It’s that time of year again! In Spain – or rather, in the town of Buñol near Valencia to be more precise – the annual Tomatina is taking place. You’d be right to think about tomatoes – the Tomatina is a festival where people actually pelt each other with them. Sounds funny, and it definitely is! If you’re thinking “What a waste of food!” or remembering your mum telling you “Don’t play with your food!” then fret not. The people who supply the tomatoes are actually instructed to only provide fruit that’s too ripe and would’ve been discarded by supermarkets anyway.

© AFP / Gabriel Gallo

What happens at Tomatina

The centre of the fight is the Plaza del Pueblo where the whole thing all kicks off at 10am with a mad scramble to climb a wooden pole to reach a ham at the top. Afterwards at 11am the actual Tomatina begins. The spectacle is over in just an hour – it’s forbidden to throw tomatoes after 12pm, and there’s also a rule that you have to squish the tomato before you actually throw it. If you’re lucky you might find a few helpful residents after the battle who can hose you down. For combatants it’s a common practice to help clean up the streets afterwards as well which is good to see!

© AFP / Biel Alino

Tomatina makes it into the Guinness Book of Records

In 1940 the Tomatina took place for the first time, but we don’t really know why exactly. Many say that the festival was just for fun, others maintain it was because of an argument between neighbours. In 2004 the Tomatina festival even got into the Guinness Book of Records! At that time 38,000 people threw a total of 125,000 kilograms of tomatoes. The locals only made up a small number of that – in total Buñol has a population of only 10,000, and many of them decide to hide at home.

Entrance fees thanks to financial crisis

Since 2013 there has been an entrance fee of €10 due to financial crisis and high levels of debt. Locals were provided with 5,000 tickets which gave them free entry; a further 15,000 went on sale. The total number of tickets has been reduced to guaranteed people’s safety.

This year it’s far too late for us to take part at the Tomatina – maybe next year though? Or are some of you already there and can perhaps tell me about what’s going on? And for those who haven’t been – what do you think of the festival? Will you travel there next year and take part? If the answer’s yes, we’ll definitely see each other there!