In six short weeks I will be returning to Spain, a country I have visited the most in my European travels (just three times, but hopefully more in future years). What better time could there be for reflection and daydreaming?
Think of it … Spain. The very name brings to mind exotic ancient lands and the far-away echo of guitar music. And more, following on the warm, orange-scented breezes.
Whirling flamenco dancers. Sunsets over the ocean. Tapas in picturesque cafes. Baby-jumping in the plaza.
Yes, it is so. Jumping over babies is apparently a thing in a certain part of Spain. Which brings it squarely into Hiccups in History territory. This series of blog posts celebrates weirdness throughout history. Because my spirit animal is some sort of weird turkey/horse/panther hybrid. Or something.
Anyhow. This bizarre–dare I say infantile–event takes place in mid-June each year, just after the Feast of Corpus Christi (the blood of Christ). In the north, near Burgos, lies the village of Castrillo de Murcia. The festival of El Colacho dates back to the early 17th century, when good and evil come alive in what may have its roots in the fusion of Christianity and earlier pagan traditions.
Men dressed in red, with yellow masks, dash through the streets impersonating the devil. They insult villagers and whip them with horsehair. All is
fun and games terror and hysteria until the sounds of drums herald the arrival of black-clad good guys–atabalero–who drive out the evil.
But first babies born the previous year are laid out on mattresses in the street. As the “devils” leap over them they are thought to absorb the infants’ sins, an act which protects them from future misfortune. The villagers hurl invectives at the devils, thus securing for themselves a reprieve from bad luck.
After a quick spritzer with rose water, the babies are rescued from the mattresses and all is right with the world again. The Catholic Church frowns on the festival, but it continues nevertheless, drawing a growing number of curiosity seekers.
Alas, I will not be around for any baby-jumping festivals when I next travel to Spain. But unusual places appear on the Camino de Santiago as well. During my 2015 trip I came across a village that honors sacred chickens.
Who knows what I will encounter this next time?
“The Baby Jumping Festival.” Atlas Obscura. Retrieved January 22, 2018. https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/the-baby-jumping-festival.
Khan, Gulaz. “Look Inside Spain’s Bizarre Baby Jumping Festival.” NationalGeographic.com, June 16, 2017. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/travel/destinations/europe/spain/el-colacho-baby-jumping-festival-murcia-spain/.