Blessing of the Animals...
Since 1930, the beautiful tradition of blessing the little critters has taken place on historic Olvera Street, in downtown Los Angeles.
This ceremony is held in honor of the animal-loving Saint, San Antonio de Abad (St. Anthony of the Desert). On his Feast Day, the Catholic Church would allow animals to enter the church for a fertilty blessing. The ceremony also expresses grateful recognition of the tremendous services given to the human race by animals. Whether it be companionship, labor or a food source, animals continue to be integral to the survival and comfort of individuals and societies.
San Antonio's actual Feast Day is January 17, however the festival was moved to Easter weekend to help ensure good weather. (Something we don't generally worry about in LA... but why take a chance?)
Furry, scaled and feathered friends from all walks of life, and all corners of Southern California life, and beyond, were in attendance. Farm animals, zoo animals, puppies, kitties, rabbits, reptiles were driven, carried, walked and rolled in to the plaza (town square) and mixed and mingled with the fellow faithful.
Being around so many animal lovers offered a great opportunity for children to learn compassion for all creatures and to acquaint themselves with otherwise unfamiliar faces from the animal world and to learn to respect rather than fear or abuse them.
I have been dying to see this festival for myself since I first learned about it when working a project for National Geographic Traveler, a few months ago. I was sent down to get photos of the location and fell in love with this mural, located just of the plaza and depicts the event. I've had the animal blessing on my calendar ever since, so there was no way I was going to miss all the action when the special day rolled around! I would have loved to bring my roley poley fat kitties down to get blessed but I know they would not have been down with lining up in the hot sun with a bunch of other pets. My little street rescues are way too high-maintenance for that!
The petting zoo was filled with baby animals. Billy goats, ducklings and my favorite baby pot belly pig. It is moments like this that make me regret that I like sausage so damn much!
Some of the animals waiting to be blessed were rescues, like the mom and baby turtle duo. I learned that many families get turtles or tortoises not realizing that how big they can get. Once they grow out of the initial container, the family may not want the creature anymore.
In addition to animal entertainers (aren't they all just naturals?), there were singing and dancing groups. The tiniest of those were, of course, the most adorable. The one little caballero amid the swirling, twirling girls in colorful skirts just melted my heart!
These little girls saw me whip out my camera and immediately did like Madonna and "struck a pose" and big smiles. (We are in L.A., afterall. Everyone wants to be a star.)
And, this polished dance troupe was every bit as professional as they look. They took this all very seriously, thank you very much.
Days like this remind me how lucky I am to live in a city filled with cultural diversity and colorful personality.
Viva Los Angeles. And, may you be blessed, too!