Trans-Iberian

Trans-Iberian

Covering everything from the major news of the week and burning social issues, to expat living and la vida local, EL PAÍS’ team of English-language bloggers offers its opinions, observations and analysis on Spain and beyond.

Bunny blessing at the feast of San Antonio de Abad

Por: | 22 de enero de 2014

 

Blessing

‘Es muy español’ said Marisa who had brought her five year old Yorkshire terrier, Max to be blessed.  ‘Muy, muy preciosa!’ I replied as I held my pet bunny Coco ready for action at the annual San Antonio de Abad animal blessing.

How Spanish indeed.  Deliciously chaotic - horses and their riders, hermanos in their Zorro-like capes, baying hounds and fur clad ladies with their perritos, joined curious tourists, bands of musicians and delegations of little children in the maelstrom.  I had also joined the procession and followed the beautiful flower bedecked float of San Antonio de Abad through the cobbled streets of San Lorenzo de El Escorial.  To add to the magic, the fog had closed in and the setting became perfectly mysterious and almost gothic.

Following a procession and float was pretty standard fare for me.  With so many Spanish fiestas under my belt this was nothing unusual, the unique aspect of this occasion was the fact it was not just a camera I was carrying in tow but my rather reticent pet rabbit.  We had passed beside the monastery, and now stood beneath the set of grey stone arches beside the María Cristina University. 

"Through San Antón, receive this blessing," declared the white robed priest as he showered holy water onto me and Coco.  And Coco, what was her response?  Did she suddenly take on an aspect of beatitude?  Not a chance, by now she’d had it up to her teeth.  She panicked and immediately tried to bolt.  It was not surprising really given at this point she had been juggled through the streets of the town.  Her sensitive nose and ears had had to endure a hammer house of horrors including the scent of hundreds of dogs; the sound of drummers and bugle players and droves of chattering voices.  Then to add insult to injury somebody had dribbled water all over her shiny black coat.  To say she looked disapproving and indignant about the whole affair would be an understatement.  She was not a happy bunny!

Laura and Coco

She was blissfully or rather unblissfully unaware that she was in fact an honoured little rabbit who had joined a long line of sierra dwelling animals that have been brought here by their owners to be blessed for centuries.

On the 17th January each year, San Antonio de Abad (also known as San Antón in Spain) the patron saint of animals is honoured with a feast.  After a solemn mass, the float with San Antón’s statue, is carried by hermanos in procession to his hermitage in Plaza Los Alamillos.  On route, the procession stops under the arches of the María Cristina University for a traditional blessing of animals.  It is a charming and colourful affair where for once in a Spanish fiesta, animals are the blessed honoraries.  Or are they?

That is the case, unless that is you are a pig.  Unfortunately for animals of the porcine variety, San Antón is not such a saint after all.  In fact, a key part of the feast of San Antón is a pig’s slaughter.  Unfortunately for the intelligent pig, it is considered by Christians like in many faiths as an unclean symbol of lust, greed, gluttony and the Devil and as such is eaten instead.  However, as a Godsend for the squeamish, the pig slaughter is no longer done publicly in the main plaza, rather pig products are brought along for the feast.  And little pig shaped biscuits are distributed to children who find themselves hoisted up in the air to kiss the statue of San Antón. 

Luckily for Coco, rabbit was not on the menu this time.  Though I don’t think Coco’s bunny brethren had escaped scot free.  I was pretty sure, on that frosty day; I spied many a hat, glove and coat that looked to me like they may have been of the rabbit fur variety!

Mother and daughter

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Authors (Bloggers)

Chris Finnigan is a freelance journalist based in Barcelona. He writes for Barcelona Metropolitan and is a book reviewer and reader for The Barcelona Review. He is a graduate of the London School of Economics. You can find him on twitter @chrisjfinnigan

Ben Cardew is a freelance journalist, translator and teacher, now resident in Barcelona after growing up gracefully in Scotland via Norwich. He writes for The Guardian, the NME and The Quietus, among others, on everything from music to digital media. You can find him on Twitter @bencardew

Fiona Flores Watson is a freelance journalist, guide and translator who has lived in Seville since 2003, and has been a writer and editor for more than 20 years. She writes for the Guardian, Telegraph and Sunday Times Travel Magazine. Originally from Essex, Fiona is also Consulting Editor of Andalucia.com and has her own blog, Scribbler in Seville. She has been contributing to Trans-Iberian since 2014 and tweets at @Seville_Writer

Jeff Brodsky is a freelance writer. He arrived in Barcelona in 2013 via an admittedly indirect route, living in Chicago, Arizona, Seville, Amsterdam, North Carolina and Madrid. Despite not having stepped foot in Seville for over five years, he still speaks Spanish with an Andalusian accent. Jeff’s writing has been published in newspapers and magazines in America and Europe.

Koren Helbig is an Australian freelance journalist and blogger enjoying a life of near-eternal sunshine in Alicante. She writes for publications in Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom, focusing on stories exploring smart and positive approaches to social issues. She hangs out on Twitter at @KorenHelbig and keeps a selection of her favourite stories at korenhelbig.com.

Julie Pybus lives in a small off-grid house on a hillside in Catalunya. She usually focuses on helping charities and social enterprises with their publications and websites, but has also written for The Guardian, Country Living and The Observer. Julie launched and runs a hyperlocal website which endeavors to increase understanding between the different nationalities in her area perelloplus.com. @JuliePybus

Paul Louis Archer is a freelance photographer, multimedia storyteller and artist educator. A cross-disciplinary worker, who endeavors to encompass the mediums of photography, audio design and writing. Born in Hertfordshire of an English father and Spanish mother. Based in the United Kingdom. @PaulLouisArcher

Vicki McLeod is a freelance writer and photographer. She has lived in Mallorca since 2004. Vicki writes about her beloved island for The Majorca Daily Bulletin, the only daily English language paper in Spain; produces regular columns for the Euro Weekly News, and articles for Spain-Holiday.com. Vicki runs PR strategies for several businesses in Mallorca and London as well as working on her own blogs and projects. She and her husband, Oliver Neilson, supply photo and text content for private clients via @phoenixmediamlr. She tweets at @mcleod_vicki.

Born in Newcastle upon Tyne and based in Barcelona, Alx Phillips writes about contemporary art, dance and theatre in a way that human beings can understand. For more previews, reviews, interviews and extras, check: www.lookingfordrama.com.

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