You may have heard of the “Running of the Bulls” festival in Pamplona and “La Tomatina” (tomato throwing festival) in Bunol. The last celebration to complete the holy trinity of wacky festivals in Spain is “El Colacho”, or more commonly known as the baby jumping festival.
Held in June each year in Castrillo de Murcia, a city – near Burgos in northern Spain, the festival sees a bunch of men dressed in bright yellow and red garb, jumping over babies lying on mattresses in the middle of the street. Before you wonder why child services haven’t been notified, the devil’s jump has been celebrated in the city since 1620. It has religious origins, with the aim of ridding the town of the devil and his companions.
Today, the baby jumping festival is part of the city’s Catholic Corpus Christi celebration, organized by members of the brotherhood of the Santisimo Sacramento de Minerva. These guys are busy on the big day – not only do they have to jump, run and prepare mass – they also have the privileged job of terrorizing everyone with whips throughout the day. The day starts innocently enough – the streets are lined with flags and flowers, a mass celebration is conducted as well a procession to and from the church. Members of the brotherhood then dress as either El Colacho or El Atabalero – the devil and his companion.
Now it’s ready for the leap of faith – the babies are placed on a row of mattresses that leads to the church. All infants are less than a year old, with four to seven babies per mattress. Several men then get to practice their hurdles skills. Jumping and running, the idea is that once they jump over all the babies, evil will be run out of town.
Looking at these guys leaping over babies can be fairly cringeworthy – I can’t help but wonder whether if, over the centuries, any of the leaping lucifers has inadvertently landed on an infant. I’m not sure if anyone I know would be so willing to lay their kids on the line (or mattress). This is one festival that ends with sighs (and gurgles) of relief.