The Spanish Language Blog

Tomato festival in Spain

'La Tomatina' is a very popular tomato festival in Spain where some 45,000 people throw tomatoes at each other. It takes place every year in Buñol on the last Wednesday of August. Buñol is a small village 40 km from the Spanish city of Valencia. The festival has been around for more than 60 years, and every year more people from all over the world flock to the tomato throwing.

  • It all started in 1945 during a parade of giants and big heads (Los Gigantes y Cabezudos) when a group of angry boys started throwing tomatoes during a scuffle. It is now one of Spain's most popular festivals.
  • It begins the night before when, as part of tradition, large pans of paella are prepared on a fire. When the starting gun is fired at 11 a.m. the next day, the tomatoes fly around your ears and you are literally in the (tomato) puree. Less than 3 hours later, the village is completely clean of tomatoes and you don't see any more of them.

History of "La Tomatina

It is always interesting to know how an event began, especially with such a curious and funny event as 'La Tomatina'. During the event of the so-called 'Los Gigantes y Cabezudos,' a fight suddenly broke out and some angry boys looted a vegetable stand and started throwing tomatoes. They were arrested and had to pay for the damage done. Curiously, on the same day a year later, the same boys again began throwing tomatoes, this time brought from home. Again they were arrested. After keeping this up for several years, it became a tradition, but without official status.

Unfortunately, in 1957 the tradition was broken by a ban. Punishment followed for those who did throw tomatoes. A funeral was held by the residents, where they carried a coffin with a tomato and buried it.

A few years later, they were still allowed to continue the tradition, though with strict rules. From then on, things went fast. The tradition became more and more famous, climbing a soaped pole to get the ham became the starting shot of tomato throwing, in 1975 a festival organization for the event was created and from 1980 all the tomatoes are even sponsored by the village's municipality.

Course of the festival

Actually, it begins the night before when large pans of paella are prepared on a fire. In the morning, all the windows are covered to keep them from the red gunk as much as possible and then it can begin. First the soaped pole must be climbed (the winner gets a big leg of jámon serrano, smoked ham) and when the top is reached everyone shouts, "Tomatoes!" The fireworks are set off and the tomato throwing can begin. For a whole hour the tomatoes fly around your ears and nowhere are you safe from this red goo. It only takes a moment and you are already up to your shins in tomato paste. After an hour of chaos, fireworks are shot into the air again and everyone stops throwing them. The big cleanup can begin!

The big cleanup

Everywhere you look you see red. All the houses, all the people and all the buildings. This seems like an impossible job. Yet every year they manage to have the city spick and span after a few hours. Participants are sprayed clean with garden hoses and with the help of the fire department or simply take a dip in the nearby river.


The festival has always been free to all, until last time in August. Since 50,000 people already came to the small village last year, the festival organization chose to start selling a maximum of 20,000 tickets in order to limit the number of visitors.

In addition, there are some rules during the event, but fairly few people follow them. For example, you must first crush the tomato before throwing it and clothing may not be torn off. Also, it is not smart to climb stairs or the like since you will become the target of some 20,000 people.

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