On the night of 16 January, the eve of the Feast of St Anthony Abbot, the city of Jaén (Andalusia) is lit up by a fiesta known as the Flames of San Antón, officially considered a Festival of National Interest for Tourism.
Around twenty bonfires are built around the cities to encourage locals and visitors alike to experience a magical night. Figures made of old clothes filled with straw and sawdust are placed on the top of the bonfires, with firecrackers on their heads and feet which explode when the fire reaches them. People dance around the bonfires and sing Jaén folk songs known as “melenchones”. It is traditional to enjoy roasted pumpkin and popcorn next to the fire, as well as sausages such as chorizo and black pudding, and wine.This festival is believed to have begun in the 13th century, and was associated with the cycle of tending the olive groves. The bonfires burned twigs from pruning the olive trees and the old esparto baskets used for pressing the olives, still soaked in oil. The fires also had magical connotations, and were thought to drive away pests and diseases.Since 1984 a race, open to the public, has been an essential part of the fiesta. People can run either 4 kilometres or 9 kilometres through the city, still adorned with Christmas lights.