Jarandilla de la Vera, Spain, Dec 8 (EFE).- Hundreds of bonfires and brooms burned through Wednesday night in the town of Jarandilla de la Vera in western Spain, in a centuries-old religious rite to honor the Virgin Mary’s Immaculate Conception.
Thousands of people gathered for the “Escobazos” (Spanish for broom strokes) to drink wine and burn brooms at the overnight festival.
In the days leading up to the celebration, residents of the town craft the brooms from dried retama bushes that they pick themselves.
One of the festival’s highlights is when people in the main plaza beat each other’s backs and legs with the brooms ablaze.
The festival also features a procession in which a designated person receives the Virgin Mary’s banner from the parish priest to lead the parade through the streets of the town to the backdrop of music as hundreds of people carry their brooms as torches.
The town’s mayor, Fermín Encabo described the event in four words: “Fire, passion, pride, and joy.”
“Even if we look for words to define ‘Los Escobazos’, the truth is that you have to be here to see what it feels like, because for us, the Jarandillans, it is indescribable,” he added.
Every Jarandilan burns four or five brooms during the celebration, whose origins are shrouded in legend.
According to one tale, local shepherds used to exchange broom strokes as a sign of joy, after long seasons of hard work in the nearby Sierra de Tormantos, when they would be away from the village for extended periods.
Nowadays, it is still believed that the horses in the procession of the Virgin Mary will be protected against all evils during the coming year. EFE