A traditional ceremony involving horses jumping through bonfires returned on Sunday to the Avila area of central Spain.

Las Luminarias celebrates Spain’s patron saint of animals, San Anton, and was cancelled in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The event, staged for over 200 years, saw 120 horses going through the cobbled village streets of San Bartolome de Pinares.

Health restrictions meant a lower crowd than in past years, based mainly in a cordoned-off area close to the Town Hall.

The route involved the horses leaping through 20 bonfires in order to ‘purify’ them.

Spain Saint Anthony Bonfire Festival 2022
HORSE ‘PURIFYING’ (Cordon Press image)

Purification is in memory of a devastating epidemic that wiped a large part of the area’s cattle and horses.

The smoke from bonfires, which were erected over a number of days, is meant to drive away evil spirits and protects all animals on the eve of San Anton which takes place on January 17.

Spain Saint Anthony Bonfire Festival 2022
SILHOUETTED HORSE & RIDER (Cordon Press image)

For an event that celebrates animal well-being, it has attracted controversy over horses being taken through fire.

The National Association for the Protection and Welfare of Animals made its annual demand that horses should only pass by the bonfires to take in the smoke, rather than riding through them.

Organisers said no horses were harmed on Sunday during the hour-long celebration.

Precautions like clipping horse hair to avoid the animals being burned were also taken.

For the first time, horse owners and riders also had to be officially registered and have civil-liability insurance.


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