Each year, Spain’s La Tomatina festival falls on the final Wednesday of August. The festival sees around 150,000 tomatoes being thrown in the streets of Buñol, and although many people will have heard of this food fight, few are aware of what it actually entails.
The celebrations are thought to date back as far as 1945, but it wasn’t until 1957 that the festival became officially recognised. In 1980 it became the council’s responsibility to put the festival together, perhaps stemmed by the town’s patron, San Luis Betrán having taken over the organisation from 1975.
So this year, on August 27th at around 10am, what is referred to as the Palo Jabón event will kick off the veggie celebrations. The aim of this challenge is to climb a greased pole and knock a ham off the top of it. Once this challenge has been completed, the food fight commencement is indicated with the firing of a water cannon. The next hour represents what can only be described as total tomato turmoil, with trucks full of tomatoes grown especially for this event being brought in. The tomatoes used in this frantic food fight are used specifically due to them being cheap and less tasty.
Once a second shot of water is fired, the fight is over. Water is then provided so the participants can clean themselves of the crushed tomato remnants, while the streets of Buñol are left spick and span as the tomato’s acidity helps to leave the ground clean.
There’s no doubt that the festival is great fun, but it is governed by a few rules set by the council. Here are a few examples:
- Tomatoes, and only tomatoes, can be thrown
- You must abide by the final water shot signifying the end of the festival
- To reduce the risk of injury, it is important that the tomatoes are first crushed before being thrown
- Participants must not rip off other participant’s T-shirts
- And finally, watch out for the trucks!