This tradition in Castrillo de Murcia, in the north of Spain, has its origins in pagan rituals and has been a local tradition since the 17th century. As a way to cleanse a new baby’s soul, the tradition is commonly known as ‘baby jumping’. Every year, on the Sunday after the Feast of Corpus Christi, the event, which is now a mix of both pagan and Catholic traditions, begins with a procession through town and at the end of the walk, babies born in the previous year are laid on a mat. Men dressed as the devil run between and jump over the babies. Next, the leaders of the Catholic Church in the Burgos Region cleanse them with holy water.
Once in a year in mid-June, devils run wild in the Spanish village of Castrillo de Murcia.
A blend of Catholic and pagan rituals meant to represent the triumph of good over evil, the festival of El Colacho dates back to the 1620s and takes place on the Sunday after the Feast of Corpus Christi. Its origins are unclear, but some historians believe it may have started as a fertility ritual.
During the festival, red and yellow-masked “devils” run through the streets hurling insults at villagers and whipping them with a horsetail attached to a stick. When drums announce the arrival of the black-clad atabalero, pious men who who have come to drive out evil, el salto del Colacho—the flight of the devil—begins.
In a heart-stopping display, babies born during the previous year are laid on mattresses in the street while the costumed men leap over them. A baptism of sorts, it is believed that the devil absorbs the sins of the babies, and affords them protection from disease and misfortune. Spectators lining the streets will also berate Colacho in order to ward off their own bad luck for the upcoming year. Afterwards, the babies are sprinkled with rose petals and promptly reclaimed by their parents.
Traditionally the festival only included babies from the local village, but in recent years people from around the world have traveled to northern Spain to participate. To date there have been no reports of injuries, however the practice remains a subject of debate within the Catholic Church.
Baby jumping (Spanish: El Colacho) is a traditional Spanish festival dating back to 1620. It takes place annually to celebrate the Catholic feast of Corpus Christi in Castrillo de Murcia, a village in the municipality of Sasamón in the province of Burgos. It appeared in the British newspaper The Guardian as one of the strangest holidays.
During the act, known as El Salto del Colacho (the devil jump) or simply El Colacho, men dressed as the Devil (known as the Colacho) in red and yellow suits jump over babies born during the previous twelve months of the year who lie on mattresses in the street. The “devils” hold whips and oversized castanets as they jump over the infant children.
The Brotherhood of Santísimo Sacramento de Minerva organizes the week-long festivities which culminate on Sunday when the Colacho jumps over the babies on the mattresses placed on the procession route traversing the town.
The origins of the tradition are unknown but it is said to cleanse the babies of original sin, ensuring them safe passage through life and guard against illness and evil spirits. In recent years [when], Pope Benedict has asked Spanish priests to distance themselves from El Colacho, as the Church still teaches that it is only by the sacrament of a valid baptism that original sin can be cleansed.
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