Baby Jumping Festival: A Leap of Faith

Spain is known for its peculiar and outlandish festivals, from tomato fights to running with the bulls. However, one festival stands out as particularly bizarre and unique: the Baby Jumping Festival or El Salto del Colacho. This annual event, which takes place in the small town of Castrillo de Murcia, involves grown men dressed as devils leaping over newborn babies laid out on mattresses in the streets. While it may seem like something out of a comedy sketch, this peculiar tradition has been a part of Spanish culture since the 17th century.

Origins and Significance

The origins of the Baby Jumping Festival are somewhat shrouded in mystery. The stone building under the village’s church proudly bears the date 1621, which is when Pope Gregory XV gave his papal blessing to the controversial ritual. However, it is believed that the festival had been taking place for some time before that. The festival is held sixty days after Easter as part of the Catholic celebration of Corpus Christi. It is believed that the act of jumping over the babies cleanses them of evil and protects them from sin and disease.

The Devil’s Leap

The main attraction of the Baby Jumping Festival is, of course, the devil’s leap. Dressed in red and yellow jumpsuits, the colachos (men portraying the devil) run along the parade route, leaping over the infants lying on mattresses in the streets. Up to ten babies are jumped over at a time as the colachos perform death-defying leaps. While this may sound terrifying, no serious injuries have been reported in the festival’s almost 400-year history.

The Role of the Colachos

The colachos, dressed in their devil costumes, play a central role in the festival. These individuals wear red and yellow jumpsuits reminiscent of Evel Knievel’s iconic outfit. They also carry whips, which they use to strike the ground and whip the crowd along the parade route. It’s a spectacle that combines elements of both religious tradition and Spanish folklore, creating a unique and unforgettable experience.

Participation and Tradition

Parents in Castrillo de Murcia who have had a child in the previous twelve months are encouraged to participate in the festival. They lay their babies on mattresses in the streets, ready to be jumped over by the colachos. Despite the festival not being officially sanctioned by the Catholic Church today, it continues to be a vibrant and cherished tradition for the town. Many of the town’s residents were themselves jumped over as babies, creating a generational link to the event.

Controversy and Criticism

While the Baby Jumping Festival is a beloved tradition for the residents of Castrillo de Murcia, it has not been without its fair share of controversy and criticism. Pope Benedict expressed his disapproval of the festival, stating that only traditional water baptisms should be performed. However, the festival continues to attract participants and spectators from all over, with desperate new parents seeking the protection and blessings the tradition is believed to offer.

Safety Measures and Precautions

One might understandably worry about the safety of the babies involved in the festival. However, the organizers take precautions to ensure the well-being of the infants. The mattresses are spaced about 200 meters apart, providing ample space for the colachos to safely perform their jumps. Additionally, the colachos do not wear masks during the actual leap, reducing the risk of accidents. Despite the daring nature of the festival, no injuries have been reported thus far.

The Festive Atmosphere

The Baby Jumping Festival is not just about the leaps themselves. The event is part of a larger celebration that includes parades, processions, and communal gatherings. The streets are decorated with white sheets, flowers, and statues of the Virgin Mary, creating a festive atmosphere. Spectators watch from behind metal barriers as priests, men in cloaks, and children in traditional outfits make their way through the town. It’s a lively and joyous occasion that brings the community together.

Cultural Significance

While the Baby Jumping Festival may seem strange to outsiders, it holds deep cultural significance for the people of Castrillo de Murcia. It is a tradition that has been passed down through generations, connecting families and reinforcing the town’s sense of identity. The festival serves as a unique expression of Spanish culture, blending religious beliefs, folklore, and communal celebration.

Conclusion

The Baby Jumping Festival is a truly extraordinary event that showcases the eccentricity and vibrancy of Spanish culture. Despite its unconventional nature, the festival has become an integral part of the town of Castrillo de Murcia’s identity. It is a testament to the enduring power of tradition and the ability of communities to come together in celebration. So, if you find yourself in Spain during Corpus Christi, don’t miss the opportunity to witness this one-of-a-kind spectacle that will leave you both amazed and bewildered.

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