JANUARY - THE GOAT THROWING FESTIVAL. This controversial event takes place in Zamora when villagers choose the unluckiest goat in Spain. The unfortunate beast is carried to a local church and thrown out of a window some 50ft high, in honour of St. Vincent. The flying goat is hopefully caught by villagers directly below. If it does not survive, it is then discarded and the partying continues. However, should it survive, it is then paraded through the streets on the shoulders of party goers, and will become a legend for years to come. Animal rights activists have attempted to ban this carnival, but the villagers show no signs of relenting and giving up the tradition.
FEBRUARY - THE ANTBALL THROWING FESTIVAL. Villagers throw large balls of mud at each other, swarming with live ants, to celebrate the beginning of spring. Later, all of the festival-goers gather together to dance, start whipping people and eat the barbecued heads of goats and pigs. Finally, they hold a funeral for sardines in which a giant replica sardine is set alight and villagers either dress in black to mourn the sardine, or white to imitate sardine ghosts. Then, a person dressed as a brown cow proceeds to butt its head into the crowds and use its horns to lift up womens’ skirts!
MARCH - THE FESTIVAL OF FIRE. This unusual event consists of raging fires, eruptions of flames and fireworks. Niñots (giant puppets) are carefully crafted and dotted around the city centre. During the day there are many exploding firecrackers being set off throughout the city and at 2pm there is an impressive firework display called La Mascleta. The festival culminates when all the street lights are turned off and all but one of these magnificent paper mache sculptures are set alight. The chosen niñot that is not consumed by the fire is then placed in the Fallas Museum in Valencia.
MAY - THE DEAD RAT THROWING FESTIVAL. In El Puig (Valencia), locals celebrate by filling a paper mache ornament called a “cucana” with surprises. However, instead of containing sweets, half of the cucanas harbour a dead rat! If you have a deceased rodent in your cucana, you’re deemed a winner, and you get to use this as a projectile to throw at other partygoers!
JUNE - THE BABY JUMPING FESTIVAL. The week-long festival celebrates Corpus Christi and culminates in "baby jumping" during the village procession. The “Salto del Colacho” involves men "devil jumping" over mattresses. The unusual thing is that lying on the mattresses are babies under 12 months old! As legend has it, this act is said to cleanse the new souls of original sin and ensure their safe passage through life.
JUNE - THE WINE THROWING FESTIVAL. This wine-throwing festival takes place in the wine-growing region of Rioja. A procession begins at 7am with hundreds of people carrying containers filled with red wine. After mass is celebrated, a free-for-all wine battle begins which lasts until noon. The Haro wine festival is pure pandemonium and lots of fun for those who don’t mind resembling a sticky blueberry!
JULY - THE SHEARING OF THE BEASTS FESTIVAL. In the town of Sabucedo, a group of very brave men attempting to wrestle and tame a large group of wild horses. The herders set off in the early hours into the mountains to collect some 600 horses. It culminates in the rounding up of the horses in an ancient stone amphitheatre, where men attempt to mount each horse and clip its mane and tail. This peculiar festival dates back from the beginning of the 18th Century and is extremely dangerous. Only experienced villagers are allowed to take part, but visitors can go up into the mountains to gather the beasts. Now you have to bear in mind that these horses are wild in nature anyway and the shock of being brought down from the mountains and being herded into a confined space makes them even more ferocious! Each day ends with a lot of partying and at the end, all of the horses are herded up and set free again in the mountains.
JULY - THE BULLS TO THE SEA FESTIVAL. This festival takes place in Dénia, Alicante, and really is for the “non compos mentis”. It lasts a full week, but the highlight is watching bulls chase people down the main street where they eventually arrive at a pier. The bulls are so aggravated that they chase the villagers into the sea. After a swim in the sea with the participants, the bulls are eventually rounded up and towed back to shore.
JULY - THE CRAZY BULL-RUN FESTIVAL. The Crazy Bull Running Festival is well-known worldwide. San Fermin takes place in Pamplona when, every morning at 8am, a firecracker signals the beginning of the bull run. Hundreds of people run down the narrow streets of the old town with fearsome bulls chasing after them. This crazy run ends in the town’s bullring where young bulls with wrapped horns are released and the participants are then thrown about by the beasts. The unfortunate bulls are later killed in the bullring when the bullfighting starts in the afternoon.
JULY - THE NEARLY DEAD FESTIVAL. Now you’ve heard about the festival of the dead in Mexico (Dia de los Muertos)? Well in Spain they actually have a celebration in honour of those who have nearly died! Those lucky enough to cheat death the previous year are paraded through the streets of Las Nieves in coffins! The relatives of the "nearly dead" carry their coffins through the procession. After a mass, the coffins are carried up to the town cemetery where they are paraded. The "nearly dead" then rise out of their coffins and tell people about their near-death experiences. The celebrations begin and everyone parties the night away giving thanks for the fact that they are all still alive!
AUGUST - THE TOMATO THROWING FESTIVAL. The "Tomatina" takes place in Buñol, near Valencia, and begins with a jamón (leg of ham) being placed on top of a large wooden post. The goal is for someone to climb it and knock the ham off whilst they’re belted with tonnes of water from hoses! La Tomatina begins as soon as the jamón is knocked off, and a large tomato fight starts where villagers gather in the streets and large trucks filled with squashy tomatoes emerge. The people in the trucks then throw about 150,000 tomatoes at everybody. The fight ends with the town and its people being hosed down before an enormous party begins.
You can see from these festivals that the Spanish have an affinity with hurling things at each other, getting messy, dancing and drinking! It’s true that there is a large divide between what some of us view as barbaric, and others simply view as culturally acceptable. However, what stands out from this article is that the Spanish have an instinctive desire to socialise and have fun and think of any reason to have one big massive party!
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