YEARLY TRADITION: Spain’s patron saint of animals is celebrated

SPAIN has celebrated a traditional date in its calendar with crowds of animals receiving blessings outside a church in Madrid.

The feast day, which celebrates Saint Anthony of Abbot, Spain’s patron saint of animals, takes place on January 17 each year.

Dogs, cats, hamsters, rabbits, and even one hedgehog were blessed with holy water by Father Angel Garcia and other priests at the Saint Anthony of Abbot church in Spain’s capital, in a ceremony which is thought to bring health and protection to the animals over the following year.

In total, around 15,000 pets took part in the ceremony, with some even made their way inside the church for a mass afterwards.  One priest explained, “St. Anthony cared a great deal about dogs and abandoned animals, healing and feeding them. That’s where the tradition comes from.”

The tradition of bringing animals to the Madrid church for blessings on the saint’s day began in the mid-1980s, continuing in popularity for three decades.

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