Say what you like about the Spanish, they definitely know how to party. What other race of people will happily run alongside angry bulls, launch a city-wide rotten tomato fight, and spend months building papiér maché effigies only for them to be burnt in a giant bonfire after a week of fireworks and explosions? No wonder they need to take an afternoon nap every day.
The Running of the Bulls, Tomatina, and Las Fallas are pretty well-known amongst backpackers and tourists alike, but there is more to Spain than these three celebrations (although they are a good place to start). Party animals, find some cheap flights to Spain and get your itinerary at the ready. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.
Leave Cava Week and the Jerez Sherry Festival to the uninspired: true adventurers know that the best booze laden festivities are to be found at the Fiesta Del Orujo in Cantabria. Locals and visitors alike head into the mountains to sample the local moonshine, aguardiente: firewater that will leave your throat burning and your eyes bleary. It may remind you of the chilli-eating contest from an old episode of The Simpsons, with local distillers setting up stalls on the main street and distilling aguardiente on site to compete for the title of “Great Orujero”. Samples abound, and there are plenty of local nibbles to stop you from getting too tired and emotional.
Forget Saint Patrick, San Pedro *really* knows how to party. The Haro Wine Battle is held every 29th June on San Pedro’s Day, in the La Rioja region of Spain. The day starts with a huge procession of young and old, all dressed in white and carrying huge receptacles of wine. Leave your best white shirt (and your vintage vino) at home for this one, as after the morning mass takes place the fun begins with a giant water fight: except instead of water, it’s wine being sloshed around. Hopefully you look good in purple, as your whites will be a dashing shade of fuchsia once the fun is over.
Bulls aren’t the only beast of burden that get a raw deal in Spain. Each year in Galicia the ancient festival of Rapa das Bestas takes place. Villagers head into the hills of Sabucedo to round-up wild horses and bring them back to town, where they are wrestled and ridden by locals. Before you get upset and report the fiesta to PETA, no horses are actually harmed during this time. It’s simply a chance for the beasts to get a haircut, and to be marked for easier identification in the wild. Still, it could be less barbaric.
Forget Australia’s tuna tossing contest: this really takes the biscuit in the weird festival stakes. Mothers bring their newborns out to the town square of Castrillo de Murcia where they are laid on the ground in swaddling clothes. Then a man dressed as the devil jumps over them. Why? To cleanse them of evil, of course! The baby jumping festival has been in action since the 17th Century and is part of the Corpus Christi celebrations. Justify yourself by announcing that you’re absorbing culture and history, not taking a perverse pleasure in watching a grown man jumping over infants.
Watch out for the Brotherhood of Santísimo Sacramento de Minerva; during the festival they dress up and run around town whipping unsuspecting bystanders. Great fun if you know what’s going on, but if you’re new in town it may come as a bit of a shock!