From messy wine throwing festivals to bizarre baby jumping events, Spain hosts some of the most incredible celebrations in the world. Each year on January 20th, Tenerife adds to the strange goings on. Adeje’s Fiesta de San Sebastian is Tenerife’s animal bathing festival.
San Sebastian was of one of the patron saints of Adeje. This festival began in the 16th century to commend the saint and his healing powers, which he used generously. So popular was the saint and his work that he’s not just celebrated by Adeje. He is honoured in other regions in Tenerife and even in La Gomera, one of the neighbouring Canary Islands.
Some villages celebrate San Sebastian with folk music concerts, rural displays of traditional artisan products and street parades with locals dressed in typical period clothing. But the town of La Caleta celebrates the day a little differently, with Tenerife’s animal bathing festival.
Fiesta de San Sebastian in Tenerife
The event starts first thing in the morning with a holy mass in the town of Adeje. After church, there’s a huge parade led by men on horseback. They are followed by members of the local community accompanied by their oxen, cows, goats and sheep.
The parade winds from the church to the Plaza de San Sebastian, where a priest blesses all the animals individually. A lively celebration, filled with music and local dances is up next. It’s complemented by a market full of Canarian handicrafts, fresh seasonal produce and locally-produced wines.
The Fiesta de San Sebastian is a great way to see what Tenerife looked like generations before tourism took over. Not only do you get to see how people dressed and admire how they danced; you also get to try the dishes they ate and hear the songs they sang. The locals are passionate about this festival and keen to get the younger generation involved. It’s clear just how important their heritage and culture is to them.
Fiesta de San Sebastian in La Caleta
La Caleta is a small coastal village just a few kilometres away from Adeje. It celebrates this important day is a slightly different way. Instead of leading all the animals to a plaza for them to be blessed, local farmers and owners bring their animals to the beach to be blessed in the sea.
You’ll find a bit more variety of animal species at the La Caleta blessing. Everything from beautiful horses and strong oxen to confused camels and dainty ponies are led into the sea. The locals also take more care with their animals’ appearance. The are dressed grandly in colourful head pieces and other accessories so they stand out.
Whether taking your animals into the sea is on par with having them blessed by a priest is debatable. But Tenerife’s animal bathing festival is one of the most fascinating festivals you’ll ever see. It’s definitely worth a visit if you’re on the island in January.