.
The congregation tends to be four legged, with elegant riders arriving on horseback, and rubbing shoulders – or flanks! – with pedigree pooches, mangy mongrels, pampered cats,goats and chickens, even pigs … and quite likely the odd goldfish or hamster!
The Blessing of the Animals involves blessing both the creatures and their owners and ensures another year of good health and protection. The animals will walk right into church, sometimes dressed up for the occasion, so if you want to see a chicken in a hat – here’s your chance!
Where best to celebrate?
San Antonio is celebrated all over Spain in January – his day is 17th – and is known as Fiesta de San Antón. Sometimes, remember, it can be the day before or the day after, depending on the church and the mass.
Where better to head for, though, than to celebrate in San Antonio itself, on the wonderful island of Ibiza.
Summertime means the island gives over to clubbing, and stays awake 24 hours a day resonating to the pulsating rhythm, but January is a perfect time to see the island at it’s best and take in some of the traditional customs – and here’s a perfect chance. If you want something quieter, more tranquil and traditional island life at it’s best. Tiny villages, traditional towns, a stunning coastline and deserted beaches, all here just waiting for you.
As for the the celebrations on the day of the festival, then simply follow the animals! The little churches will be packed out, and afterwards aniseed doughnuts are handed out and devoured, spiced sausage is also on offer, I guess a gift from a pig, from last year - who wasn’t so lucky….!
If you would like to join in and ruffle a few feathers then browse this list of Ibiza island holiday rentals - maybe even one with a stable?!
In Catalonia, the day of San Antonio is known as the Festival of Antonio Abad – or St Anthony the Abbot.
Go the Eixample district of Barcelona and look out for the Els Tres Tombs procession – where the people and their four legged flock form a long procession and there’s a lot of other partying besides!
It’s really a stunning sight to see, the magnificent horses that form the parade stop the traffic as they go – and naturally they have priority.
In Valencia, you won’t be at all surprised that they incorporate fire into the fiesta – really, they just can’t have a party here without setting something alight!
Bonfires, fireworks and firecrackers, the pyromaniacs of Spain celebrate San Antonio with noise and flames. Big scale. In Canals, just south of the city – they have what is claimed as the biggest bonfire in the world on the eve of the saint’s day.
Well, the Canary Islands are the top Spanish Winter destination. A week or two of warm sunshine is just what you need to be prescribed, and Tenerife has just what the doctor ordered. Head to the little town of Arona, where they celebrate the day, and party all week!
Traditional Canary Island costumes, music and great food are the order of the week – with the sun shining warmly over the proceedings of course.
Treat yourself to a week of smiles in a Tenerife holiday rental – you know you want to! Click here for a full list of places to stay on the sun drenched island.
There’s even one apartment to stay right in Aronaitself, so you won’t have too far to walk! But get in fast!
Back to the Balearics and to the island of Mallorca. After the mass and the blessing of the animals, You might take a trip to Pollensa to see the Pi de Sant Antoni – it’s actually a greased pole, which revellers attempt to climb, the first one at the top receives a prize of a pig – we do this one where I live in Las Alpujarras – the same slippery guy wins every year!
The capital city, and a great Winter destination, Madrid is an obvious choice. Take a stroll through a crispy Retiro park, go shopping on Gran Via, see the home team play, or catch a show in one of the many theatres, see the sights – and join in with animal procession in the Chueca district!
It’s been held here since the 19th century, and is taken very seriously indeed. After the blessing has taken place, each member will receive three soft buns, two may be eaten but one must be kept alongside a coin – for one year until the next ceremony – to ensure the blessing remains intact. Wouldn’t fancy eating it after a year myself though…!
A vegetarian – of course – stew is cooked for all afterwards, over a wood fire in the street – hey, just imagine, another party!
So, there you have it. Whether you’ve lost something, want a year of good health for your four legged – or two legged – friend, or just fancy a Winter break under the blue Spanish sky, then head on over here to Spain, and celebrate with Saint Anthony!