The Carantoñas is back on the streets of Acehuche, a small town in Spain, this year.
In 2021, the Carantoñas did not make an appearance because of the rapid increase in the number of COVID-19 cases. It pushed officials to cancel the Las Carantoñas festival for public health reasons.
However, this year was different. The COVID-19 situation in the country made it more favorable for the town to celebrate the Las Carantoñas festival. This is a welcome change for citizens so that they can practice and honor the tradition that has been in place for centuries.
The Las Carantoñas festival is a much-awaited event not just for those residing in the town, but also for everyone across the globe. It is considered a Festival of National Tourist Interest.
What Happens During the Las Carantoñas Festival?
The Las Carantoñas festival runs for two days. It is held on the 20th day of January, and either of the days that surround it, every year. Citizens of all ages and genders come together and put in the time and effort to celebrate the festival.
Men participate in the festival as Carantoñas by wearing animal skin and fur. They make use of a mask decorated with teeth, the ears of animals, red peppers, and skins. These costumes are made by hand and weigh heavily, with some weighing more than 20 kilograms. They also carry a dry olive branch with them. Only men older than 16 years old are allowed to become Carantoñas for the festival.
On the other hand, women participate as Regaoras. They are dressed in skirts and shawls that are colorful and have been intricately embroidered. They also style their hair with the use of flowers.
Citizens are already awake before sunrise to start the festivities.
On January 19, the first day of the festival, the prefect and his family gather rosemary in the morning. The prefect is a specific person from the local brotherhood. He is chosen by the citizens.
Then, at twilight, children and teenagers make their way to Gorron Blanco. This is where they will meet with the drummer, who is responsible for ensuring that music is played throughout the festival.
On the second day of the festival, the prefect and the drummer walk together on the streets of the town. They wake up the men and give them coffee and migas.
The Regaoras then get to work. They cover the streets, the church, and the house of the prefect using the rosemary they were able to acquire. After this, the Carantoñas come out.
Later on during the day, everyone gathers around the house of the prefect. All together, they walk to the church where the statue of St. Sebastian is placed.
Upon arrival at the church, all participants, except for the Carantoñas, go inside to perform songs and dances for St. Sebastian. During this time, the Carantoñas wait outside.
After the performances, sprinklers and marksmen make a way for the statue of St. Sebastian to pass through.
The Carantoñas pay respect to St. Sebastian by bowing, while the Regaoras place confetti all over the statue. This is accompanied by the playing of traditional songs and drums. The songs have their roots in an oral tradition that was established centuries ago.
The statue of St. Sebastian is placed in front of the prefect. When faced with the saint, the prefect gives thanks for the protection and good health that he has granted the town for the past year.
Then, the statue of St. Sebastian is returned to the church and the vaca tora comes out.
The vaca tora is a “monstrous figure with enormous horns and an oversized loud cowbell that ushers away both beasts and parade-goers”.
The Las Carantoñas festival ends with a banquet. The prefect welcomes all the participants of the festival into his home. Together, they eat sweetmeats and drink wine.
A Short Background on the Las Carantoñas Festival
The origins of the Las Carantoñas festival have not been exactly established. However, many people believe that “it represents a legend of the wild animals of the forest peacefully receiving Saint Sebastian after his martyrdom.”
It is believed that Saint Sebastian was hit with arrows. Despite being surrounded by wild beasts, he was not eaten by them. Rather, the wild beasts respected the saint.