Spanish festivals can be wacky and wild, and ‘La Tomatina’ is just one of them. Each year, at the end of August, people from all over the world gather to the streets of the small Valencian town of Buñol to throw ripe tomatoes at each other in the “World’s biggest food fight”! Want to join in on the fun? Keep on reading to learn 40 facts about ‘La Tomatina’.
Fact 1: ‘La Tomatina’ is a Spanish tomato throwing festival that is held in the town of Buñol, which is situated in the East of Spain.
Fact 2: At ‘La Tomatina’ people literally throw tomatoes at one and other and get involved in a ‘tomato fight’ purely for entertainment purposes. There is no nastiness at this event as its all in the name of fun.
Fact 3: There are actually a set of rules that should be stuck to when taking part in the ‘La Tomatina’ festival, some of these rules are ‘Don’t throw hard objects around’, ‘No ripping clothes’, and ‘Keep a safe distance from vehicles’.
Fact 4: Since 1945 the festival has been held on the last Wednesday of August, it is also on during a week of festivities already happening in Buñol.
Fact 5: The mayhem takes place in Buñol’s main square and Calle del Cid.
Fact 6: Generally, at around 9 am, on the day of the festival, a large greased pole with a Spanish ham attached to the end of it is hoisted into the air in the square, this is known as the ‘Polojabon’. The aim is to be the first person to the top and to claim the ham.
Fact 7: Although the pulling of the ham from the pole is supposed to happen before ‘La Tomatina’ starts, this sometimes takes so long to achieve that eventually the tomato flinging just begins regardless of whether someone has pulled the ham from the pole or not.
Fact 8: A water cannon is fired and over 120 tonnes of ripe, squishy tomatoes are tipped from trucks to the waiting crowd to signify the start of the hour-long tomato fight. And so the throwing begins.
Fact 9: It is absolutely vital that you squash a tomato up before throwing it about. This is to minimise the harm that a hard and round tomato could do to someone. Just think, even a little tomato being flung at you would cause a bruise!
Fact 10: In the past, the number of participants was limited to around 50,000 people. All of which were crammed into the square and Calle del Cid to participate in the huge tomato fight. These numbers greatly improved Bunol’s economy, but the numbers were impractical. Today, there is a limit of 20,000 people at the festival.
Fact 11: One possible theory on how the ‘La Tomatina’ began is, there was a carnival parade going on and a practical joke was played on a member of the parade, this person then started running furiously around, knocking things and people in the crowd over, and somehow tomatoes were thrown about by the whole crowd… just a theory…
Fact 12: Around 120 metric tonnes of tomatoes are used each year at this festival. Wow, that’s a load of tomatoes… hope they weren’t planning on making tomato ketchup anytime!
Fact 13: The fight only lasts for one hour, this is likely to be for safety reasons and the fact that it’ll take so long to clean all the tomato slush off the floor, walls, and people!
Fact 14: The fighting must stop when the sound of the second cannon goes off! They take security and rules really seriously here, so when you hear that final cannon, put down your tomato and walk away happy!
Fact 15: Participants are encouraged to wear white clothes, but this isn’t actually a rule!
Fact 16: The majority of participants wear white, presumably because of the heat, and because they can see exactly how much tomato mess is over them and their clothes at the end of the hour-long fight. I guess it’s almost a game between friends to see who gets to be the ‘tomato-iest’.
Fact 17: ‘La Tomatina’ was banned in the early 50s, however, this did not stop the participants who were arrested for starting up their own tomato fight.
Fact 18: The festival was canceled until 1957, until, as a sign of protest known as the ‘tomato burial,’ was held. This was a demonstration by residents, where they (residents) carried a coffin filled with a huge tomato along the streets. They marched around to funeral tunes too! The message they sent out was heard and the festival did actually return!
Fact 19: Fire trucks and firefighters have to be on call to come in and hose down the streets after the festival. Some residents allow some participants to use their garden hoses to remove the tomatoes from their bodies. These measures are a ‘must’, as the safety of the participants and residents would be at risk, plus the place would look like a right stinky little place if you just left the tomatoes out to rot on the street!
Fact 20: After a good tomato fight some participants go on to the “Los Peñones” pool to wash themselves off.
Fact 21: Since 2013 participation in the event has been restricted to the holders of paid tickets.
Fact 22: In 2015, it was estimated that almost 145,000 kg of tomatoes were thrown.
Fact 23: La Tomatina Buñol has inspired similar celebrations in other parts of the world. For example, Since 1982, the town of Twin Lakes, Lake County, Colorado has held a tomato fight called the “Colorado Texas Tomato War,” in which Texans and Coloradans square off against each other. Again this is all just in the name of fun!
Fact 24: Since 2004, the town of Sutamarchan in Colombia, has held a similar event to ‘La Tomatina’ on June the 15th of every year.
Fact 25: In Costa Rica, the town of San José de Trojas also celebrates a ‘Tomatina’ during the local Tomato Fair.
Fact 26: The 2011 Bollywood film “Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara” recreated the festival in one of its film scenes.
Fact 27: The ‘La Tomatina’ festival was also re-created for the song “Ik Junoon (Paint It Red)”. The title is quite apt!
Fact 28: The opening scene of the 2011 psychological film “We Need To Talk About Kevin” shows the ‘La Tomatina’ festival being attended by the character Eve.
Fact 29: The tomatoes’ citric acid keeps the streets nice and clean in Calle del Cid.
Fact 30: Tomatoes are apparently a ‘natural disinfectant’, meaning that after La Tomatina your skin could be cleansed of impurities.
Fact 31: It even has its own Google Doodle. You know something must be a big deal when it has its own Google Doodle. Even Google marks the festival with its temporary banner celebrating ‘La Tomatina’.
Fact 32: It isn’t just about the tomatoes. The festival also includes parades, fireworks, and paella cooking contests on the streets of the town as well.
Fact 33: In 2012, Buñol began requiring payment for entrance to La Tomatina, and the number of tickets was limited to 22,000, though the previous year had seen upwards of 45,000 visitors to the area.
Fact 34: In 2002, ‘La Tomatina’ was added to the list of ‘Fiestas of International Tourist Interest’.
Fact 35: A similar festival is celebrated in Ivrea, Italy. It’s called the “Battle of the Oranges”. Here thousands of townspeople, divided into nine combat teams, throw oranges at each other throughout the traditional carnival days: Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. Gosh, I sincerely hope that they squash down those oranges, or there’ll be bruises all over the place!
Fact 36: There is a pre and post ‘La Tomatina’ party, where guests can go to indulge in the venues and food.
Fact 37: There’s normally a mad scramble at the start of the ‘La Tomatina’ festival as people race to try, and often fail, to pull down the ham that is stuck to a greasy pole. The person who brings the ham down signals the start of ‘La Tomatina’.
Fact 38: Only 20,000 ‘La Tomatina’ festival tickets are sold, and they usually sell out fast, they’re also on a first-come-first-served basis!
Fact 39: You sometimes see plenty of Spanish men, and men from around the world, hurling tomatoes at each other in just their underpants, while plenty of people wear swimming goggles or snorkelling gear to keep the purée out of their eyes and nose.
Fact 40: Flip-flops should really be avoided at this festival! Logic should kick in here and tell you that they’re a bad idea. But, if you didn’t guess already, people are really likely to step on your toes, oh and it’s going to be slippery with all that juice about the place!
Title image: Credit to Graham McLellan from the UK (2006) – Thanks!