Rein of fire: Horses leap through flames as part of Las Luminarias festival celebrated in Spain

Each year, the festival is held on 16 January in which around 100 locals ride their horses through bonfires to honour San Antonio Abad (Saint Anthony), the patron saint of animals

FP Staff January 18, 2022 14:34:16 IST
Spain is known for its wild festivals but Las Luminarias, a flame-fuelled celebration, might just take the cake. The festival takes place every 16 January in San Bartolome de Pinares, a village perched high in the hills about 100 kilometres west of Madrid. The celebration sees dozens of locals ride horses through bonfires to honour San Antonio Abad (Saint Anthony), the patron saint of animals. AFP
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Spain is known for its wild festivals but Las Luminarias, a flame-fuelled celebration, might just take the cake. The festival takes place every 16 January in San Bartolome de Pinares, a village perched high in the hills about 100 kilometres west of Madrid. The celebration sees dozens of locals ride horses through bonfires to honour San Antonio Abad (Saint Anthony), the patron saint of animals. AFP
The tradition, reported to be more than 500 years old, is supposed to purify and protect the animal for the year ahead. The celebrations see revellers riding their horses through the narrow cobble-stoned streets and through the raging fires. After an hour of horses jumping over flames, revellers then take to dancing and drinking. AP
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The tradition, reported to be more than 500 years old, is supposed to purify and protect the animal for the year ahead. The celebrations see revellers riding their horses through the narrow cobble-stoned streets and through the raging fires. After an hour of horses jumping over flames, revellers then take to dancing and drinking. AP
According to locals, the riding of horses through the fire dates back to the 18th century when an epidemic devastated the horse population. "Before when animal died because of infection, they had to be burned," said Leticia Martin, a 29-year-old physiotherapist riding a horse called Fiel. "So when the epidemic disappeared, people began to believe that the smoke protected the animals." AFP
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According to locals, the riding of horses through the fire dates back to the 18th century when an epidemic devastated the horse population. "Before when animal died because of infection, they had to be burned," said Leticia Martin, a 29-year-old physiotherapist riding a horse called Fiel. "So when the epidemic disappeared, people began to believe that the smoke protected the animals." AFP
Many locals believe that the tradition doesn't harm the horse nor the rider. "You don't even notice it," says one of the locals, who compares it to brushing a finger quickly through the flame of a cigarette lighter. AFP
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Many locals believe that the tradition doesn't harm the horse nor the rider. "You don't even notice it," says one of the locals, who compares it to brushing a finger quickly through the flame of a cigarette lighter. AFP
Animal rights groups have long been critical of the event. Spanish political party the Animalist Party Against the Mistreatment of Animals described the festival on its website as an example of 'clear animal abuse'. However, the town's mayor Maria Jesus Martin Gomez has been quoted as saying: "The only thing I have to say is that the animals don't suffer anything at all." AFP
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Animal rights groups have long been critical of the event. Spanish political party the Animalist Party Against the Mistreatment of Animals described the festival on its website as an example of 'clear animal abuse'. However, the town's mayor Maria Jesus Martin Gomez has been quoted as saying: "The only thing I have to say is that the animals don't suffer anything at all." AFP
The festival returned this year after a break owing to the COVID-19 pandemic. About 100 horses and their owners took part in the festivities. AFP
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The festival returned this year after a break owing to the COVID-19 pandemic. About 100 horses and their owners took part in the festivities. AFP