Nowadays we have the Burning Man festival. But back in the 19th century, they had the Burning Rat festival.
Some years since a gentleman, who had just returned from Rome, informed me that he had witnessed the extraordinary spectacle of a large number of rats, after having been dipped into spirits of turpentine and set on fire, being turned loose at the top of the flight of steps which leads from the Vatican to the Plaza below. A great crowd of persons was assembled to witness the spectacle, which took place at night; and I think my informant stated, was customary on the evening of a particular day of the year: the miserable rats, which left the top step of the flight like living balls of fire — amidst the shouts of the populace — arrived at the bottom mere masses of scorched flesh.
Is this custom still kept up at Rome? If so, on what day in the year?