La Tomatina

La Tomatina,  Buñol, Spain (25.08.2010)

There are many occasions for parties but tomatoes? In the Spanish town of Buñol, the tomato fight is the focus of an annual festival that attracts numerous visitors. The tradition continues for more than seven decades. But it is only in the last 20 years that the festival has developed into a real cult. But what exactly started the tomato fight tradition?

The tomato fight tradition becomes one of the Fiestas of International Tourist Interest of Spain

Tomatoes are delicious and healthy. They are used in various cuisines, especially in Spanish. For the La Tomatina, these delicious characteristics of the tomato do not matter. The history of La Tomatina's origin is not fully documented. A total of three attempts at explanation persist to this day.

One of the most popular version is the story of the town brawl. Although the reason why the whole town started to fight is no longer known, it has been taught that the brawl took place very close to the market. And when the verbal and physical reasons ran out, they unceremoniously resorted to the nearby tomatoes to exchange arguments.

Another theory tells of a street musician who was teased by naughty young people for so long that he angrily grabbed the red fruit. He pretty much covered everything around him with tomato bullets.

Some say it was started by the the young people who threw tomatoes at a parade in 1945 because they were excluded from the parade.

Now, which of these stories is the true origin of La Tomatina may remain uncertain. But all the stories are about throwing tomatoes and, above all, about the fun that was associated with it remains and celebrated every year.

The joy of tomato fights

The joy of tomato fights

The throwing of the tomatoes was not only told over and over again in the following years, but was repeated. The villagers visibly enjoyed it. And in this way it became a tradition that was persistently maintained in the following years.

Even a ban by Francisco Franco's regime in the 1950s could not harm the popularity of the event. Residents would walk the streets at the usual time with a coffin containing a massive tomato. The festival was eventually allowed back due to this silent protest.

Since the 1980s, La Tomatina has been known throughout Spain. Soon Europe and the rest of the world also learned about this event.

Today, La Tomatina festival attracts many thousands of visitors to Buñol every year on the last Wednesday in August.

Many of the guests come from the United States and Australia. In addition to the traditional customs, various activities take place during the festival. What exactly is there to see and participate in during the La Tomatina festival?

The program: Before the classic La Tomatina

Photo by flydime, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

The program: Before the classic La Tomatina

The tomato festival is precisely regulated, at least if we speak of the actual process ;) At ten o'clock the participants meet in town square - in the Plaza del Pueblo. This is where the "El palo jabón" event starts. What is palo jabón? it's about ham instead of tomatoes.

'El palo jabón' is an event where a Spanish ham is attached to a tree about ten meters high. Then the tree is soaped. Afterwards, The participants have the task of climbing up the tree and grabbing the ham.

You can imagine what fun it is to watch men and women try to climb up a soaped tree trunk.

To make it even more fun for the audience, they are splashed with water. Only when a participant succeeds in grabbing the ham, the tomato festival starts. It begins exactly with the with a signal at twelve o'clock.

The main part of the La Tomatina festival

The main part of the La Tomatina festival

First, trucks loaded with overripe tomatoes drive through the streets of the town. Participants are now allowed to help themselves and throw the fruit at each other.

The whole fun lasts exactly one hour. Fighting ends exactly with a signal at 1 PM. Participants should stop throwing tomatoes after hearing the stop signal. Compliance with this rule is even monitored by the police.

Afterwards, the buildings and streets are cleaned with water. The local fire department is ready with hoses for this purpose. The participants in the Tomato Festival also lend a hand here and together clean up the community from the remains of the "battle". At the train station of the town showers are ready. If you still need them, because often you are simply hosed down with the water from the hoses of fire trucks. But that's not the end of La Tomatina festival.

Afterparty of La Tomatina

The participants of the festival have the opportunity to participate in the La Tomatina official after party in the neighboring Valencia. Here, after the eventful day, the party goes on until far into the night.

Tips and tricks for La Tomatina festival

To ensure that the throwing and the entire celebration are carried out without injury, there is a code of honour that must be strictly adhered to for participants' own safety.

This includes that the tomatoes to be thrown are crushed in the hand beforehand. In this way, injuries the festival goers will avoid injuries when their counterparts are good at tomato fighting.

It is not allowed to throw with full force and carrying hard objects such as bottles is not allowed. In addition, the distance from the trucks carrying the tomatoes must be maintained.

If you are curious and have decided to participate in La Tomatina, you should prepare well. The accommodation should be booked well in advance. The popularity of the tomato festival quickly leads to a shortage of accommodations, even in the neighbouring big city of Valencia.

Access to Buñol by motor vehicle is only allowed until seven in the morning on the day of La Tomatina. After that, the entire municipality is closed to motor traffic.

What should you wear during La Tomatina?

Good planning should includes taking with you the appropriate clothing. In any case, put on not slipping shoes. This will avoid the chances of injuries, because the floor becomes very slippery over time. It is not advised to wear flip flops.

Do not wear your favorite clothes, because stains from tomatoes and tomato juice are very stubborn. Traditionally, participants wear a white T-shirt. This "rule" is not so strictly followed lately. Swimwear does goes well and is exceedingly suitable due to the high temperatures.

You can leave belongings in your car, in a bus of a tour operator or use a locker service. Also the two train station and the bus station of the city have lockers.

Protect your eyes from injury and wear swimming or diving goggles. Leave expensive cameras and smartphones in your accommodation. GoPro and waterproof cameras are the best for filming the event. If you want to film with your smartphone cover it with a waterproof case.

Instead you need to bring clothes to change into, after showering for free in the municipal showers.

A word about tomatoes

A word about tomatoes

Many of us might think of waste when food is thrown. For this you need to know the following facts about the tomato festival. The fruit is grown in Extremadura, in a nearby place, specially for La Tomatina. The variety is not suitable for consumption. The taste of these fruits is not very good; however, they are cheap to grow.

Attendees of and the price of the La Tomatina entry ticket

La Tomatina is especially suited for young participants. It's a great way to spend the end of summer in sunny Spain and attend the unique spectacle at the end of August.

The average age is 25 years. But the festival also offers joy and pleasure for older people. After the municipality was overrun by the crowds of visitors in 2012, one must purchase an entry ticket to attend the Tomato Festival. However, the price is pleasingly low at the equivalent of ten euros. The income from ticket sales is used to cover the community's costs for growing the tomatoes and cleaning the streets.

Learn more about the La Tomatina

Also, check our list of the best hotels in Buñol and book your stay during the event.

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