Sant Antoni 2022: A burning pine and animal blessing marks return of fiesta to Xàbia

A bonfire warmed up those who attended on a chilly Saturday night whilst the warm winter sun welcomed those who attended the animal blessing on Sunday.

Monday 17th January 2022 – MIKE SMITH

After an absence of two years, the festivities of Sant Antoni returned to Xàbia this past weekend, a clear sign that life is inching its way back towards some normality, despite the spread of the Omicron variant in recent weeks. Although some aspects of the traditional programme had to be removed, such as the offering of snacks and mistela to those who attended the traditional burning of pine, the hard-working members of CAE Tiraset were able to provide both major elements of the weekend, the burning and the animal blessing.

On Saturday morning, the group’s powerful horses dragged a pine tree from the Plaza de la Constitución to the square of Sant Antoni, to the south of the old town where it was prepared for the traditional burning, an act celebrated across much of the eastern side of Spain, in the Balearic Islands, and across the Mediterranean in Naples in Italy.

That evening, at 8.00pm and accompanied by the stirring psadoble of Xàbia, a string of firecrackers set off in the presence of councillor Kika Mata (Fiestas), as well as several other members of the local council, sparked the flames that would engulf the 5m high pine pyramid. Whilst attendance by the public was clearly down on previous years, many locals still turned out to experience this warming event, many watching from the road above, and all wearing their masks and observing social distancing as requested by regular announcements in between the music. As the flames climbed higher into the chilly night sky, the fire brigade stood to one side, on hand to calm the inferno if necessary. They weren’t needed. To cheers from all sides, the central trunk collapsed in a flurry of sparks and the crowd drifted off to enjoy a dinner and toast a drink to Sant Antonio.

On Sunday morning, a cavalcade of horses and carts made the traditional route to the port from the square of Sant Antoni to the Plaza de la Constitución, accompanying the image of Sant Antoni on a marvellous wooden carriage. At 1.00pm, the priest Salvador Torrent made the blessing as many residents passed below with their pets, dogs clearly the majority but they were also accompanied by the occasional tortoise, turtles, hamsters, ferrets, rabbits, guinea pigs, birds, and cats.

It was a shorter ceremony than normal, the ongoing pandemic clearly playing on the minds of those who wanted to avoid the crowds. But those who did attend, always wearing their masks and observing social distancing, were able to enjoy this special moment for the pets of the town under a warm winter sun.

Today – Monday 17th January – is the feast day of Sant Antoni and a second animal blessing will be taking place on the promenade alongside the beach of La Grava, played out against the backdrop of the headland of Sant Antoni.

For many years, you’ve told us how much you love what we’re doing and some of you have even asked for ways to say thanks. For us, there really is nothing easier to show someone how much you appreciate their efforts than buying them a beer (or a wine; or even a coffee) – it’s so simple. Click on the link below to find out more.