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Published: 16:05, January 17, 2022 | Updated: 17:59, January 17, 2022
Horses jump bonfires as Spain's purification ceremony returns
By Reuters
Published:16:05, January 17, 2022 Updated:17:59, January 17, 2022 By Reuters

A man rides a horse through a bonfire as part of a ritual in honor of Saint Anthony the Abbot, the patron saint of domestic animals, in San Bartolome de Pinares, Spain, Jan 16, 2022. (MANU FERNANDEZ / AP)

SAN BARTOLOME DE PINARES, SPAIN - About a hundred horses jumped through bonfires in a purification ceremony on Sunday during the Spanish festival of "Las Luminarias", which was held for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Revelers rode their horses through the narrow cobble-stoned streets, which according to tradition, purified the animals with the smoke and flames of the bonfires for the coming year

The traditional nighttime celebration takes place in San Bartolome de Pinares every Jan 16, the eve of Saint Anthony's Day, Spain's patron saint of animals.

It was canceled last year because of pandemic restrictions.

Revelers rode their horses through the narrow cobble-stoned streets, which according to tradition, purified the animals with the smoke and flames of the bonfires for the coming year.

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A man rides a horse through a bonfire as part of a ritual in honor of Saint Anthony the Abbot, the patron saint of domestic animals, in San Bartolome de Pinares, Spain, Jan 16, 2022. (MANU FERNANDEZ / AP)

After an hour of horses jumping over flames, revelers then took to dancing and drinking.

"This comes from thousands of years ago. So that animals did not get unwell, the old priests would bless them with fires so that they would jump and be purified," said Fermin Abad, 64, a local resident.

A horseman rides through a bonfire in the village of San Bartolome de Pinares in the province of Avila in central Spain, during the traditional religious festival of "Las Luminarias" in honor of San Antonio Abad (Saint Anthony), patron saint of animals, on Jan 16, 2022. (PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU / AFP)

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

Despite coming under criticism from animal rights groups over the years, organizers told Reuters that the horses were not harmed due to precautions taken by riders to cut horse hair to avoid burns.


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