Horses jump over bonfires as Spain’s smudge ceremony returns after pandemic hiatus

Band Elena Rodriguez and Javier Barbancho

SAN BARTOLOME DE PINARES, Spain, January 16 (Reuters)About 100 horses jumped through bonfires during a smudge ceremony on Sunday during Spain’s “Las Luminarias” festival, held for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

The traditional nighttime celebration takes place in San Bartolomé de Pinares every January 16, the eve of Saint Anthony, the patron saint of animals in Spain.

It was canceled last year due to pandemic restrictions.

The revelers rode their horses through the narrow cobbled streets which, according to tradition, purified the animals with the smoke and flames of the bonfires for the coming year.

After an hour of horses jumping over the flames, the revelers then started dancing and drinking.

“It goes back thousands of years. To keep the animals from getting sick, the old priests would bless them with fires so they would jump and be purified,” said local resident Fermin Abad, 64.

About 100 horses and their owners took part in the festivities, Reuters witnesses said.

Although they have been criticized by animal rights groups over the years, organizers told Reuters the horses were not harmed due to the precautions riders took to trim horse hair to avoid burns.

(Reporting by Graham Keeley; Additional reporting by Elena Rodriguez, Michael Gore and Javier Barbancho; Editing by Daniel Wallis)


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