Sunday marks one of the most bizarre — yet equally fantastic — annual Upper West Side traditions:
The blessing of animals for St. Francis Day at the UWS Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine (1047 Amsterdam, at 112th).
The morning service is followed by an afternoon “fair” in the courtyard featuring an incredible array of animals.
Previous years have included camels, llamas, reindeer, yaks, monkeys, elephants, eagles, goats, pigs, foxes, roosters, and a giant tortoise — the 2011 event included actress Edie Falco cradling a kangaroo.
There are also countless dogs, cats, birds, rabbits, and other more traditional pets.
It’s a veritable zoo, and it’s open to the public.
Gothamist had a post after last year’s event that includes a bunch of great photos.
The religious service begins at 11:00 am. Passes for that are hard to come by, but there are a few that will be handed out on a first-come, first-served basis starting at 9:15 am Sunday morning.
That said, you need to arrive MUCH earlier if you want a chance at nabbing one. Church officials couldn’t give me a specific time, but I gather people start lining up at the crack of dawn for a chance to nab a pass.
There’s good news if you just want to see the animals and aren’t interested in participating in the service — you don’t need passes for that.
The procession of exotic animals will begin around 12:20 pm and I was told spectators can watch from outside as they’re led into the church.
After the service, there is a fair in the church’s close (i.e. courtyard) from 1:00 – 4:00 pm that is open to the public. There you can see the various animals, and I think you can have your pet individually blessed by clergy if you’re so inclined (all faiths welcome).
This is a fantastic event for kids, but I think even most adults would get a kick out of it.
The event is rain or shine — the fair component will be held in an adjacent building in case of inclement weather.
If you don’t have passes to the service but are curious about what happens inside the church, here’s a video from the 2009 ceremony.
The first part includes a bunch of dancing. The animal procession begins around the 2:30 mark, with a camel at 2:44, a llama at 2:58, a reindeer at 3:09, and many more animals after that.
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Tags: 1047 Amsterdam, Animal Blessing, animals, Blessing Of The Animals, Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, New York City, NYC, Pets, St. Francis Day, St. John The Divine, Upper West Side, UWS