La Tomatina – A Festival You’ll Definitely Enjoy!

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If you’ve searched up festivals in Spain, you might have come across people covered in tomato, and having fun. This is the festival of La Tomatina. It’s a strange festival only found in the town of Buñol in Valencia. Essentially, La Tomatina is the world’s biggest food fight, where nearly everyone in town participates in throwing tomatoes at each other and generally having a great time. But what exactly is this festival? When did it start? When can you take part? And why is it celebrated every year? Don’t worry, we’ll tell you all about La Tomatina, and by the time you’re done learning about it, you may even want to take part in this crazy festival!

Tomatoes in Mid-air at La Tomatina
Image by aaroncorey, Tomatoes in Mid-air, 2015, Under Creative Commons Licence

What Is The History Behind La Tomatina?

For the most part, festivals are created because a deep and meaningful reason. For example, the 4th of July celebrates Independence Day of the USA, or El Dia Del Muerto celebrates the “Day of the Dead”, or “All Saints Day”, which has deep religious connotations. La Tomatina, however, is a very different story. You would think that it celebrates the beginnings of harvest season, or the end of the summer. It doesn’t. In fact, La Tomatina is a festival that was made, on accident.

1024px La Tomatina 25.08.2010 Spain Buñol 29
flydime, CC BY-SA 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The first iteration of the festival was in 1945, on the last Wednesday of August of that year. A parade was taking place, with a large procession of musicians, giants and large heads, and a few young people knocked over one of the participants. That participant knocked over everything in its way, and as a result, the onlookers began throwing tomatoes from nearby stands. And for whatever reason, every year since then, people threw tomatoes at each other on the last Wednesday of August. Of course, there have been a few times, when the festival was banned, like in the early 1950s, when Francisco Franco banned it, because of its lack of religious importance.

Of course, the people of Buñol weren’t too happy about this, and after much protest, it returned to the town, in 1957. Not only that, but in 2002, it was declared as the Festivity of International Tourist Interest, by the Secretary Department of Tourism, of Spain, because it was so popular. However, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, the tickets for this fun festival is limited and only 20 000 people are allowed to participate every year.

When Is La Tomatina Held?

The world’s largest food fight happens once a year, on the last Wednesday of August. This year, in 2022, the festival will be held on the 31st August. So, if you’re interested in taking part, make sure you book your tickets early, as they are quickly sold out. And remember, “no ticket, no entry”. Essentially, if you try to sneak into the festival, you’ll be caught out easily, as the standard population of Buñol is roughly 9500.

What Happens At La Tomatina?

When the festival starts, a water cannon is fired, at the centre of the town square, and that’s when it becomes an “every man for himself” situation. This usually happens at around 11am and for 1 hour, you can throw tomatoes at your nearest target, or at anyone really. Then once the hour is up, another water cannon is fired, and all fighting ceases.

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Image by MikeJamieson(1950), La Tomatina En Reno 029, 2010, Under Creative Commons Licence

After that, it’s the big clean-up, where firetrucks hose down the streets. Of course, they won’t hose people down, as the actual infrastructure of the town itself can be threatened by the acidity of the tomatoes. So, if you want to clean yourself, after the event, you’ll either need to head back to your accommodation, or if you’re lucky, some kind residents might hose you down.

Are There Rules to La Tomatina?

There are some rules to the festival. For example, don’t take any hard objects with you, like bottles, in case you harm others. Squash the tomatoes, before throwing it at someone, so it lessens the impact. Don’t rip other people’s clothing. Stay a good distance away from the delivery trucks (that house the tomatoes). And finally, as soon as you hear the second water cannon, stop throwing tomatoes immediately. These rules are there to ensure that everyone who participates in the festival remains safe, and no major accidents occur.

Of course, there are also additional pieces of advice, like wearing clothes you don’t mind ruining. After all, you’ll be peppered by tomatoes, and as they’re acidic fruit (yes, fruit not vegetable), they could damage the colour or fabric of your clothes. So be sure you wear something that you don’t mind ruining (or throwing out!). Also, be sure that you have secure accommodation. While most people will adhere to the rules of La Tomatina, it is still a gathering of a large number of people, so anything could happen. So, be sure that the place you stay for the night (if you do decide to stay), can guarantee your safety and security.

Are You Interested?

So, if getting involved in the world’s biggest food fight interests you, check out the official La Tomatina website. There’s lots of useful information and advice it offers, so you know exactly what to expect when you attend the festival. Not only that, but there are also other things that they offer, in the Buñol and Valencia area, so you won’t just be in town for the festival. There are lots of historical, natural and cultural points of interest, that might interest you while you’re visiting.

And, don’t forget to brush up on your Spanish, to help you speak to the locals, and get the right information, while you’re there. We, at Language Atlas, offer comprehensive courses at affordable prices, you’ll be speaking fluent Spanish in no time. So, check out our courses on our website! We promise, you won’t be disappointed, and if you’re interested, we also do French courses too!

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