El Colacho: Corpus Christi and the Devil’s Leap

Corpus Christi Procession – Painting by Carl Emil Doepler

If you are a baby in the town of Castrillo de Murcia, near Burgos, Spain, LOOK OUT!

Around the world, Catholics and some other Christians celebrate the Feast of Corpus Christi two weeks after Pentecost, the Sunday following Trinity Sunday on the liturgical calendar. This year, the feast will be celebrated in the United States on Sunday, June 2.

On the feast, which is also called the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, Catholics honor Christ fully present, Body and Blood, in the Eucharist. Many parishes have Corpus Christi processions, carrying the Blessed Sacrament through the streets in a monstrance. Following the procession, the faithful gather in the church for Benediction and Eucharistic adoration.

But the town of Castrillo de Murcia celebrates Corpus Christi with a tradition of their own: Baby jumping.

In a tradition dating back to 1620, parents dress up their infants and bring them to the town square, where the babies are placed on a mattress on the ground. Then a man, costumed in a yellow jumpsuit with red trim (symbolizing the devil) and brandishing a whip and a baton, gets off to a running start and LEAPS over the mattress full of babies. The Brotherhood of Santísimo Sacramento de Minerva, which organizes the festivities, chases people around the town throughout the day.

El Colacho 1
By Jtspotau (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

According to tradition, the “devil’s leap”—or “El Colacho,” as it is called in Spain—cleanses the babies of original sin, putting them on a path to a good life and entrance into heaven. Sin is driven from the infants and from the whole town.

Although there are no known reports of injuries caused by falling “devils,” the festival is considered one of the most dangerous in the world. In recent years, Pope Benedict has asked Spanish priests to distance themselves from El Colacho, and to downplay the tradition’s connection with Catholicism. The Church still teaches that it is baptism by water, not a giant leap by an airborne devil, which cleanses the soul of original sin.

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  • Revaliensis

    Interesting! it is worth mentioning that the Feast of Corpus Christi falls on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday (in relation to Thursday of the Holy Week) according to the universal Roman calendar but is now carried over to the following Sunday in some dioceses/countries. Those following the Extraordinary Form of the Roman rite celebrate it on Thursday even in the US and Canada.