PIORNAL,Spain - Residents of a Spanish town pelted a devil-like character portrayed by a young man with thousands of rock-hard turnips Thursday in a tradition that aims to drive away evil.
The centuries-old festival of Jarramplas is celebrated every January 19 and 20 in the western village of Piornal, home to around 1,500 people.
Portraying the "Jarramplas" - especially on the second day of the festival - is considered such an honour that there is a waiting list of 21 years.
Each year, several young men are selected to take turns to dress up as the devil-like character by wearing a costume made from colourful strips of fabric with body armour underneath, and a mask with great horns.
As they walk the streets and beat a drum, hundreds of villagers repeatedly hurl turnips at them from close range.
The exact origin of the festival is not known, although various theories exist.
One widely accepted one is that the "Jarramplas" represents a cattle thief who was once punished by local residents.
The tradition has come to symbolise the expulsion of everything bad.
Piornal mayor Ernesto Agudiez said the purpose of the festival is to "drive away bad spirits in 2017, so that we have a good year and a good cherry harvest".
About 70 per cent of Piornal's residents earn a living from cherry farming.
David Amado was one of 23 men, aged 18-30, who portrayed the "Jarramplas" on Thursday and wore the costume which weighs over 40 kilos (88 pounds).
"If I can do it again, I will," he said delighted, just after he took his turn playing the "Jarramplas" for about 20 minutes.
"It does not hurt. The armour is well prepared, so you don't feel the impact much. It is more the fatigue of wearing so many kilos," said Sergio Calle Alonso, who portrayed the character shortly after Amado.
Piornal bought a total of 21.4 tonnes of turnips, which are left at strategic places across the village to be hurled at the "Jarramplas".
Portraying the creature on January 20, the second day of the festival, is considered a great honour, for it is the day of Saint Sebastian, whom the village honours.
As such, only one or two men get to be pelted by turnips on January 20, instead of the 20-or-so on the first day.
"One of the most important things in life is dressing as 'Jarramplas'," said Ismael Vicente, who will don the costume on Friday and face the wrath of his turnip-throwing neighbours.
Sergio Diaz Prieto, an insurance salesman who portrayed the character in 2004 after an 11-year wait, said there was an art to being a good "Jarramplas".
It "means playing the drum a lot, and walking with a swagger, not like a statue," he said.
"But above all, a good Jarramplas is one who exposes himself and gives the opportunity for people to hit him hard."