The church dedicated to St. Anthony the Abbot is one of the oldest churches in Gozo reported to be in existence in 1400. This chapel served as the former Parish Church of Xaghra from 28 April 1688 until 1692.
In 1947 the ceremony of the Blessing of the animals was introduced as St. Anthony the Abbot is the protector of livestock.
The statue of St. Anthony the Abbot is taken in a simple procession to the Basilica of the Nativity of Our Lady.
In the morning the blessing of horses and donkeys is held in the square dedicated to St. Anthony the Abbot around 50 metres away from the church with the accompaniment of the village band.
In the early afternoon, the Bishop of Gozo leads a concelebrated mass in the Basilica and at the end blesses rusks and small paper bags of oats with a holy picture of the Saint affixed on these bags.
Afterwards, a procession takes place with the statue, the clergy and the village band that goes to St Anthony the Abbot Square. Children and Adults join in with their pets, all trimmed and cleaned for this special occasion, be it dogs, cats, even tortoises, birds and fish but also goats and sheep together with other pets that always are a surprise and loved with tenderness.
The ceremony is presided over by the Bishop of Gozo, the archpriest and clergy. Owners take their pets to be blessed and are given a rusk and a bag of oats that were blessed during the concelebrated mass.
When the ceremony is finished, the statue heads back to the chapel of St. Anthony the Abbot ending this special loved feast with the Eucharistic Benediction.