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Every year on November 5th, for reasons lost in antiquity, the villagers of Ottery St Mary, Devon in England’s West Country race through the streets carrying heavy barrels full of flaming tar in one of the quirkiest of British traditions. The West Country has a history of torchlight processions and a tradition of burning barrels and rolling them down the streets, but Ottery is the only village where barrels aren’t rolled but carried above the head. The tradition is believed to have started in the 17th century, possibly when someone decided that rolling barrels were tame and carrying barrels on the shoulders was far more appealing.

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