There are many traditions and popular festivals that are celebrated in Maestrazgo. One of the most outstanding is the one that begins the festive cycle: the “sanantonada”in which San Antonio Abad, patron saint of animals, is venerated.
If we look back in time, this was a pagan holiday commemorating the winter solstice and honoring the Sun. Large bonfires were lit to symbolize the purification and renewal of the land, also ennobling the animals, fundamental elements in the daily life of the people, since they were used for work, food and transportation.
With the introduction of the Christian religion, this feast is linked to Saint Anthony, thus appropriating the festivity. The day of worship of this saint is January 17 and during that day the animals, mostly cattle, enjoyed a day of rest, so they were taken to chapels and churches to be blessed. This tradition is still alive today and many people go to churches to have their pets blessed.
This is how sanantonada is celebrated in the villages of the Maestrazgo region
In Maestrazgo, this festival is deeply rooted among its inhabitants, and is celebrated in almost every village. Not everyone does it on January 17, though. The first is always Bordón, which, for the last few years, has brought it forward to the Saturday closest to the night of Epiphany, taking advantage of the fact that this is when there are more people in the town. The rest are distributed among the following weekends of the month, although some do not move it from the 17th, regardless of the day on which it falls, as in the case of Villarroya de los Pinares, Allepuz or Molinos.
Everyone celebrates by lighting big bonfires at night, blessing the animals and handing out pastries. Some organize popular dinners in which they take advantage of the embers of the bonfire to prepare the food. In others, in addition to this, “tranzas” or auctions are held with products contributed by the townspeople.
One of the most outstanding traditions is the Sanantonada of Mirambel, where, every few years, a dramatization of the life of St. Anthony is performed with an ancient text in verse represented by the neighbors.
Also noteworthy is the celebration of Cantaviejawhere several demons chase little kids through the streets during the blessing of the animals, and the feast of the La Iglesuela del Cidwhere a cavalry processionThe local people, who are very abundant in the locality, and torch bearers, accompany San Antonio, the old woman and the devils through the streets until they reach the bonfire, where the neighbors recite “dichos” (sayings) to the saint. thanking or asking for favors.
These winter festivals are the most loved and awaited by the neighbors and it is worthwhile to visit them.