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Spanish town celebrates ancient festival

Before dawn in the small Spanish town of Acehuche, a parade ends with fireworks and beating drums. Before dawn in the small Spanish town of Acehuche, a parade ends with fireworks and beating drums. It marks some of the biggest dates in the local calendar. It’s the three-day celebration of the fur-covered characters known as “Carantoñas" that resemble wild beasts. The ancient festival has roots in pagan traditions of fertility that have been incorporated into religious symbolism. The festival marks Acehuche's patron, St. Sebastian, whom the Catholic tradition considers a martyr of anti-Christian Romans. Last yeasr's edition was canceled due to the pandemic, the festival went ahead this year with strict masking protocols. Women dress up as “Regaoras” in colorful embroidered skirts and shawls, decorating intricate hairstyles with flowers. A few dozen men gather in a garage to cover themselves in animal skins and fur to transform into “Carantoñas". The handmade costumes can weigh more than 20 kilograms and only male revelers above 16 are allowed to wear them. On the second day of the celebration, the image of St. Sebastian is carried in a procession over rosemary-covered pavements. The “Carantoñas” bow to the patron saint and the “Regaoras” cover the sculpture in confetti as traditional songs are sung . The procession takes the saint's figure to face a chosen person who offers thanks for keeping the town safe and healthy. With the sculpture back inside the church, a new character emerges in the crowd outside. The “Vaca-Tora," a monstrous figure with enormous horns and an oversized loud cowbell that ushers away both beasts and revelers

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