It turns out that 17 January is the Feast Day for San Antonio Abate, the patron saint of domestic pets. People throughout Spain take their pampered pets to church for "The Blessing of the Animals" - cats, dogs, rabbits, mice, pigs, ferrets, donkeys, even goldfish. Following a ritual sprinkling, the faithful are given panecillos del Santo, lucky buns made from a secret recipe which is supposed to keep them fresh for a year.
|SAN ANTONIO ABATE|
|ELS TRES TOMBS, BARCELONA|
The reason I hadn't been aware of it before, I suspect, is that in Alcalá de los Gazules there are very few pampered pets; here, animals have to earn their keep. Dogs are for hunting or guarding property, cats are for catching mice, and the chicas who carry Yorkies or chihuahuas round in their handbags probably aren't the town's most dedicated churchgoers. Our own extremely pampered pet can think herself lucky she lives in an atheist household.