‘Sant Antoni del Porquet sempre s'escau en disset’ (Saint Anthony's Day always falls on the seventeenth) and seven other sayings about Saint Anthony

Saint Anthony’s Day is steeped in tradition and can be enjoyed in a variety of different ways and not just in the city, but throughout the country. Another example of the richness of the celebration can be found in proverbs, full of sayings and proverbs that refer to the festival. Some of them talk about the legend of the saint and give special prominence to the devil, others focus on the charming figure of the pig, and finally, there is a third group that deals with the intensity of cold, the week of the bearded men, and the gradual lengthening of the day.

The devil

There are a whole host of sayings that reference the legend of Saint Anthony and, in particular, the saint’s temptation by the devil: ‘Va dir Sant Antoni que Déu va fer el vi i la borratxera el dimoni’ (Saint Anthony said that God made wine and the devil made debauchery). Perhaps this is why so many places across the country feature the devil so prominently in depictions of the saint’s life, from the Tres Tombs Infernals de Sant Andreu to the Botargues dels Ports or the devils of Mallorca: ‘Per Sant Antoni, un pas de dimoni’ (For Saint Anthony, a devil’s step). The legend and the festivities’ close links to fire often mean that the saint is asked to offer protection: ‘Sant Antoni, guarda’ns de foc i dimoni’ (Saint Anthony, save us from the fire and the devil). And the festivities also provide us with a very notable example of the misogynous nature of proverbs, likening women to the figure of the devil: ‘Més lletja que la que va enganyar sant Pere, va temptar sant Antoni i va apedregar sant Esteve’ (A woman uglier than the one that deceived Saint Peter will tempt Saint Anthony and stone Saint Stephen).

The piglet

Saint Anthony iconography often depicts him as being accompanied by a piglet, due to a passage from his legend that states he saved a pig, who would then accompany him everywhere as a sign of its appreciation: ‘Sant Antoni es va enamorar d’un porc, sant Joan d’un be i jo de vostè’ (Saint Anthony fell in love with a pig, Saint John with a sheep and I with you). Therefore, around Saint Anthony’s Day, prize draws involving pigs were very popular: throughout the year, a group of local residents would fatten a pig and when the feast day arrived, they would raffle it off: ‘Val més ésser porc de Sant Antoni, que el passegen amb música’ (Better to be Saint Anthony’s pig than go for a walk with music). This practice has given rise to a whole range of sayings that reference pigs fattened by groups of residents that were passed from home to home: ‘Anar més solt que el porquet de Sant Antoni’ (To be looser than Saint Anthony’s pig), ‘Tenir menys vergonya que el porquet de Sant Antoni’ (To be more brazen than Saint Anthony’s pig), ‘Més brut que el porc de Sant Antoni’ (Dirtier than Saint Anthony’s pig).

Sun and cold

Sant Antoni falls in the middle of January, one of the coldest times of the year, and the saint is one of the most noteworthy during the week of the bearded saints: ‘Entre Sant Antoni i Sant Sebastià, més fred que entre tot l’any fa’, (It is colder between Saint Anthony and Saint Sebastian’s day than at any other time of the year) ‘Per Sant Antoni fa un fred del dimoni’, (The cold is devilish on Saint Anthony’s Day) ‘Sant Antoni del porquet és el primer sant del fred’ (Saint Anthony’s Day is the first feast day to fall during cold weather). Nonetheless, as the saying goes, the cold weather has reached its peak: ‘Sant Antoni el gela, Sant Vicenç el mata i la Candelera l’enterra’ (On Saint Anthony’s it’s freezing, by Saint Vincent’s it comes to an end and by Candlemas it’s over).

The festivities are rooted in pre-Christian traditions that link Christmas and Carnival and celebrate the rebirth of nature after the winter solstice. Subsequently, many sayings mention days getting longer: ‘Des de Sant Anton, una hora més de sol’ (After Saint Anthony, an extra hour of sunlight), ‘Per Sant Antoni del porquet a les cinc ja es veu el solet’ (Around Saint Anthony’s Day, the sun can be seen at 5 o’clock), ‘Per Sant Antoni Abat, s’allarga el dia mitja hora per cap’ (Around St Anthony the Abbot’s day, there is an extra half an hour of sunlight).

Sayings taken from the Tematic website featuring proverbs and sayings