On the last Wednesday of August each year, the world’s largest food thrusting contest takes place in Buñol, a small town in the province of Valencia, Spain. La Tomatina attracts around 22,000 people from around the world who gather together to enjoy the unique tomato crossfire experience. The tomato fight itself lasts about an hour as Spaniards and tourists come together to paint the town red.
Image Credits: Flikr / La Tomatina taken by Travis Britton
How Did It All Begin?
The festival actually started at the end of World War II, with its touristic interest beginning in 2002. Although there is some debate about how the festival started, it is believed that it began with a group of young people in the main square of Buñol. In 1945 locals were watching a parade of giants, when suddenly a group of people started a fight with the nearest thing they could get their hands on: the tomatoes on a nearby vegetable stand.
It is said that, due to how entertaining it was, the tradition escalated continuing each year. This tradition was banned for years during the Franco government, as there was no religious motivation to justify the festival taking place. However, in 1959 people began to celebrate again.
What Happens at La Tomatina?
Due to its popularity and worldwide recognition, coaches leave from several points in Spain including Valencia, Barcelona, Madrid and more. With different types of tickets, each package varies. The best-sellers include paella, a Valencian special, a Tomatina commemorative t-shirt and access to the fun zone which is full of music and surprises.
It wouldn’t be a Spanish celebration without ham. The fun kicks off at 10am with a competition involving the palo jamón – the ham pole. Participants climb up a wooden pole covered in greasy ham which is placed in the town square. With crowds singing and cheering in encouragement, the objective is to reach a leg of ham at the top of the pole which the winner gets to keep.
Image Credits: Flikr / La Tomatina taken by Kuba Abramowicz
When does the food fight begin?
As soon as someone wins the ham, a signal sounds and the tomato fight begins.
As lorries draw up tons of tomatoes, people from all different corners of the world unite in unconventional ways as they throw tomatoes at each other.
Predictably, no one gets hurt. The tomatoes have to be crushed before they are thrown, and it’s advised that you bring goggles to stop the acid of the fruit from getting into your eyes. Y listo!– a pain-free fight!
After the fight, the fiesta begins with paella and drinks for those who wish to continue.
Some participants even make their way to the local river, Los Peñones, to cool off.
What Do The Locals Think About La Tomatina?
This messy event that unites thousands of tourists from all over the globe has attracted controversy over the years.
However, during 2020 and 2021 celebrations were cancelled due to COVID-19, and the celebration will be missed.
Image Credits: Flikr / La Tomatina taken by Kuba Abramowick
What Does the New Generation Think of La Tomatina?
Not only is this celebration a hit for tourists, but it’s also big with the Spaniards.
The uniqueness and alternative element of the event attracted many young Spanish to La Tomatina.
It’s a well-known fact that the Spanish love a good fiesta, so this is considered the perfect event to do something different and have fun in the process.
It is a great way to live a slightly distinctive Spanish tradition.
Surprisingly, there are no bulls at this event! A relief for many of the younger generation is the fact that it is way more ecological than it seems.
Is La Tomatina a Waste of Food?
Many condemn the festival as a waste of food. While millions of people suffering from the worldwide issue of. food deprivation.
However, there is no cause for alarm as the fruit stockpiled for the event is the fruit that doesn’t pass the minimum requirements meaning that only the rotten and spoiled ones are included in the process.
Furthermore, tomatoes have a benefit that goes beyond just being thrown. Did you know that the acid from the tomato cleans the streets of the town? It’s a natural, more environmentally friendly alternative to bleach the streets back to spotlessness.
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Do you want to find out more about different cultural traditions around the world? Check this post about "Russian traditions and Pancake week".