San Sebastian blessing of goats, sheep and horses in the sea in La Caleta

San Sebastian blessing of goats, sheep and horses in the sea in La Caleta

Photo collage: Adeje Ayuntamiento.

Updated 19 January: Just a reminder that this traditional fiesta will be taking place tomorrow, from lunchtime.

Original post 12 January: As every year, the first of Adeje’s two local public holidays gives an opportunity to see some real Canarian tradition in the heart of the tourist area. The fiesta of one of the town’s patrons, San Sebastian, in La Caleta this coming week involves horsemen riding into the sea, and pastoral farmers dragging their goats and sheep into the water for the animals to be blessed. The event’s draw makes it almost more a spectacular tourist event than a religious one, but despite the tens of thousands of people who turn up to watch it, at its core is the celebration of a fiesta to San Sebastian, the saint who can ward off plagues, and so keep animals, and humans, healthy throughout the coming year.

The celebrations begin next Thursday, 19 January, with a range of events in the small town, followed by the actual feast day on Friday 20th, when events begin at noon with a mass in honour of the Saint sung by the Santa Úrsula de Adeje parochial choir. The procession follows as the image of the saint moves outside and takes the pilgrims down to La Enramada beach where massive crowds are always waiting to see the traditional bathing of the horses, and quite often a few donkeys and maybe a camel or two.

This is a fiesta steeped in local traditions which was first celebrated here in the 18th century, with the actual statue of San Sebastián, which is carried ceremoniously to the sea, being brought to the parish in 1916 by the then parish priest, Eulogio Gutiérrez Estévez. Over the years country people and local Adeje farmers and beyond continued with their devotions to the saint in a very particular and special way. Many have attributed miracles to the statue of San Sebastián, including cures and favours granted.

Since numbers in the tens of thousands take part in the fiesta every year, the council has security measures in place to guarantee safety for everyone attending: personnel will be present from the Policia Local, the Civil Protection Unit, the Sea Rescue service, ambulances and health professionals. The council asks the public please to take note of any access restrictions on the streets or on the beach in advance of the procession as they are there for the public’s security. Some parking restrictions will be in place to facilitate free flow of traffic and allow people walk along the streets. There will also be a zone cordoned off for farm animals who are taking part in the festivities.

In particular, the public is reminded that given the numbers attending, plenty of time should be allowed for parking and walking. Attendees are also advised to wear comfortable clothes and shoes, to be prepared for long sun exposure, and to bring drinking water. Since this is a fiesta in which animals are very much involved, the council says that if you are bringing you own animal they must be on a lead and have their own food and water too. There are more photos from previous years, including those of family pets being blessed, in Adeje English Time’s blog HERE.

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