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Carnival: Spain's most weird and wonderful celebrations

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Los Indianos carnival in the Canary Islands. Photo: AFP
11:17 CET+01:00
As carnival gets underway across Spain this week, The Local gives you the run down on where to see some of Spain's wackiest celebrations.
Mud madness 
 

Photo: AFP
 
If you’re spending Carnival in Galicia, chances are you’ll get more than just a spot of rain. So why not take it a step further and get involved in a full-on mud battle? Entroido Carnival, in the town of Laza, sees locals engaged in a friendly war where rags drenched in mud are thrown at random at everyone taking part.
 
Grotesque grins 
 

Photo: AFP
 
Entroido Carnival in Laza offers an alternative to those who don’t want to wash mud out of their hair for a week. Os Peliqueiros, seen in the image wearing odd traditional clothing and creepy masks, are ancestral figures thought to represent Galician taxmen in the 16th century. Up to 150 run through the streets of this small town in northern Spain, whipping anyone who gets in their way.
 
Drag queen election
 

Photo: AFP
 
You can't get much glitzier than the annual carnival celebration in Las Palmas, the capital of Gran Canaria. The surreal nature and extravagant costumes seen at each year’s pageant are a feast for the senses, making the event just as popular as the standard Carnival Queen election in neighbouring Tenerife. Anyone can take part in the drag gala, but only a handful of women have taken to the stage since the celebration began in 1998.
 
Where the wild things are 
 

Photo: AFP
 
If you fancy reliving some childhood nightmares head to the village of Piasca in Cantabria, northern Spain. There you will find half of the locals covered in animal skins and wearing unnerving animalistic masks, who will no doubt chase you away with their brooms. Another tradition of the so-called Zamarrones Carnival involves going from door to door begging for sausages, eggs and bacon while heading to the neighbouring village of Los Cos.
 
Powder party
 

Photo: AFP
 
Los Indianos festival sees thousands of people dressed in white take to the streets of La Palma (Canaries) and chuck talcum powder at each other for hours on end. The fiesta’s name refers to the Canarian migrants who sought a better life in Latin America in the 19th century and were greeted warmly on their return to the island of La Palma. As for the talcum tossing, it's thought to be linked to the disinfectant powder sprinkled on the travellers to avoid the spread of disease.
 
Load of bull?
 

Photo: AFP
 
It may come as no surprise that one Spanish town has linked two of the country’s greatest traditions together: bull running and Carnival. After all, if being chased by a 700-kilo beast seemed foolish enough already, doing it in fancy dress seems to make sense somehow. Head to Ciudad Rodrigo near Salamanca (west Spain) for El Carnaval del Toro.
 

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Burial of the sardine
 

Photo: AFP
 
Celebrations turn a bit too surreal in many parts of Spain when on Ash Wednesday the streets are jam-packed with fake weeping widows, men and women, who follow a giant polystyrene sardine to its burial. The message behind the funeral parody is more symbolic than it may initially seem: the sardine represents life’s excesses and its burning at the stake, the purge of such vices and the rebirth of our souls.
 
Basque bigfoots
 

Photo: AFP
 
Old habits die hard, especially ancient ones in the Basque Country and Navarre. Carnival traditions in the villages of Ituren and Zubieta (Navarre) see locals dress up as wild beasts from head to toe as they march through the streets escorted by Joalduns, "those who carry the bells" to scare away the evil spirits. Similar medieval traditions revolving around farming and animal herding are also found in Slovenia and Bulgaria.
 
List compiled by Alex Dunham

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