Feast of St. Anthony of Padua

St. Anthony of Padua, Feast of

June 13
St. Anthony of Padua (1195-1231) is the patron saint of people who lose things and of children. He has also become, like St. Francis of Assisi, a patron saint of animals. In the days before automobiles, people in Rome sent their horses and mules to St. Anthony's Church to be blessed on this day. The Feast of St. Anthony is also celebrated by many Puerto Rican communities, as well as by American Indians in the southwestern United States. In New Mexico, for instance, traditional Indian dances are held on San Antonio's Day in the pueblos at Taos, San Juan, Santa Clara, San Ildefonso, Sandia, Cochiti, and elsewhere.
One of the most outstanding celebrations is held in New York City's Greenwich Village. St. Anthony's Shrine Church on West Houston and Sullivan Streets, in the heart of one of the original Little Italy sections of New York, boasts the oldest Italian Roman Catholic congregation in the city and is the site of a 10-day festival that combines religious observance and the carnival atmosphere of a street fair. Masses are held all day on June 13, and a procession bearing the statue of St. Anthony through the streets begins at seven o'clock that evening. Thousands of people are drawn to the festival, which extends from the weekend before the actual feast day through the weekend following it.
In the village of El Pinar, Granada, Spain, a novena ends with the Rosary on St. Anthony's Eve. Then a fiesta begins with a parade of huge papier-mâchÉ heads of historical and imaginary characters (called gigantes "giants" and cabezudos "big-heads"), on 10-foot-tall wire frames and dressed in long robes. This parade is accompanied by a band playing pasodobles (a quick, light march often played at bullfights). Boys toss firecrackers, small children hide in terror, fireworks are set off, street dancing begins, and carnival booths are set up. On the 13th, the parade begins at 9 a.m. After a noon High Mass, the statue of St. Anthony is paraded through the village for three hours. The band plays and pairs of men in two lines dance the jota (a complex dance using the rhythm of boot-heels and castanets). When the dancers tire, they are replaced by eager onlookers. At their return to the church, they block the door to keep St. Anthony from going in so the dancing can go on. Parishioners lay money at the feet of the statue for the support of the church for the coming year.
St. Anthony of Padua was born in Lisbon, Portugal, in 1195, and is the patron saint of Portugal. The festivities held here in his honor begin on the evening of June 12 with an impressive display of marchas, walking groups of singers and musicians, who parade along the Avenida da Liberdade. The celebration continues the next day with more processions and traditional folk dancing.
Throughout the month of June, children in Lisbon prepare altars in the saint's honor, covering boxes and tables with white paper and decorating them with candles and pictures of St. Anthony. They beg "a little penny for San António" from passersby, but the money—once used to restore the church of San António da SÉ after its destruction by an earthquake in 1755—is now put toward a children's feast.
Because he is considered the matchmaker saint, St. Anthony's Eve is a time when young people write letters asking António for help in finding a mate. Another custom of the day is for a young man to present the girl he hopes to marry with a pot of basil concealing a verse or love letter.
CONTACTS:
The Shrine Church of Saint Anthony of Padua
154 Sullivan St.
New York, NY 10012
212-777-2755; fax: 212-673-6684
www.stanthonynyc.org
SOURCES:
AmerBkDays-2000, p. 443
BkFest-1937, p. 187
DaysCustFaith-1957, p. 144
DictWrldRel-1989, p. 42
EncyRel-1987, vol. 1, p. 306
FestWestEur-1958, p. 166
FolkAmerHol-1999, p. 252
FolkWrldHol-1999, p. 387
IndianAmer-1989, pp. 286, 288, 301, 303, 306, 309, 312, 315, 319
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