The Tomatina of Buñol (Valencia). EFE / Kai Försterling
The most unusual summer festivals in Spain
Summer is the time of the year when many regions in Spain celebrate. Local town parties, patron saint celebrations, traditional days ... Many of which stand out for their unique way of celebrating and the number of local and international visitors they attract. There are festivals such as the parade of coffins in Galicia, wine battles in La Rioja or the internationally known Tomatina de Buñol. We review some of the most unique summer festivals in Spain.
Coffin Pilgrimage (As Neves, Pontevedra) - 29th July
No wonder the British newspaper The Guardian considers it to be one of the strangest festivals in the world. The town of As Neves in Pontevedra celebrates the oldest Galician pilgrimage, that of Saint Martha of Ribarteme, in an unusual way: pilgrims are carried through the streets in open coffins, they give thanks to Saint Martha, sister of Lazarus and protector of the dispossessed, for helping them or their relatives recover from a serious illness or disease.
Their relatives carry the "living dead" through the streets from the church of Saint Martha to the cemetery and back to the starting point. Although it is a solemn pilgrimage, many people come to the region to attend this peculiar celebration of life.
New Year's Eve in August (Bérchules, Granada) – 3rd August
On December 31, 1994, in the middle of New Year's Eve, the town of Bérchules in Granada suffered a blackout and could not follow the live transmission of the countdown to welcome in the new year. Both the mayor and the businessmen of the area proposed repeating New Year's Eve in summer, and the date to do so became the first weekend in August.
About 10,000 people gather every year in this village with a population of less than 500 people to celebrate their own unique New Year's Eve, including international tourists who are on holidays in Alpujarra and the coast of Granada.
EFE/Miguel Ángel Molina
The Traditional Wedding (Candelario, Salamanca) – 11th August
In Candelario, in the province of Salamanca, a wedding takes place every summer. But it is no ordinary wedding, it is a 19th century wedding. Since 1989, the region celebrates a traditional wedding as a town, in which the neighbours of the region become the protagonists. There is a part to be played by everyone from the bride to the groom, bridesmaids and best men, the whole town gets involved to organize the wedding ceremony and the wedding reception afterwards. The town is also decorated for the most celebrated wedding of the year.
The Grape Harvest Festival of Jumilla (Murcia) - 4th to 17th August
In these celebrations, everything revolves around wine. Declared of Regional Tourist Interest, they originated in 1972 organised by a group of wineries and the villages of Jumilla. In its 48th edition, it will once again organize a range of activities based on the wine culture: grape-treading, the parades with floats, the offerings of the grapevine, the opening of the Wine Fountain and the first grape juice that is given to the Child of the Grapes. Particularly noteworthy is the Gran Wine Parade, in which more than 50,000 litres of wine are thrown over many of the participants.
Council of Jumilla
The Tench Festival (Aliseda, Cáceres) - 24th August
If the festivities of the Jumilla grape harvest revolve around wine, in the municipalities of Tajo-Salor, one of the most popular celebrations is one that pays homage to a variety of fish found in rivers and ponds in the region, tench. Since 1989, the towns of Alcántara, Aliseda, Arroyo de la Luz, Brozas, Casar de Cáceres, Garrovillas, Hinojal, Malpartida de Cáceres, Mata de Alcántara, Monroy, Navas del Madroño, Piedras Albas, Santiago del Campo, Talaván and Villar del Rey come together to promote this delicacy, in a festival that is celebrated every year in one of these towns. This year the municipality that will host the festival will be Aliseda. There will be fishing competitions, recipe tastings, traditional dances, exhibitions, sightseeing tours, craft shows and the delivery of The Golden Tench. The Tench Festival has been declared a tourist interest in Extremadura.
La Tomatina of Buñol - 28th August
It is perhaps one of the best-known Spanish festivals in the world. Arising from a youthful fight in 1945, every last Wednesday of August a massive battle is held in the Valencian town of Buñol in which tomatoes are the only weapons.
The battle begins at 9 a.m., having buns for breakfast, that are distributed by the Town Hall. At 11 o'clock the shot that marks the beginning of the fight sounds, and the trucks with tomatoes enter the town. In a few seconds, everything turns red and more and more trucks roll in, to replace the "ammunition". In total, 145,000 kilos of ripe tomatoes are distributed (and thrown) among the more than 20,000 participants from all over the world.
Declared of International Tourist Interest, the Tomatina of Buñol has appeared in video games such as the wrestling saga Tekken, in Hollywood and Bollywood films and in the doodle of the search engine Google in 2015, to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the festival. The popularity of this festival has led countries such as Colombia, Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica, China and South Korea to have their own Tomatina.
Moors and Christians of Caudete (Albacete) – 6th to 10th September
More than 400 years old and declared of Regional Tourist Interest, the festivities of Moors and Christians of Caudete revolve around parades, the re-enactment of combats and events from the time, a historical drama recited in verse. There are currently five groups: warriors, mirenos, Tarik, Moors and La Antigua, groups of people who follow a military structure with their captains, sergeants and other ranks. The parades of La Entrada and La Congratuena are the ones that attract the most visitors, these are parades with music, where each group displays their elaborate costumes. On consecutive days, the Muslim invasion of Caudete, the Christian reconquest and the appearance of the images of Our Lady of Grace and Saint Blaise are staged.
Council of Caudete
Dance of the Devil (Tijarafe, La Palma) - 7th September
The Dance of the Devil of Tijarafe is a very festive manifestation of the eternal struggle between good and evil, with more than 90 years of history.
According to tradition, on the eve of the day of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary (8th September), Satan roams the world at large, reaching Tijarafe, where he interrupts the orchestra without warning and enters the church square preceded by giant figures. Dressed in a metal suit that weighs around 100 kilos and covered in fireworks, he challenges the virgin herself with an explosion of fire, fireworks and colour, trying to attract the local towns people. Until, finally, the show ends with the explosion of the devil's head, symbolizing the triumph of the virgin. Around 8,000 people have attended this celebration in recent years.
Council of Tijarafe
Festa de la Fil-loxera (Sant Sadurní d'Anoia, Barcelona) - 7th and 8th September
Although the dragon is one of the most common mythological creatures in Catalonia's festivals, in Sant Sadurní d'Anoia, with the recovery of democracy and popular traditions, they decided that their most feared beast was the phylloxera, an insect that at the end of the 19th century destroyed the vineyards that sustained the local economy. The festival reproduces the episodes of the plague and its solution: the phylloxera parades, the traditional dances of the peasants, the decision of the Seven Wise Men of Greece (representing the main peasants of the time) to uproot and replant the vineyards, and the final triumph of the people overcoming the plague, ending with the public being covered in cava. All this takes place among fireworks, music and the enthusiastic participation of neighbours and visitors.
Mojigangas (Graus, Huesca) - 12th to 15th September
With a great satirical-burlesque show declared of national tourist interest, the town of Graus relives every year, before the end of summer, events that took place in the village. In one of the most colourful festivals in Aragon, in honour of the patron saint, Saint Vicente Ferrer, the people of Graus dress-up in extravagant costumes and take part in a street parade presided over by the king and queen. After the parade, the king and queen listen to the neighbours' complaints during the trial and offer them the most absurd and burlesque solutions. Meanwhile, from the town hall hangs the Furtaperas, a large, doll-like figure that moves in the wind.
It is a festival whose origins date back to the 15th and 16th centuries, although it is from the 17th and the 18th centuries that the mojiganga has acquired an identity of its own. Such is its level of satire and political incorrectness that it was forbidden during the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera, and silenced during the Franco regime, until its full recovery in 1981.