Beast-like characters known as Carantoñas return to Spanish city for religious festival

It’s hours before sunrise in Acehuche, a small town in Spain’s western region of Extremadura, and a group of youth ends a parade by setting off fireworks and beating drums.

Revelers play drums and use fireworks to wake up neighbors during “albora” as part of Las Carantoñas festival.(AP-Photo: Bernat Armangue)

The noise wakes residents for some of the biggest dates on the local calendar: the three-day celebration of fur-covered characters known as carantoñas, who resemble wild animals.

Men dress in goatskinsMen dress in goatskins
Men prepare to take part in the Las Carantoñas festival in Acehuche in southeastern Spain.(AP-Photo: Bernat Armangue)
Caratonas-Festival (9)Caratonas-Festival (9)
Men drink and eat before the annual procession.(AP-Photo: Bernat Armangue)

With roots in pagan traditions of fertility that were incorporated into religious symbolism, the ancient festival currently marks Acehuche’s patron saint, Saint Sebastian, whom Catholic tradition regards as a martyr of the early anti-Christian Romans.

Caratonas-Festival (4)Caratonas-Festival (4)
Catholic believers gather during the procession.(AP-Photo: Bernat Armangue)
Caratonas-Festival (3)Caratonas-Festival (3)
Women in traditional dress known as regaoras and men dressed as carantoñas gather during a procession.(AP-Photo: Bernat Armangue)

After the 2021 edition was canceled due to a sharp rise in coronavirus cases, the festival took place at the end of January this year. It was held under strict mask-wearing rules due to record numbers of infections across Spain caused by the highly contagious Omicron variant.

The carving of Saint Sebastian is greeted with salutations while being carried by devotees.(AP-Photo: Bernat Armangue)
A man in an animal fur costume poses in front of a wall.A man in an animal fur costume poses in front of a wall.
With roots in pagan traditions of fertility that were incorporated into religious symbolism, the ancient festival currently marks Acehuche’s patron saint, Saint Sebastian, whom Catholic tradition regards as a martyr of the early anti-Christian Romans.(AP-Photo: Bernat Armangue)

Following tradition, women dress up as regaoras in colorfully embroidered skirts and shawls and adorn intricate hairstyles with flowers, while a few dozen men gather in a garage to dress in animal skins and furs to transform themselves into carantoñas.

A woman in traditional dress known as a regaora poses for a portrait during the festival.(AP-Photo: Bernat Armangue)

The handcrafted costumes can weigh over 20 kilograms and may only be worn by male revelers over the age of 16.

A man dressed as a wild animal stands in a festival crowd.A man dressed as a wild animal stands in a festival crowd.
A man dressed as a wild animal offers sweets as part of the Las Carantonas festival.(AP-Photo: Bernat Armangue)

On the second day of the celebration, when the image of Saint Sebastian is carried in procession down rosemary-covered sidewalks, the carantoñas bow to the patron saint and the regaoras cover the sculpture in confetti while traditional songs are sung and drums played.

“All the songs we play have been recovered through oral tradition,” said Jaime Garrido, one of the musicians.

“Some are common songs in the region and others are specific to this festival.”

A young boy walks next to a man dressed as a wild animal.A young boy walks next to a man dressed as a wild animal.
A man dressed as a wild animal and his son during the Las Carantoñas festival.(AP-Photo: Bernat Armangue)

The procession brings the figure of the saint to a chosen member of the local brotherhood, who thanks Saint Sebastian for keeping the city safe and sound for another year.

After the sculpture is back inside the church, a new character emerges from the crowd outside: the Vaca-Tora, a monstrous figure with huge horns and an oversized, loud cowbell that scares away both beasts and revelers.

AP

Reference-www.nach-welt.com

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