PARENTS

Spanish Town Celebrates Annual 'Baby Jumping' Festival

22/11/2017 18:52 GMT

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Imagine Evel Knievel performing one of his famous stunts, but instead of sailing over a row of buses or monster trucks, he's leaping over your baby.

Welcome to the world of 'baby jumping', a Spanish tradition which puts a unique spin on hurdles.

Many Spanish towns have a traditional folk ritual to mark the Catholic feast of Corpus Christi, but the 'baby jumping' festival of Castrillo de Murcia, in the northwest, really takes the biscuit.

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The bizarre celebration sees local men dress up in red and yellow costumes to play El Colacho - a kind of pagan cross between the Christian devil and a folk demon.

Wielding whips, rattlers and noisemakers, the 'evil' Colachos chase locals through the streets, accompanied by their diabolical assistants - men dressed all in black and beating drums - before retreating into the village church.

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So far, so cute, right? But then it takes a very strange turn - while the crowds cheer, El Colacho bursts forth from the church and runs along the street at full-tilt, leaping over babies laid out on mattresses.

Suddenly, we understand why his elaborate costume was topped off with a pair of trainers...

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Any babies under one year of age are welcome to participate in the ritual, which is supposed to cleanse infants of original sin, as well as guarantee them health and happiness in the future.

It might look hair-raisingly dangerous, but mums and dads sit alongside the mattresses to protect their kids should anyone take a tumble. The Colachos are proud of their safety record, though - organisers insist that since the practice began in 1621, there has never been an injury.

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The roots of the tradition, which is unique to Castrillo de Murcia, likely predate the arrival of Catholicism, but over the years Christian beliefs have been integrated into the practice.

The Catholic Church, however, is not exactly thrilled to be associated with the ritual, which has no ideological basis in the church's teachings.

In fact, Pope Benedict XVI instructed local clergy to distance themselves from the practice in the hopes of discouraging it. To no avail, it seems - it's hard to believe, but places on the mattresses are oversubscribed every year!