Friday, 13 November 2009

A guide to some of Spain's quirkier festivals

A guide to some of Spain's quirkier festivals

Author: Mike Mcdougall

Spaniards seem rarely to need much of a reason for a fiesta or
festival of some sort and you can pretty much guarantee that
wherever you are in Spain there will be some merrymaking going
on somewhere in honour of a patron saint - I've decided to look
at some of Spain's quirkier, slightly less known festivals and
enlighten readers as to some of the stranger practices which
take place at various times around the country.

Our journey begins in the east of the country in the town of
Bunol in the Valencia region where a week long festival in
honour of the town's patron saint, San Luis Bertran, ends in the
famous "Tomatina", a two hour tomato fight where lorries
bring in 120,000 kg of tomatoes for the locals to pelt each
other with. It's all a bit of a free-for-all and it's usually
girls pitted against boys for two hours of madness from 11am to
1pm. Participants can expect to get extremely messy and it's
advisable to wear something old, and preferably red, if you
don't want the stains to show up. Despite the "Tomatina"
clearly being the highlight, there are many other facets of the
festival to be enjoyed throughout the week with fireworks,
parades and a paella cook-off amongst the most notable.

Not so far away in the city of Valencia, townsfolk revel for a
week in the festivities of "Las Fallas", another one of
Spain's more unique festivals. The raucous week of celebration
takes place in March and is most notable for "Las Fallas"
which are huge papier-mâché figures up to 60 feet in height.
Built in the streets, the figures often have a satirical edge;
Tony Blair and George Bush's effigies graced last year's
festival. The culmination of the merry-making comes on the
"Night of Fire" when all 700 of "Las fallas" are
burnt to a cinder turning many of the city's streets into huge
bonfires. Undoubtedly the local fire services busiest evening of
the year and certainly one not to be missed by visitors to the

Next stop is Catalonia and the town of Valls located about 100km
south west of Barcelona, where every year townsfolk gather for
the legendary "Calcotada". A celebration of food and in
particular the "calcot" (similar to a spring onion) with road
side bbq's char grilling piles of them for locals to eat.
There's even a hug pot of dipping sauce on hand to spice things
up a bit. The main event is the eating competition as burly
local champions from all over the region line up to see how many
onions they can put away in 45 minutes, apparently it's not
uncommon for the victor to eat in excess of 300! After a winner
has been decided the town decamps to huge local cafeterias where
for a small fee the "calcots" are served in plentiful numbers
alongside grilled meats and washed down with as much red wine as
you can drink. It's certainly off the beaten track a little bit
and for that reason you won't see many tourists but expect a
warm welcome from the locals who will, undoubtedly, be in high

29th June, the day of San Pedro and we're deep in Spain's wine
producing heartland, La Rioja, where for one day every year the
medieval town of Haro is host to the famous "Batalla de
(literally "Wine Battle"). Apparently the battle's
origins lie in an ancient dispute with between Haro and its
neighbours. These days the fight is pretty good natured with
thousands of gallons of wine being hurled around the
battleground (a hillside overlooking Haro). Like the
Tomatina, this is going to be a messy one and I'd suggest
coming prepared with some ammunition of your own, the locals
have been doing this for years so expect to take a few shots
early on.

About the Author:
For the last five years Mike McDougall has been working as a
travel writer and marketeer. He's currently working for a
Spanish language School ( to
provide additional cultural and travel related material on Spain
and Latin America. This article is licensed under a Creative
Commons License:

Article Source: - A guide to some of Spain's quirkier festivals

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