In the heart of Spain, the quaint village of Castrillo de Murcia becomes the epicenter of a centuries-old tradition known as El Colacho, where men vault over newborns to ward off evil—a spectacle as captivating as it is unconventional.
A Centuries-Old Ceremony for Sin Cleansing
El Colacho, which takes place during the festival of Corpus Christi, is a centuries-old tradition dating back to 1620. It features men, known as ‘El Colacho’, dressed in bright, yellow costumes and masks, symbolizing the Devil. These men run and jump over mattresses lined with babies born in the previous 12 months, who are laid out in the open air by their parents. This act is said to cleanse the babies of original sin, ensure them safe passage through life, and guard against illness and evil spirits.
The infants, oblivious to the spectacle above them, are traditionally dressed in their christening clothes, and the festival is attended with a mix of solemnity and celebration. Parents from all around the region bring their newborns to participate in this age-old rite, showcasing their faith in this peculiar cultural legacy.
Cultural Controversy and Community
Despite its long history, El Colacho has not been without its critics. The practice has raised eyebrows across the world, with concerns over child safety coming to the forefront. Nonetheless, the community of Castrillo de Murcia maintains the ritual with care and precision, ensuring that no harm comes to the babies during the festival. The jumpers themselves are selected from the Brotherhood of Santísimo Sacramento de Minerva, the local religious group responsible for organizing the event, and they train for the act to avoid accidents.
Beyond the adrenaline-inducing leaps, the festival is deeply ingrained in the village’s cultural and religious fabric. It draws crowds that bolster community spirit and local tourism. El Colacho serves as a fascinating example of the blend between historical paganism and Christian beliefs, a characteristic feature of many traditional Spanish festivals.
Though El Colacho may appear to be a bizarre event to the outside world, it is a proud staple for Castrillo de Murcia—a weird and wonderful festival where leaps of faith are taken quite literally, binding the community with every airborne jump over the innocent and the hopeful.
Top image: The El Colacho baby jumping festival. Source: Viaggio Routard / Flickr.