Just two weeks to go before another downright deranged European summer event begins – the now legendary La Tomatina food fight.
The actual tomato orgy is held on the last Wednesday of August each year in the town of Buñol in the Valencia region of Spain and is just one of many raucous rituals held on the continent that include the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona and the Battle of the Oranges carnival in the Northern Italian city of Ivrea.
Up to 50,000 tourists come to find out more about the tomato fight – over five times the size of Buñol’s normal population. Naturally there is limited accommodation for people who come to La Tomatina, and thus many participants stay in Valencia and travel by bus or train to Buñol, about 38km outside the city.
In preparation for the dirty mess that will ensue, shopkeepers use huge plastic covers on their storefronts in order to protect them. On the last day of the festival the town trucks in thousands of tomatoes and at the sound of the blast the battle commences; everyone goes nuts pelting each other until the streets are turned into a tomato bloodbath. Tens of metric tons of over-ripe tomatoes are thrown in the streets in a period lasting one hour.
However, the week-long festival also includes music, parades, dancing, and fireworks. On the night before, participants of the festival compete in a paella cooking contest. It is tradition for the women to wear all white and the men to wear no shirts.
According to the official website, the tomato fight has been a strong tradition in Buñol since around 1945. No one is completely certain how this event originated. Possible theories on how the Tomatina began include a local food fight among friends, a juvenile class war, a volley of tomatoes from bystanders at a carnival parade, a practical joke on a bad musician and the anarchic aftermath of an accidental lorry spillage.
One of the most popular theories is that disgruntled townspeople attacked city councilmen with tomatoes during a town celebration. Whatever it was that began the tradition, it was enjoyed so much that it was repeated the next year, and the year after that, and so on. The holiday was briefly banned during the Spanish State period under Francisco Franco for having no religious significance, but returned in the 1970s after his demise.