Every year on January 17,the people of San Bartolome de Pinares celebrate St. Anthony by riding their horses, donkeys and mules through piles of burning tree branches.
The unique tradition of leaping over and through flames dates back 500 years, but the men and women of San Bartolome de Pinares still celebrate it religiously. They gather all the branches they find in the days leading up to the festivities, and when dusk falls on the eve of Saint Anthony’s, they light them ablaze. Riders lead their mounts through the burning piles of the village, accompanied by sounds of drums and Spanish bagpipes.
Jumping through the flames is said to bring the animals the protection of St. Anthony Abad, acknowledged as the patron of domestic animals, ever since the Middle-Ages. Locals believe the fire purifies their animals and protects them against illnesses, all year long.
Animal rights activists don’t buy the whole purification deal, but in a country like Spain, where traditions like bullfighting, Shearing of the Beasts or Day of the Geese, they don’t have too many hopes of putting an end to it. Plus, the owners say their animals remain unharmed…