Fire, together with all the symbolism it represents, takes over in a number of villages of North of Extremadura, during the eve before the celebration of the Immaculate Conception, as La Vera. Not only in La Vera, but also in many other districts, such as Rivera de Fresnedosa, this religious celebration that is just a few days before Christmas acquires great importance.
The Escobazos (Blows with a broom) at Jarandilla de La Vera
Los Escobazos is an event that not only gathers the village people from Jarandilla de la Vera, but is also is growingly attractive for visitors. Stories relate the origin of Los Escobazos, to the time when the shepherds spent many months on top of the mountains and they came down to the Village to celebrate the festivity of the Immaculate Conception. They generally came into town on the eve of the festivity and the people from the village would see the shepherds come down the mountain illuminating their walk with large torches made from brooms. To remember those voyages down the mountain, today the Plaza Mayor (main square) and other principal street of Jarandilla de la Vera are illuminated at sun down, with torches made out of brooms. The objective, now, is to greet visitors and neighbors. Games and contest are held in the village until the time the banner of Virgin Mary is taken out of the church in a procession. The banner in carried by a horseman followed by the villagers carrying the torches. These torches now are to illuminate and follow the image of Virgin Mary through the streets of Jarandilla de la Vera.
Once the procession is over, the celebration continues through the night of December 7 into the morning of the next day. People gather around bonfires, drinking wine and sharing sweets for the contentment of all participants.
The festive lights at Madrigal de la Vera
Festivities of the eve of the Immaculate Conception are not limited to the torches from brooms of Jarandilla at the district of la Vera. At other places, such as Madrigal de la Vera, the neighbors gather wood to make enormous bon fires. These fires must illuminate the night. The neighbors bring out into the street food and drinks; they share these with visitors and friends, together with songs and special sweets typical of this area.
La Encamisá at Torrejoncillo
No one really knows the origin of La Encamisá, which is celebrated every December 7 at Torrejoncillo. But all participants know that their fathers, grand fathers and great grand fathers went out on horseback or walking, armed with guns and shot guns and rifles, covered with white cloaks and guarding the banner of Virgin Mary through the streets of the village.
The Virgin of the Immaculate Conception represents at Torrejoncillo a very special celebration. This celebration is prepared with many days in advance. In the homes they prepare sweets and the white cloaks or mantles are embroidered. They will be used to cover the faces and heads of riders that participate in the celebration. At the main street of this village they gather the wood for the bon fires that are lighted to fight against the cool of the night.
The neighbors of Torrejoncillo prepare for this festivity that must oblige with a number of rituals. First is the tradition to bring out the banner of the Virgin from the Church of Saint Andrew. The image of Virgin Mary is embroidered on the banner. Outside of the church, the major-domo of the festival receives the banner, get on a horse and show the banner to the people of the town. The hails to the Virgin can be heard in spite of the fireworks and the shooting of the guns. The banner is taken around the village in the midst of exclamations of happiness, surrounded by horsemen, shooting salutes into the air. The round about the town takes more than two hours, after which the banner goes back to the church. The neighbors of Torrejoncillo will spend the night celebrating in the streets, surrounding the bonfires, eating sweets and talking about the event.
Original article by Marian Castillo
Translated by Susana Windt
Published in November, 2015