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Fiesta de Cuasimodo

The peculiarly-named popular religious feast-cum-equestrian-display Fiesta de Cuasimodo is celebrated on the Sunday after Easter Sunday throughout many parts of Chile, particularly in urban areas and around Santiago. The basic idea is that knights, dressed in full and colourful attire, gather outside the local church in order to escort the priest on his tour to give the Eucharist to the infirm and dying throughout the area.

The apparent historical basis of this ritual is that the criminal and the disenfranchised used to assault the priest to steal his ornaments and valuable goodies. An escort of armed knights was necessary to ensure that God's man could perform his sacred duties undisturbed by the criminals (and the poor and starving) of the Earth... Though there is rather less risk of interference these days, the ceremony still takes place with annual regularity, a fond left-over from more colonial times.

After a solemn morning mass, the practice of Correr a Cristo begins, literally "running to Christ", as the procession sets forth towards the houses of the ill and the invalid. The procession is mainly composed of knights and the cuasimodistas, pedestrians clad in white with pieces of cloth covering their faces, accompanied by shouts of "Viva Cristo Rey!" ("Long live Christ the King!").

The name of Cuasimodo has nothing to do with both the immortal and apocryphal hunchback of that place in Paris. Neither is he a little-known saint or a local martyr. Rather, the name derives from an obscure liturgical saying, "Quasi Modo", which was vulgarised and came to be applied to this popular ceremony.

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