How many of you played Holi on March 11? If you live in North India, chances are you all did. These days Holi is being celebrated even in South India. So how is it celebrated? The participants spray each other with coloured water using plastic bottles, and apply coloured powder on each other.

A week of activity lead-up to the main event – the Tomato Throwing Party.

How many of you played Holi on March 11? If you live in North India, chances are you all did. These days Holi is being celebrated even in South India. So how is it celebrated? The participants spray each other with coloured water using plastic bottles, and apply coloured powder on each other.

Would you believe there is another celebration like Holi? This is La Tomatina and it is celebrated in the Town of Bunol (pronounced Bunyol) in Spain. It is held on the last Wednesday of August every year. This year the festival took place on August 26.

This festival is very much like Holi and just as much fun. In this festival, people gather at the centre of the town, and have a ‘food fight’ with tomatoes. It is described as a “Tomato Throwing Party”, and everyone has a lot of fun throwing ripe tomatoes at one another! This makes people bright red just like we do when we get smeared with Gulal and Abhir. This celebration began in the 1940s as a ‘food fight’ between friends, but it has now become the world’s biggest ‘food throwing party’!

A week of fun

There are only about 10,000 people who live in Bunol but about 50,000 people from all over the world come to join the party and have fun. Over 100,000 kgs of tomatoes are thrown at each other! There are festivals for a whole week before the actual day, and events such as a cooking contest.

Since the tomatoes are over-ripe there is no danger from this fight. However, just to make sure nobody gets hurt the players squeeze each tomato before they throw it. Safety goggles and gloves are worn. Just like ‘Holi’ glass bottles and other ‘weapons’ are not allowed.

At 10.00 a.m. on August 26 a water cannon was fired and the ‘fight’ began with thousands of people gathered in a tiny area and throwing ripe tomatoes at each other — in good fun of course. After an hour the water cannon sounds again and the ‘battle’ stopped. The participants head off cheerfully for a shower and Fire Trucks arrived to clean the street — until another 52 weeks and another la Tomatina.

As the celebrations begin, the first feat is for the crowd to figure out how to get people to climb up a greased pole with a ham at the top. While this is happening, the group works up a frenzy singing and dancing while being showered from hoses. Once someone has released the ham from the pole, several trucks haul the bounty of tomatoes into the centre of the town, Plaza del Pueblo. The tomatoes come from Extremadura, where they are less expensive and are grown specificall y for the festival.

The cleaning process involves the use of fire trucks to spray down the streets, with water provided from a Roman aqueduct.

Some people find water at the Buñol River to wash themselves, although some kind residents hose passers-by down. Once the tomato pulp is flushed, the ground is clean due to the acidity of the tomato.

The week-long festival features music, parades, dancing, and fireworks. On the night before the tomato fight, participants of the festival compete in a paella cooking contest.

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