The feast day of St Anthony falls on 17 January. The patron saint of animals is celebrated in two very different ways. Every year, on the night before St Anthony's Day, horses are ridden through bonfires on the streets of the village of San Bartolome de los Pinares, about 100km (62 miles) north west of Madrid. This tradition known as Las Luminarias dates back 500 years and it is believed that jumping horses through huge flames and clouds of smoke purifies them and prepares them for the year ahead.

The village is filled with the smell of smoke and the sounds of hooves clattering on cobblestoned streets, whinnying of terrified horses and the occasional thud as a rider falls off a horse that refuses to jump through fire. The official festivities finish around midnight, but the party carries on until dawn, with the bonfires becoming huge barbecues.

Exposing horses to open flames may seem an odd way to celebrate the patron saint of animals. Thankfully, the other way of marking the feast day of Saint Anthony the Abbot (San Anton or San Antonio Abad) is far less dangerous. Pet owners take their beloved animals to a church to be blessed. Priests use holy water to bless all creatures great and small – mostly pet dogs, but also birds, mice, turtles, etc. This tradition is also followed in other Catholic countries such as Mexico and the Philippines.