Tres Tombs horse parade celebrates animals, horsemanship, and history
In the Catalan town of Valls, the display saw over 300 horses and 100 carriages
Animals have a patron saint and protector in Catalonia: Sant Antoni Abat. This religious figure is celebrated with much fanfare in mid-January with the holiday of Tres Tombs, which sees a variety of traditions, including races, blessings, and especially a horse and carriage parade.
Sant Antoni plays a major role in the display, usually embodied through the town Saint Anthony church, or, lacking such a structure, to a statue dedicated to him. In many places, it´s customary to bring one's pets—cats, dogs, and birds—to be blessed.
Declared a Traditional Holiday of National Interest, the actual date of Saint Anthony is on January 17, although some towns choose to celebrate it the Sunday before. It also serves as an homage to peasant farmers and wagon riders, and in the horse parades, onlookers can see historical, well-preserved specimens of work carriages, serving for anything from farm work to firefighting to funeral services.
Even in the most urban city of the country, Barcelona, the day is still celebrated. This Sunday saw the Catalan capital’s observance of the animal-based holiday, in which the city mayor, Ada Colau, rode in a carriage in the parade with her family.
A demonstration of skill
Meanwhile, the southern Catalan town of Valls saw its 39th edition parade of more than 300 horses and 100 carriages. This town's celebration also differentiates itself because it passes through the winding streets of the Old Town, which requires a demonstration of “skill of horses and their handlers,” observed the vice president of the Society of Sant Antoni, Marc Buqué, in statements to the Catalan News Agency (ACN).
There are three particular points of special interest in the route, explained Buqué. One is the Font de la Manxa fountain, where a speaker relates the history of each carriage that passes through; the church of Sant Antoni, where a blessing is performed; and lastly, the emblematic descent in the Blat square, particularly complicated because the animals pick up speed and the riders have to maneuver not one, but two corners. This is usually performed to the applause and cries of encouragement of the surrounding crowd.
Even with predictions of inclement weather, and despite the biting cold, the parade went on. The Tres Tombs in Valls has never been canceled: “we’ve gone out in the rain and even in the snow,” said Buqué. Next year will mark the 40th anniversary of the parade, which the vice president of the Sant Antoni Society assured will be one to remember.