Span­ish fes­ti­vals draw the bizarre

Masks and out­fits part of an­nual events

Metro Canada (Calgary) - - SPECIAL REPORT: MORTGAGES - The As­so­cI­ATed press

Bulls and toma­toes may be the key in­gre­di­ents in Spain’s most fa­mous fes­ti­vals, but masks and bizarre out­fits are the show­pieces in dozens of smaller town cel­e­bra­tions, many dat­ing back to me­dieval times.

These fes­ti­vals, held in offthe-beaten path towns across cen­tral and north­west­ern Spain, most of­ten co­in­cide with fes­tiv­i­ties cel­e­brat­ing the ad­vent of spring, mix­ing Car­ni­val and bizarre pa­gan-like rit­u­als with mock bat­tles be­tween good and evil.

Town res­i­dents don horned and maned masks, mul­ti­coloured con­i­cal hats, sheep­skins and cow­bells and pa­rade through the nar­row streets of their vil­lages. Other par­tic­i­pants pose as bears, wolves or devil-like char­ac­ters bran­dish­ing sticks as they run about to en­ter­tain spec­ta­tors.

The fes­ti­vals’ ori­gins are for the most part vague and their ti­tles — such as the Cu­cur­ru­ma­chos in Naval­osa town or the Zar­ra­maches in the vil­lage of Casavieja — are more of­ten than not un­trans­lat­able.

Casavieja’s fes­ti­val takes place on St. Blaise’s day, Feb. 3, and cel­e­brates tales of how shep­herds liv­ing in the nearby moun­tains came down to the vil­lage on that day to be paid and be­gan dress­ing oddly to en­ter­tain chil­dren.

The La Vi­jan­era pa­rade, held on the first Sun­day of the year in the north­ern town of Silio, is a col­or­ful a Car­ni­val-type pageant sym­bol­iz­ing the ex­pul­sion of evil spir­its and stars char­ac­ters known as Tra­pa­jones, dressed up in cos­tumes made of wood, moss or corn cobs.

And while the mask fes­ti­vals may not at­tract the tens of thou­sands of party-go­ers like Pam­plona’s San Fer­min bull-run­ning fi­esta or the To­matina tomato bat­tle, they are very pop­u­lar and draw more tourists and me­dia each year.

The towns also strive to pro­mote the fes­ti­vals to keep their cul­tural her­itage alive. As part of this ef­fort, each year one of the towns stages a spe­cial event to show­case a va­ri­ety of the char­ac­ters from the dif­fer­ent fes­ti­vals.

This year’s event, cel­e­brated April 1 in Casavieja, fea­tured the com­i­cal hairy bear and Tra­pa­jon straw fig­ures of La Vi­jan­era fes­ti­val and the Har­ra­ma­cho char­ac­ters from the Cu­cur­ru­ma­chos fi­esta.

The as­so­ci­ated press

a man dressed as a har­ra­ma­cho, a tra­di­tional char­ac­ter from the navalacruz car­ni­val in the small vil­lage of casavieja, spain.

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