How This Little-Known Spanish Festival Brings An Element Of Danger To A Catholic Feast

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We’ve entered the month of June, and you know what that means don’t you? No, not just music festivals, drinking in the day, better tans and hotter weather, it’s also the annual baby jumping festival held in the Spanish village of Castrillo de Murcia, of course. 

Now, Spain is not unaccustomed to peculiar traditions; this is a country that has festivals dedicated to throwing thousands of tomatoes at each other, and being chased down the streets of Pamplona by a raging bull – but even so this is a particularly unusual custom that you might not have heard of before.

The devil’s jump, or El Salto del Colacho, as it’s more commonly known amongst locals, takes place in the province of Burgos in northern Spain and is a mixture of Spanish folklore, village tradition and religious ceremony. The annual festival is part of the celebration of the Catholic feast of Corpus Christi (a Christian feast in honour of the Holy Eucharist) and usually takes place between May and June, falling on Sunday 18th June this year.

During the festival, men dress in yellow and red suits that are supposed to represent the Devil, (because nothing screams ‘evil’ more than a yellow looking onesie) and- wait for it- jump over babies born during the previous twelve months of the year.

The completely unaware newborns are sprinkled with flower petals and confetti and are carefully laid out on mattresses in the middle of the street. The ‘devils’ hold whips and castanets and proceed to jump over the infants, which is meant to cleanse them of sin and protect them from future evils.

I don’t want to be a party pooper, but I definitely reckon the babies are at more of a risk from one of the men falling on them than anything the ‘Devil’ might do, but I wouldn’t dream of saying that to the residents of Castrillo de Murcia.

It isn’t just the newborns that are blessed though – after the festivities, the town as a whole is said to be cleansed of sin, so everyone’s a winner – hurrah!

The origins of the festival are unknown but apparently it dates back to 1620, and lasts around a week, culminating on a Sunday. The Corpus Christi feast itself is a major holiday in Spain and is supposed to honour Jesus’s body and blood in the Eucharist, or Last Supper, but the El Salto del Colacho is a unique feature of this small village, and isn’t performed anywhere else in Spain.

Don’t worry if you’ve been worrying about the Devil at every turn because you missed out on the festival as a tot though – in adulthood you can take part in an exercise involving jumping through fire (it wouldn’t be a Spanish festival without the threat of death would it?) known as the Las Hogueras de San Juan or ‘Bonfires of Saint John’, on 21st December in Granada, to help protect yourself from Satan.

Thankfully, there aren’t any reported incidents of babies being hurt during the festival, although it’s still pretty controversial, particularly amongst Spanish priests who have distanced themselves from it and downplayed its connection to Catholicism at the behest of former pope, Pope Benedict. They maintain that baptism by water is the only official way of cleansing the soul of original sin-although both ways seem a bit arbitrary if you ask me.

Compared to boring Christenings you’re forced to attend, this looks pretty interesting, and at least there’s an element of danger involved which makes it all the more exciting. I reckon we should take a leaf out of these people’s book.

What do you think of the festival? Let us know in the comments below!

Images via Getty Images

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