The Tomatina Tomato-throwing Festival of the Spanish

(VOVworld) La Tomatina festival, a tomato throwing festival, is held on the last Wednesday of August each year in the town of Bunol in Valencia Province, Spain. This is the one of the biggest food-fight festival in Spain, with thousands of people flocking to this little Valencian town near the Mediterranean sea for this chaotic event. In today’s Culture Rendezvous, we’ll talk with Javier Diaz Gervassini, an expat in Hanoi, to find out more about La Tomatina. 

Hello, Javier, could you tell us about the Tomatina festival? How did it begin ?

Well, there are several different stories about the beginning of the Tomatina but the more reliable seems to be that, one day, back in 1945, on the occasion of the Saint Louis festivity in Brunol, which is on the last Wednesday of August, and apparently a group of young people, young girls, they tried to get better position in the font line of the parade. So when they were pushing people to go through, one of the musician of the band, he fell out. So he got absolutely upset, then he saw a little shop there with tomatoes. He started to throw tomatoes against those young girls so the young girls answer back. Well, that’s a big deal in a small community, a very tiny town. So the next year, the same group of young people they decided to start over the same thing that happened the previous year. So they started throwing tomatoes again. With that kind of game, La Tomatina started. So that’s the how it happens.

La Tomatina is held on the last Wednesday of August each year in the town of Bunol in Valencia, Spain. What activities are held during the festival ?

The Tomatina is always the last Wednesday of August. One day before, the day of Tomatina and one day after. It’s Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. It’s three days but the Tomatina itself is only one day.  It started very early in the morning at 7. It has like 2 parts. First, there is a ham, a pork leg, which is placed on top of a pole. The pole is about, let’s say 4-5 meter long. The pole is full of soap. And then people try to climb the pole to reach the ham. And the person who get the ham, he or she keeps the ham for him or for her and they release themselves and they  slice down on the soap, to the base of the pole. So, not until, anyone reach the ham, the Tomatina doesn’t start. So they have to wait until the ham is down and then they sound a horn like this… They start throwing tomatoes all the time, for let’s say one hour, one hour and a half. And then the horn sounds again, and they stop. So this is the main day.

What about the day before and after the main day? Let’s call them Pre-Tomatina and Post- Tomatina ?

They have a pre-party, that they hold in now. And then they have the next day, they have a post- party. The previous day, they do concert, music, festival. They go out then they have drinks, you know, they celebrate. The pre-Tomatino, then the Tomatina , and then the post-Tomatina is again, party on party, and food, of course, food, drinks, party, music, dancing…all of that. The day before in the town, they organize music concerts. Street bars are opened all day and night, so you can have your dinner, your good food, and then you can drink. You have your beer or whatever you want to drink. And then go for the music concert. You know, the whole city is ready for party. And the post, the day after Tomatina, is exactly the same, they have fun, go out and meet people and have party with everybody in the street, having good food or drink. Exactly fun !

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A group of participant. Photo:

The atmosphere must be exciting, right?

Imagine, the town, it’s not a big town but even if it is small, imagine, it is absolutely closed, no cars or vehicles are allowed. So imagine a whole town which is closed with lots of people inside and you know, getting crazy, throwing tomatoes everywhere, one against the other. And everybody is screaming, laughing, and having fun. So, yes, the atmosphere is crazy, it’s like  an excitement, it’s like a liberation, you know, they take off all the stress.

Are there any rules for throwing tomatoes?

There are rules, it’s not that you go there and you can just start throwing. When the struck, the lorries go on the main street, they go very slow , full of tomato. People climb on the struck and start throwing. But the rules are you cannot throw the whole tomato, you have to smash them before throwing, not to hurt people. They also advice to wear old clothing, not new clothing because you gonna have to throw them away. And they also advice you to use closed shoes, not flip flop. Something that protect your feet. Above that, you smash your tomatoes, and start throwing and get ready for fun.

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Throwing tomato scene. Photo:

So, you mean, a lot of tomatoes are used during the festival. It must be tons of tomatoes?

The tomatoes are brought from all big farms all around the area of the province and some other parts near Valencia. And normally, it’s about 150 tons of tomato. People participating, now, is limited to 22,000.  So, imagine 22,000 people throwing 150 tons of tomato for 2 hours. It’s a very special festivity, right ?

Can you tell me a bit about the participants? Who are they? Can I participate?

From all over Spain, they flee buses to go only for the Tomatina. There are bus lines that offer tickets, including a T-shirt, information about the Tomatina, a pair of shoes and the ticket of the bus. So they go from all over Spain. More and more and more foreign people are coming from all over Europe, and Latin America. French people, Italian, Portuguese, yes, all over neighbor countries of Spain go for the Tomatina. Many American go, too. Well, yes, if you go from Vietnam, you go to Madrid and then take a train to Valencia, we have a beautiful high speed train that gets you from Madrid to Valencia in may be 2 hour. Or you can fly by plane too, from Madrid to Valencia and then go in one of those buses to Bunol and open your mind and get ready to receive a lot of tomato over you and throw them.

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People climb on the struck and start throwing.Photo:

When the throwing is over, the whole town must be really messy. How do you clean it up?

A. Once the horn sounds for the second time, after one hour of throwing tomato, everybody has to stop throwing. Immediately afterwards, people start leaving the main street, going to other part of the town, to get more fun, for food or for drink or whatever. The cleaning services start cleaning the whole city center. So, I can tell you, in may be 2-3 hours, it completes, as if nothing happens before. And about  your clothing, no cleaning possible, you just put them in the garbage, pack and throw it. Take a shower and get ready for more fun.

Well, for sure, participating in such an event is a once-in-a-life-time experience for everyone. Thank you Javier Diaz Gervassini, for sharing interesting facts about Spain’s tomato throwing Tomatina Festival. This has been the Culture Rendezvous segment. Good bye until next time !