Horses jump through fires to purify themselves
San Bartolome de Pinares, Spain: 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 start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The traditional nocturnal party takes place in San Bartolomé de Pinares every January 16, the eve of Saint Anthony, patron saint of animals in Spain. The tradition, which dates back to the time of the plague, is intended to purify and protect the animal in the coming year.
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. So that the animals wouldn’t get sick, the old priests blessed them with fires to jump and be purified,” said Fermin Abad, 64, a resident attending the festivities.
Despite criticism from animal rights groups over the years, organizers said the horses were not harmed due to precautions taken by riders to trim horse hair to avoid burns.