The blessing of pets has become a tradition in Rome. Every year dogs, cats, crickets, bunnies, and other two or four-legged friends get in line to receive the priestly blessing on the S. Antonio Abate’s day, the patron saint of pets. The date is January 17th.
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The most popular blessing of the pets in Rome goes down on the porch of the S. Eusebio Church in Piazza Vittorio in Esquilino area. It happens after the procession of the statue of S. Antonio Abate.
Sunday January 14th, Parco della Caffarella: Pet Festival. Before the blessing in the S.Eusebio’s Church we recommend you to attend an outdoor event. Sunday January the 14th there will be a pet festival and the blessing of dogs, cats and the like in the Regional Park of the Caffarella.
The festival starts at 9:30 and finishes at 3 pm. Here’s the program:
9:30 am: Preview of Cammino Naturale dei Parchi. Meetup in Piazza di Porta Capena, right outside Circo Massimo line b subway station. For hiking lovers there’s a traveling introduction of the Cammino Naturale dei Parchi (CNP). 430 km between Rome and L’Aquila. Guided walk with arrival at 11 am in the festival area where the staff of the 7 crossed parks will be present.
10:30 am to 4 pm: Activities for children; farm animals; information stands; Lazio local products; Fox scavenger hunt.
11:00 am to 1 pm: Opening and guided tour of the Cisterna Ninfeo, playground in Largo Tacchi Venturi.
11:00 am: Music with the band of the bagpipes, directed by maestro Alessandro Maziotti.
11:30 am: Holy Mass and blessing of the pets with the parish priest of Chiesa di San Giuda Taddeo Apostolo.
1 pm to 2:30 pm: Farmer lunch by Associazione Produttori Terra Terra at the Casa del Parco (price 5 euros per dish, drinks not included). Reservations: firstname.lastname@example.org
3 pm: Bonfire of Sant’Antonio.
On January 1th the Catholic Church blesses the pets. It offers them Sant’Antonio Abate’s protection.
The custom of blessing the pets dates back to the Middle Ages in Germany. Back then every village bred a pig to be donated to Sant’Antonio monks that helped out in the hospitals. In the XI century the city halls decided to forbid the trading of pigs in the small towns. But they made an exception for the pigs of the Antonians that from the pig got food for the sick and financial support for themselves. So this animal started to develop an holy aura and old sayings claimed that stealing one would bring bad luck to the thief.
According to a venetian legend, the night of January 17th animals get the gift of word but make sure you don’t speak to them, it’s a bad omen!