We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, but those Spanish sure know how to rock a weird festival. From pelting each other with tomatoes to letting angry bulls loose in the streets, the country tends to top most charts when it comes to celebrations that border on the bizarre, but surely El Colacho takes the title for downright oddness.
Otherwise known as The Baby Jumping Festival, it does exactly what it says on the tin with costumed characters dressed as the devil leaping over a gaggle of babies lying on a mattress, all in the name of religion.
Taking place in the Spanish village of Castrillo de Murcia every June, it is a tradition dating back nearly 400 years to mark Corpus Christi, a Catholic feast celebrating the body and blood of Jesus. Needless to say, this particular manner of celebrating attracts far more attention beyond its religious origins, with crowds flocking to swell the population of this small village to enjoy four days of celebrations with the bizarre infant-leaping display marking the culmination of the festivities.
The practice represents the cleansing of the babies’ souls and wards off evil spirits, with men dressed as Colacho – a character who represents the devil – taking a running leap over the row of babies laying blissfully unaware on a mattress in the street. The whip and baton he clutches under his arms make the image even more sinister, although the bright yellow suit is admittedly not the most frightening.
All born locally within the preceding 12 months, are then blessed and sprinkled with petals which, presumably, is slightly less intimidating than the idea of grown men in fancy dress taking a running jump over the top of them. Luckily, no babies are believed to have been harmed during the making of this festival, although surely it is only one red wine too many or a badly tied shoelace away from disaster.
It is organised by the mysterious sounding Brotherhood of Santísimo Sacramento de Minerva, whose members don other striking costumes during the celebrations before taking part in other slightly odd practices including pretending to be the devil and chasing villagers around and spanking their bottoms with a sticks and whips.
Despite its religious origins, the Pope has apparently asked Spanish priests not to get involved. Hurdling over babies and chasing people around with sticks? Can’t imagine why.
El Colacho takes place every June in Castrillo de Murcia, Burgos, Spain.