Each week, Gadling is taking a look at our favorite festivals around the world. From music festivals to cultural showcases to the just plain bizarre, we hope to inspire you to do some festival exploring of your own. Come back each Wednesday for our picks or find them all HERE.
Every year Catholic observers around the world celebrate the holiday of Corpus Christi. The festivities represent a Christian feast in honor of the Holy Eucharist. But in the Spanish city of Castrillo de Murcia, they like to do things a little differently. With colorful costumes, religious processions, mystery plays, mock terror and a uniquely Spanish ceremony that involves jumping over babies, also known as “El Colacho.”
Starting in late May or early June and lasting for five days, visitors will witness a series of rituals that are a mixture of traditional Spanish folklore and religion, each designed to cleanse evil from the little town. It works like this: a group of local men representing evil are denoted as the Brotherhood of Santisimo Sacramento de Minerva. These men are responsible for organizing the celebration. They are then split into two groups; the El Salto del Colacho (the devils), who wear brightly colored red and yellow costumes and will later jump over the babies, and the El Atabalero, who dress in black suits with large sombreros and carry large drums. Oddly enough the men who play these strange roles do so as they feel their lives have been cursed in one way or another. Taking part in the ceremonies is believed to eliminate the evil perceived to be plaguing their lives.
Wondering what happens next? Keep reading below to learn more about one of Spain’s craziest festivals.
On the chosen Wednesday, the festivities begin with the Brotherhood terrorizing the town’s people with whips and batons. Their evil pranks last till Sunday when the holy activities begin. Citizens decorate their houses with flowers and create small altars. Wine and water placed on the altars represents the blood of Christ and the baptism by water. The Eucharist symbols are meant to be consumed by the procession observers.
The procession begins, comprised of clergy and local children who are celebrating their first Holy Communion. The group starts at the church, winds around town and returns to the church. This activity is symbolic of holiness, capturing the perceived evil and laying it before God.
Finally, the festival’s most curious ritual, the baby jumping, is ready to begin. Infants from newborn to 12 months of age, dressed in their Sunday best, are brought to the street and laid in two rows on full-sized bed mattresses. As soon as the procession ends, the men chosen as “the devils” burst out of the church and run down the street toward the babies.
One by one, they jump the full length of the mattresses and over the unassuming children. The devils immediately run out of the town. This bizarre sight represents evil being cast out of the town and taking the sins of the infants with them. The babies are considered to be as cleansed as if they had been baptized. A fresh start for the newborns and another year cleansed from sin in the Spanish town of Castrillo de Murcia.
** Images courtesy of the Wikimedia Commons Project **