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AP PHOTOS: Spanish towns embrace peculiar old festivals

ACEHUCHE, Spain (AP) — Spain has a rich tradition of colorful, and sometimes bizarre, festivals. The best-known ones are in the summer, including running with bulls through the narrow streets of Pamplona or hundreds of people throwing ripe tomatoes at each other near Valencia. But some of the more obscure fiestas are no less intriguing.

Two small towns in Extremadura, a province west of Madrid, offer unusual winter spectacles. One involves men putting on animal hides that make them look like Chewbacca of the “Star Wars” series and another involves pelting a harlequin-type figure with raw turnips.

At the Carantoñas festival in Acehuche, men are helped to pull on hairy, bulky costumes and scary masks before they walk down the streets of whitewashed houses looking like wild beasts (“carantoñas”).

Women parade in colorful embroidered shawls and skirts as music plays. A priest also attends. Like many fiestas, the origin of this one is unclear. Some say it's a representation of the legend of wild animals receiving Saint Sebastian following his martyrdom.

The Jarramplas festival, meanwhile, features a man in multi-colored garb and a pointy wooden headgear to shield himself from turnips. A crowd of men in the street pelt the man with the vegetables from close range at the fiesta held annually at Piornal, 200 kilometers (125 miles) west of Madrid, over two days.

Their target is dressed similar to a harlequin, with a hefty wooden face and head mask painted red, black and white. Only residents of Piornal can play the role of a “jarramplas,” and locals regard it as an honor to be chosen from the decade-long waiting list.

These days, the “jarramplas” are cushioned by gloves and chest shields. Again, the festival’s origins are uncertain but there's general belief that a thief was once hounded out of the village under a hail of raw vegetables.

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