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A voyage around Saint Anthony

They were letting off rockets today at one of our local churches because it is Saint Anthony's day - San Antón to us. When we went to take a peek there were hams and things hanging around the church door and lots of old chaps, wearing flat hats, having a natter.

I knew that there was going to be some sort of festival from a calendar of events that I'd seen in a tourist office publication but it's only as I was piecing this post together that it has clicked what's actually going on. Of course I can't find a timetable anywhere to go and see the denouement of the celebrations.

Saint Anthony is the Patron Saint for animals* and there are church services to bless pets and animals all over Spain. There are also special cakes in the bakers, called Panecillos del Santo, that are offered to San Antón so that he will keep the beasts healthy and safe from disease. Apparently the form of these pastries varies from town to town. The Ciudad Rodrigo ones are supposed to have crosses on them, like hot cross buns, but I'd noticed flat wafer shaped ones too.

Saint Anthony has a special link to the pig. This Saint lived in a bare, locked, cell for a while; part of the standard saintly training I suppose. He was tempted by the devil in the form of a pig. Having none of it he beat the pig to death and was rewarded by the fierce and violent pig being resurrected as a docile companion.

So, back to the church door. Today they hang up an "aguinaldo," - the giftlet - of Saint Anthony which is made up of products from the killing of pigs, the traditional matanza. These are raffled by tickets that have been on sale throughout the town for a while (though nobody told me.) Also the brotherhood of Saint Anthony will be handing out those traditional pastries as a part of the deal.

Something similar is going on in Alberca where a pig has been wandering the streets since June. People feed the pig their scraps and by now the original 20kg piglet has put on a bit of weight and tips the scales at around 150kg. He's been raffled too.

*Saint Anthony is also the Patron Saint of: amputees; animals; basket makers; basket weavers; brushmakers; Burgio, Sicily; butchers; Canas, Brazil; cemetery workers; domestic animals; eczema; epilepsy; epileptics; ergotism; erysipelas; gravediggers; graveyards; hermits; hogs; Hospitallers; lost items ; monks; Mook, Nederlands; pigs; relief from pestilence; shingles; skin diseases; skin rashes; swine; swineherds and against pestilence.


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