One of the things that makes Spain such a fascinating place to visit is a very strong sense of local culture and traditions which go back centuries and vary widely from one village to the next. When planning a trip try to plan some of these in to your itinerary. Wherever you go you will find something going on not too far away, and usually the best way to find out is to ask somebody on the ground as things can change from one year to the next. Every village and every town will have its own things going on, but here are some ideas, including the famous and the downright unusual, to get started.
La Tomatina, Valencia: a riot of colour and fun, don’t bring your good clothes. Valencia may be famous for its oranges, but the nearby town of Bunol is just as famous for its tomatoes – or rather what people there do with them. On the last Wednesday of every August, the charming town gets very messy when after a week of processions and lower-key celebrations, trucks full of tomatoes arive from all over Spain and up to 20,000 revellers proceed to make a complete mess, throwing squashed tomatoes at anything that moves.
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Baby jumping: held each year in Burgos. Dating back to 1620, this festival is truly hair-raising: babies born in the preceeding 12 months are lined up on mattresses in the main street and grown men dressed as the devil run and leap over them. This is supposed to cleanse them of evil. The babies are then showered with rose petals.
New Year’s Eve in the summer, Berchules, Sierra Nevada: the New Year’s Eve of 1994 was a famous washout with a powercut that destroyed festivities, so the people of Berchules in the Sierra Nevada mountains took matters into their own hands and now celebrate the new year not once but twice per year. The first time is at year’s end and the second time is on the first Saturday in August. The village once again decks itself out for Christmas with nativity scenes, Christmas trees and carols broadcast from public address systems. Celebrations take place through the day leading up to the chiming of midnight.
Goat throwing! On the third Sunday of each January, the little town of Manganeses de la Polvorosa celebrates the life of a long-forgotten saint by throwing a goat from the top of the church. It is hard on the goat but usually they catch it.
Easter processions on Good Friday, pretty much anywhere on the mainland and islands. In a tradition that goes back to the middle ages, the Semana Santa processions are staged by religious brotherhoods who dress in penitential robes and distinctive tall, pointed hoods. Each town, village and area adds its own distinctive touch to the celebrations.
Closer to the Costa del Sol, the Gaucin Bullrun About half an hour inland from the coast, the village of Gaucin kicks off the year’s celebrations with its own version of the famous bullrun: the roads are closed off and a bull is chased through the streets by people who didn’t sleep much the night before. very dangerous but maybe worth a look if interested!