A Pair of Fiery Festivals

In the past couple of days, festivals were held in two villages separated by language, culture, religion, and great distance, but both centered on the use of fire as a method of purification and blessing—and both were carried out with a liberal partaking in alcohol. In San Bartolome de Pinares, Spain, on the eve of Saint Anthony's Day—to honor Spain's patron saint of animals—people ride horses through bonfires during the “Luminarias,” a centuries-old tradition meant to to purify and protect the animals. In Nozawaonsen, Japan, village men of the unlucky ages of 25 and 42 stage a fiery battle, with one group building and protecting a wooden shrine, and another trying to burn it down with bundles of flaming sticks. The festival is meant to chase out evil spirits, celebrate first births, and pray for happy marriages.

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