Updated: Tuesday, 07 January 2014 03:36 | By Agence France-Presse

Romanians baptize horses on Orthodox holiday

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

Romanians baptize horses on Orthodox holiday

A local warms-up his horse before taking part in a race in the village of Pietrosani, 50km north from Bucharest, January 6, 2007

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 40 kilometres (25 miles) 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 was engulfed in a food scandal that affected several European countries last year when horsemeat was found in products fraudulently labelled as beef. An investigation by French authorities later concluded that the products were mislabelled by a French company Spanghero whose two former managers were charged over the fraud in September.

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