PHOTO: Horses Ride Through Fire for Spanish Festival

Luminarias festival

Daniel Ochoa de Olza/AP

updated 01/17/2013 AT 6:10 PM ET

originally published 01/17/2013 AT 6:30 PM ET

TThere’s something you don’t see every day.

In the small town of San Bartolomé de Pinares, Spain, locals mount their horses and ride through bonfires in a nod to a centuries-old tradition that marks Saint Anthony’s Day. The practice is believed to help purify the animals and protect them as they make their way through the smoke.

Known as Luminarias, the celebration draws hordes of riders each year, who make their way through the town’s narrow streets that have been set ablaze. While the tradition’s origin remains unknown, some have speculated it began at a time when animals were falling unnaturally ill.

Luminarias festival

Daniel Ochoa de Olza/AP