San Bartolome de Pinares, Spain
Reuters

About a hundred horses jumped through bonfires in a purification ceremony on Sunday during the Spanish festival of "Las Luminarias", which was held for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The traditional nighttime celebration takes place in San Bartolome de Pinares every 16th January, the eve of Saint Anthony's Day, Spain's patron saint of animals. 

It was cancelled last year because of pandemic restrictions. 

Spain San Bartolome de Pinares Luminarias

A rider goes through flames during the annual "Luminarias" celebration on the eve of Saint Anthony's day, Spain's patron saint of animals, in the village of San Bartolome de Pinares, north-west of Madrid, Spain, on 16th January. PICTURE: Reuters/Javier Barbancho

Revellers rode their horses through the narrow cobble-stoned streets, which according to tradition, purified the animals with the smoke and flames of the bonfires for the coming year. 

After an hour of horses jumping over flames, revellers then took to dancing and drinking.

"This comes from thousands of years ago. So that animals did not get unwell, the old priests would bless them with fires so that they would jump and be purified," said Fermin Abad, 64, a local resident. 

About 100 horses and their owners took part in the festivities, Reuters witnesses said.

Despite coming under criticism from animal rights groups over the years, organisers told Reuters that the horses were not harmed due to precautions taken by riders to cut horse hair to avoid burns.

- With reporting by GRAHAM KEELEY and MICHAEL GORE.