Romanians baptise horses on Orthodox holiday

Pietrosani - Hundreds of horses in Romania received blessings on Monday in a baptismal tradition dating back centuries to mark the Orthodox holiday of the Epiphany.

In the rural countryside, people arrived on horseback or in horse-drawn wagons to parade their animals before the priest who sprinkled the horses with holy water.

"The baptism of the horses, which is a tradition dating back to old times in this village has its roots in the Holy Scripture," Orthodox priest Mihai Dobre told AFPTV in Pietrosani, about 40km north of Bucharest.

"It's a joyful moment in our village, shared by the entire community."

The ritual, taking place in many villages to commemorate the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist, has remained a vivid part of culture in Romania, where farmers still use horses in their daily lives.

"The mare is the most important being in our households besides the family and our children," Alexandru Feraru, a local farmer, told AFPTV.

"Holy water does miracles. Our animals won't fall ill," he said.

The baptism ceremony in Pietrosani was followed by a horse race in the fields.

Romania and horses were also at the centre of a Europe-wide food scandal last year when Romanian authorities found horsemeat in products fraudulently labelled as beef.

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