Parents in this Portugal village encourage children to smoke cigarettes
It might shock many, but parents of the Portugal village Vale de Salgueiro encourage their children, even those as young as 5, to smoke cigarettes.
The hazardous practice is a part of the Epiphany celebrations, an annual two-day festival.
Though locals say it's a centuries-old tradition related to the Christian Epiphany and the winter solstice, but none knows why children are made to smoke.
A Portugal village where children smoke, with permission
Epiphany celebrations: Of celebrating rebirth and letting loose
The festivities include an elected "king" distributing wine and snacks, dancing around bonfires, and a piper playing music.
This year, the celebrations will begin on Friday and end with a Mass on Saturday.
Though the roots of the tradition are unknown, it is loosely tied with celebrating rebirth of nature and human life, and doing things considered inappropriate the rest of the year.
Authorities are aware of the practice, but don't intervene
In Portugal, the legal age to purchase tobacco is 18. However, nothing prevents parents from making their children actively participate in the celebrations.
The state authorities are aware of the practice, but don't intervene.
Despite knowing that cigarette smoking can be habit forming, parents don't see any harm in letting their kids do it for two days in a year.
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Village's remoteness makes it easy for strange traditions to thrive
Due to the village's remoteness, the people of Vale de Salgueiro still practise several customs that can be traced back to the pagan times. The hamlet's seclusion - it's 450km northeast of Portugal capital Lisbon - makes it easy for such strange traditions to thrive.