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Beasts in the street — scary Las Carantoñas festival celebrates a patron saint

Beasts in the street — scary Las Carantoñas festival celebrates a patron saint
Men dressed as carantoñas take part in the San Sebastian procession in Acehúche, Spain, on 20 January. (Photo: Carlos Gil Andreu / Getty Images)

Each year on or around 20 January, the town of Acehúche in Spain holds a festival that is considered to be of national interest. It honours Saint Sebastian, who is venerated as a martyr in Catholic and Orthodox churches.

In the Spanish province of Cáceres, which falls in the autonomous community of Extremadura, the town of Acehúche comes together to celebrate Las Carantoñas. Men gather and cover themselves with animal skins to represent wild beast-like creatures that walk the streets during the annual San Sebastian procession. 

Women dressed in colourful skirts and shawls and with flowers in their hair sing traditional songs during this religious ceremony. A statue of Saint Sebastian is carried in a procession and the carantoñas bow to the patron saint. The festival ends with the beating of drums, and youngsters set off fireworks. DM

A man sews a carantoña mask to a costume in Acehuche, Spain, on 20 January 2024. (Photo: Carlos Gil Andreu / Getty Images)

The terrifying face of a carantoña. A person in charge of the festival, known as the mayordomo, goes around the village and chooses the men who will dress up as carantoñas with furs and scary masks. The mayordomo is accompanied by tamborileros (drummers), who fill the streets with music. They all form part of the procession that accompanies the statue of San Sebastian through the village streets until the appearance of the vaca tora (a carantoña with horns and bells) that frightens the rest of the animals. The festival also features folk dances and songs, and the two days end with wine and cakes in the mayordomo’s house. (Photo: Carlos Gil Andreu / Getty Images)

A regaora (young woman) takes part in the Las Carantoñas festival. The role of regaoras is to spread rosemary on the floor of the church and at other sites of the festival. (Photo: Carlos Gil Andreu / Getty Images)

Men dressed as carantoñas pass a row of regaoras in the town of Acehúche. (Photo: Carlos Gil Andreu / Getty Images)

The statue of San Sebastian is taken out of the church in Acehúche by the regaoras. It accompanies the procession through the village. (Photo: Carlos Gil Andreu / Getty Images)

Three men dress up as Carantoñas before taking part in the San Sebastian procession in Acehuche, Spain, on 20 January 2024. (Photo: Carlos Gil Andreu / Getty Images)

Las Carantoñas

A man sets off fireworks during the Las Carantoñas festival. (Photo: Carlos Gil Andreu / Getty Images)

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R29.

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • dingaanjacob14 says:

    The Las Carantonas Festival, does’nt it clash with the teachings of Christianity? I am so baffled by their dress code, if it could be called that.

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted

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