From hearing about it on TV to reading about it in school, Spain has always been talked about in one way or another while I was growing up. Did you know that parts of Game of Thrones were filmed in Spain?
In this edition of the Explore series, I will be sharing 3 of the unique festivals in Spain that I dream of going to.
1. La Tomatina
Source: Tomatina Festival Spain
Tomatina, which is held in August, is crowned as the World’s Largest Food Fight1. It is said that this festival started way back in 1945 from a ‘tomato’ fight which was started by a group of friends2.
This festival has actually garnered a bit of controversy because of the concern about food waste. While this festival appears to cause food wastage, it involves over-ripe tomatoes3 which are wrinkled and too soft to be in salads (or to be eaten raw)4.
A Bollywood movie which I watched on TV recently about a three-week Bachelor’s trip to Spain, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, also featured this festival. I’ve never been in a food fight before, so I think it would be a once in a lifetime experience to play alongside the locals.
2. San Fermin
Source: Follow the Camino
It is said that this festival is held in honour of the revered saint of Pamplona, who was tied to a bull by his feet and dragged to death5.
This event, Running of the Bulls, is held in July and is slightly different from the bullfighting in the arena. According to authors from Follow the Camino, the race participants begin to gather at 7 and at 8am, the race begins. As long as the participants are out of the bulls’ way, they will not be injured or even killed.
In the ending scene of Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, the 3 main characters, Kabir, Arjun and Imran, made a new pact on what they would do if they survived this Running of the Bulls, right when the bulls were released. It kept my mom and I on the edge as we had never seen it so closely before and we feared that they, and the other participants, would get injured.
Additionally, the Saint Fermin procession is culturally intriguing! Guilds, giants and bigheads as well as authorities march the streets and show their love for Saint Fermin, the man who successfully converted more than 3,000 people to Christianity and firmly believed in his faith6.
3. The Semana Grande
This festival in August celebrates Basque culture and is one of the key traditional festivals in northern Spain. According to websites, this festival is also dedicated to the Virgin of Begoña (also called Amatxu or Mother to the Basques)7.
In this one week, expect fireworks, Basque folk music and dancing as well as many concerts and food to try as the folks come together and celebrate8. Also, there are contests such as the Bilbao Strongman Contest which would be interesting to observe as many strong men do various activities including weightlifting of various objects.
Source: ZapTravel / Pinterest
In addition to these festivals, did you know that Spain is home to some of the top 300 co-operatives in the world? Corporación Mondragón (Industry and Utilities), Mutua Madrileña (Insurance), Fundación Espriu (Health, education and social care), Grupo Cooperativo Cajamar (Banking and Financial Services) are some to state9.
I was fortunate enough to be able to interact with Deputy Director of Fundación Espriu, José Pérez Aria, prior to my “virtual travel” to Spain. I’m amazed at how they have managed to not only work with healthcare co-operatives and hospitals but also other stakeholders such as technology and insurance companies to care for about 2.6 million people in Spain and facilitate shared decision-making processes between doctors and patients.
As I’ve never been to Spain before, I’m looking forward to what’s in store when I travel there! Of course, there are other activities including the Flour Fight Festival which looks like people are at a warzone (except that you fight with eggs and flour) and Haro Wine Festival and the Festa Major De Gràcia. I can’t wait!
1 La Tomatina Tours. (n.d). La Tomatina Information, Accommodation & Tickets. Retrieved from https://www.latomatinatours.com/. Accessed on 14 July 2020.
2 Tomatina Festival Spain. (n.d). Quick Facts about La Tomatina. Retrieved from https://www.tomatofestivalspain.com/. Accessed on 14 July 2020.
3 La Tomatina. (n.d.). Information about La Tomatina Festival. Retrieved from https://www.latomatina.org/. Accessed on 14 July 2020.
4 WikiHow. (n.d.). 3 Ways to Use an Overripe Tomato. Retrieved from https://www.wikihow.com/Use-an-Overripe-Tomato. Accessed on 14 July 2020.
5 Follow the Camino. (n.d.). San Fermin festival or festival of Saint Fermin of Amiens. Retrieved from https://followthecamino.com/en/blog/san-fermin-festival/. Accessed on 14 July 2020.
6 SanFermines.net. (n.d). Procession. Retrieved from http://sanfermines.net/contenido/procession/en/757. Accessed on 14 July 2020.
7 Spanish-Fiestas. (n.d.). Semana Grande Festival Bilbao. Retrieved from https://www.spanish-fiestas.com/festivals/semana-grande/. Accessed on 14 July 2020.
8 Culture Trip. (2017). Everything You Need to Know About Bilbao’s Semana Grande Festival. Retrieved from https://theculturetrip.com/europe/spain/articles/everything-you-need-to-know-about-bilbaos-semana-grande-festival/. Accessed on 14 July 2020.
9 ICA. (2018). EXPLORING THE COOPERATIVE ECONOMY REPORT 2018. Retrieved from https://www.ica.coop/sites/default/files/publication-files/wcm2018-web-1542524747.pdf. Accessed on 14 July 2020.
This article is brought to you by Denise Ong. Denise is a first-year undergraduate in NUS Business School. She is currently interning with SNCF as a Marketing Intern. She is experimenting with designing on Canva and Photoshop, and enjoys playing volleyball in her free time.