I think we can all agree on two things when talking about the Spanish. First, they know how to throw a party and, second, they are utterly and completely loco. And we love them for it. But sometimes, they seem to take it a couple of steps too far. You think it can’t get any crazier than the running of the bulls at the festival of San Fermín in Pamplona? Well, these 6 Spanish festivals are looking at crazy in the rear-view mirror (and that’s why they’re among the best festivals in the world).
(or The Festival of The Flying Tomatoes)
La Tomatina is a festival that takes place every year on the last Wednesday of August in the quiet Valencian town of Buñol. Apparently, it was first held somewhere between 1940-45, but no one really remembers when nor why this whole mess (literally!) started. There are no political or religious reasons behind it. The tomatoes are thrown simply for the sake of it. Or maybe it’s a cathartic way to satisfy this life-long urge to play with food (you won’t stop me this time, Mum!).
The food fight starts at 11 o’clock in the morning and lasts exactly for one hour. After the hour is up, it’s considered bad manners to throw any more tomatoes. Almost a 150 000 kg of overripe tomatoes are released on the masses of tourists each year. In seconds, everyone and everything is covered in tomato goo. One mad hour later, participants and residents alike help to clean the town as well as themselves and return the place to its ordinary, tranquil state.
(or The Festival of The Burning Statues)
Las Fallas is a festival celebrated between the 15th and the 19th of March all over the province of Valencia but most impressively in its capital. The festival is held in honor of Saint Joseph, the patron saint of workers. All year long, hundreds of different groups spend hours creating and building their Falla, a large figure made of cardboard and papier-mâché, which will then be displayed at various places across the city during those four days. Doesn’t sound too crazy yet, does it? Well, let me just continue.
All of these stunning, funny, sarcastic and colorful figures are, sadly, not meant for eternity. During the last night of the festival, the so-called Nit del Foc (the Night of Fire), all the statues are burnt to dust in a spectacular display of flames and smoke that engulfs the entire city. The unique combination of art and fire doesn’t seem to be enough to entertain the Spanish people for four days in a row, though. So, they added some oomph to the party. Some real loud oomph to be precise.
Each day starts with La Despertà, a nice wake-up call at 8 o’clock when brass bands march through every single street, followed by a horde of people throwing tons of firecrackers (I mean, aren’t they nice? They just don’t want you to miss any of the fun…). At 2 pm, ear-splitting noise from the Mascletà, which is basically a symphony played with firecrackers, will ruin your siesta.
Come nighttime, the city turns into one big open air concert. To top it all off, there’s a firework display every single night (sometimes even more than one, because they’re holding firework competitions!). And because the Spanish love to party literally all night long, you can just wave to the brass bands on your way home. But no worries, the persistent adrenaline rush you get from the firecrackers constantly exploding all around you makes sleep redundant anyway.
La Semana Santa
(or The Festival with The Creepy KKK Uniforms)
Let’s just clear this up right now. La Semana Santa (the Holy Week) has absolutely nothing to do with the Ku Klux Klan. It’s not quite clear whether the KKK was inspired by the Semana Santa or whether the similarities of the costumes are purely coincidental. Having said that, seeing hundreds of hooded creatures holding torches and crosses walking through dark streets accompanied by ominous music will most certainly still send cold shivers up and down your spine.La Semana Santa commemorates the Passion of Christ and is held in the week before Easter. It is most famously celebrated in Andalucía, with the largest one being in Sevilla and Málaga. In dozens of procession, pasos (huge floats depicting scenes from the bible) are carried around the city by the so-called penitentes (the people with the hoods). By carrying around these floats, the penitentes repent for their sins. Some of the heaviest floats weigh around 5 tons and have to be carried by over 250 people.
(or The Human Towers)
To be fair, this isn’t a festival on its own, but it is tradition to build Castells (Human Towers) during all kinds of festivals in Catalonia. These Castells were first documented in the 18th century and began as a part of religious dances. At the end of each dance, the dancers would build small human towers as their final pose. In order to outshine the other groups, the towers grew taller and taller and, finally, became their own art form. Every other year in October, teams from all over Spain come together in Tarragona to compete against each other. The largest human tower ever built was ten stories high.
(or The Festival of The Baby Jumpers)
Beware of homonyms here, my dear English friends, this is not a festival that celebrates cute, knitted baby sweaters. This is a festival that celebrates grown men dressed as the devil in red and yellow jumpsuits jumping over new-born babies. While every other mother would cry out in terror just thinking about it, new mothers in the village of Castrillo de Murcia near Burgos will gladly let their infants take part in this tradition.This tradition dates back to the 1620 and is part of the Catholic festival of Corpus Christi. It is supposed to cleanse the newborns from original sin.
La Fiesta de Santa Marta de Ribarteme
(or The Festival of The Near-Death Experience)
This festival is about as morbid as it gets. Every year on the 29th of July, the tiny village of As Neves in Galicia celebrates this festival in honor of Santa Marta, the saint of the dead. Everyone that had a near-death experience in the last 12 months can take part in the festival, celebrating the fact that they came face to face with death but managed to escape.
While this is definitely a worthy cause for celebration, the way this is celebrated could be described as rather odd. The people with the near-death experience are paraded through the village in coffins carried by their friends and loved ones. The people without any family around drag their coffins around all by themselves. And at night, they have the obligatory fireworks display. Because without it, it just wouldn’t be a Spanish fiesta.
Do you have any odd, funny or unique festivals in your country? Tell me about them in the comments.