The 2024 edition of the celebrations honouring Sant Antoni Abad kicked off on Saturday with the traditional burning of the pine tree to warm a chilly January evening and continued on Sunday with the procession of horse and carts followed by the blessing of the animals.
The members of CAE El Tirasset have organised the celebrations in the town for more than two decades and, as has long been tradition, the weekend began with the transfer of the pine tree from Plaza de la Constitución to the rough car park in Calle San Antonio where the niche of the saint is located.
During the day, they prepared the pine for the burning. As night fell, the sound of rockets filled the chilly darkness, calling the people of Xàbia to come and warm themselves next to the flames. Several hundred people surrounded the tall pine tree, some gathered on the road above, before a member of the group, Mª Angeles Espasa, placed the dark smock, bandana and flat cap of her recently departed father onto the branches. She was then offered the chance to ignite the fire by lighting the colourful string of bangers – the traca – and the green pyramid burst into flames as the popular tune of ‘Xàbia’ played over the speakers. It was an emotional moment for all.
As the fire burned, watched carefully by the firefighters in the background, the gathered people were able to enjoy snacks and drinks offered by members of CAE El Tirasset before drifting back to the warmth of their own homes.
The Blessing of the Animals
The following day, after a procession of horse and carts from the town to the port and back, the parish priest was on hand to bless the animals, Sant Antoni being the patron saint of domestic pets amongst other things.
Photographs by Fay Hughes