Flaming tar barrels, England

Photo © Ottery Carnival Committee

Guy Fawkes Night is already a strange UK celebration, but Ottery St Mary folk clearly felt its quirkiness needed a boost.

Every non-Sunday 5 November since the 17th century, for reasons lost in time, the townspeople have risked serious burns by carrying fiery tar barrels through the streets during the town’s carnival.

Children and women lug medium-weight barrels in the evening, working up to the men’s finale at midnight.

A total of 17 barrels weighing as much as 30 kilograms are lit outside the town’s four public houses and carried past more than 10,000 spectators.

If this is your kind of sport, then you may need to move: only long-term residents and town natives may carry a barrel.

NB: If you’re attending, double check in advance that the celebrations are going ahead: insurance woes and sabotage have threatened the event in recent years.

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