Bizarre Festivals, Holidays, and Events in Spain

Combatants pelt each other with tomatoes as water sprays over head during the annual Tomatina Festival in Bunyol, Spain.
••• Combatants pelt each other with tomatoes as water sprays over head during the annual Tomatina Festival in Bunyol, Spain. Jose Fuste Raga/Getty Images

It's a little difficult to narrow down Spain's list of weird and wacky festivals to fit on this page - so many of them would be considered bizarre to anyone born outside of Spain! People being chased by a herd of angry bulls and throwing tomatoes at each other are just some of Spain's most famous rituals in Spain that are carried out in the name of "tradition," but there are plenty more bizarre festivals if you scratch beneath the surface.

Bizarre & Weird Festivals in Spain

Sometimes Spain can be a very surreal place. It is a country where you might hear Christmas carols in August (as part of the New Year's Eve celebrations in August), the fountains are filled with wine (in Cadiar in February and October and in Toro, Castilla y Leon in August) and farmers march their sheep through the center of Madrid just because they can. It is a country where some of the world's most traditional festivals take on a peculiar twist - with scatological Christmas traditions in Catalonia and Salamanca's bizarre Easter Monday tradition of welcoming back the city's 'ladies of the night' after their expulsion for Lent (in their Lunes de Aguas festival).

Tomatina Tomato Fight: Aim... Fire! 

The Tomatina Tomato Fight is one of the most famous of Spain's bizarre festivals, but it isn't the only time the Spanish throw things at each other. In Lanjarón in the Alpujarras (near Granada), the locals have a giant water fight each June 24.

A little stickier is the Batalla del Vino in Haro, La Rioja each June 29, where the locals fight each other with wine. It's OK, they make lots of it in La Rioja, Spain's most important wine region, so there's plenty to spare.

    If water, wine, and tomatoes aren't gross enough for you, how about ant throwing? This is what the inhabitants of Laza, Galicia do at Carnival time each year. Even worse is the Battle of the Dead Rat, in the Valencian town of El Puig during the fiesta of San Pedro Nolasco.

    Meanwhile, the Cascamorras in Baza and Gaudix, Granada, (Sept. 6 and 9) just seems like an excuse to pick on someone, in my opinion. An old battle between the two towns is re-enacted, where an inhabitant of Gaudix is sent to Baza to steal the image of the Virgen de la Piedad, is pelted with tar and paint and inevitably fails in his quest. He then returns to Gaudix, where he is pelted again for having failed. And this happens every year. You'd think the poor guy would have learned by now, wouldn't you?

    Finally, the Lou Reed-loving Valencians viciously try to hit you with flowers in the Batallas de los Flores (Battle of Flowers).

    Staying Safe the Spanish Way

    Got a newborn baby? Want to keep them safe from evil spirits? Do what they do at the El Colacho festival in Castillo de Murcia, near Burgos, and lie them on the ground and have grown men dressed as devils jump over them. Never mind protection from evil spirits, we'd just like to know who is protecting the babies from the grown men dressed as devils that are jumping over them...

    Hypochondriacs who don't get this protection in their infancy can take part in the Hogueras in Granada & Jaen on Dec. 21, where people jump through bonfires to protect themselves from illness. What's wrong with eating five fruit and veg a day?

    If the above blessings work (and you don't get burned to death in a bonfire or trampled on by grown men dressed as devils jumping over you), you may be lucky enough to survive a near-death experience later in life. How should you show your thanks? Well, if you come from the town of Las Nieves, near Pontevedra, you show up to mass during the Fiesta de Santa Marta de Ribarteme in your coffin! I'm guessing that the following week the town holds a funeral for all those who suffer heart attacks at the sight of lots of people getting out of coffins at mass a week before.

    Take a look at Pictures of the Fiesta de Santa Marta de Ribarteme - my favorite is the fourth one!

    Cruelty to Animals

    The Spanish famously don't treat their bulls with the respect most people think they deserve, but it isn't just our bovine friends that feel the brunt of the Spanish desire to have a good time.

    Early September in Lekeitio (Lequeiti), the Fiesta de los Gansos (Goose Festival) sees a dead goose hung over the harbor while men jump to catch hold of it, trying to see who can hold on for the longest. Animal rights activists have had some success here, as in the past the goose would have been alive when this was done. Ew.

    Another famous event that has been famously curtailed (but allegedly still takes place) is the tossing of a goat from a bell tower in Manganeses de la Polverosa. The town council outlawed the event in 1992, even though it was ominously admitted at the time that what people do in their own time is their own business. We wonder how long it will be until they outlaw quail catapulting?