A touch of weird in these Southern Europe Festivals
Oranges, Wines, death, wherever you could be for your vacation, there is a unique and fun festival for you in Europe. Add a touch of weird to your travels with these bizarre and wonderful events, where the participants throw each other’s food, jump on the children, perform with imaginary instruments, compete in Olympic games in the mud or stage their own deaths during their fake funeral. From the dance steeped in red wine in Spain to the launch of oranges in Italy, here are the most unique and unusual festivals in Southern Europe and most of them are in Spain:
Running of the Bulls
An important part of the Fiesta de San Fermin of Pamplona, the running of bulls, sees hundreds of adrenaline seekers from all over the world, running ahead of six wild and powerful bulls through the narrow streets of the old city. The festival lasts nine days, from 6 to 14 July, and the race is held every morning at 8:00. Surely, this is the most controversial and famous Spanish Festival, thanks in part to the book by Ernest Hemingway The Sun Also Rises.
Battle of the Oranges
Every year, in the days leading up to Shrove Tuesday, the Italian city of Ivrea, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, turns into a battlefield littered with oranges where participants throw 600.000 kg of oranges as part of the city’s historical carnival . Immersed in history, the battle of oranges aims to recreate a 12th century battle between the local population and the Napoleonic royal troops, with 9 aranceri (orange throwers) walking against 40 aranceri carri da getto (orange throwers in carts). This symbolic war is the biggest food battle in Italy and one of its most unique events.
Attending La Tomatina, the biggest food fight in the world that takes place every summer in Buñol, Spain, is an unbelievable experience. On the last Wednesday of August, more than 20.000 revelers from all over the world gather in the small town of Valencia to throw tons of ripe Extremaduran tomatoes, against each other, in an epic battle. The messy and particular event lasts only an hour, but the week leading up to it is full of music, parades, fireworks and cooking competitions focused on paella.
La Batalla del Vino
Known as La Batalla del Vino de Haro, this wine battle in the La Rioja region of northern Spain involves thousands of people dressed in white and tourists throwing delicious red wines against each other, using buckets, bottles or water guns. Honoring San Pedro, this festival of music and wine culminates with a magnificent battle of wine on a hill outside the town of Haro on the morning of June 29th.
Although dating back to the seventeenth century, this unusual Spanish party that consists of jumping between children, is still a terrifying sight, for all the spectators crowded along the streets of Castrillo de Murcia during the Feast of Corpus Domini. Known as El Colacho, the bizarre ritual is a sort of baptism or exorcism, in which men dressed as the devil jump on children placed on mattresses in the middle of the road to cleanse them of their sins and protect them from evil spirits. No injuries have ever been reported, but this unorthodox practice remains the subject of debate within the Catholic Church.
In the past it was the largest pig market in Europe, it is no surprise that the small village of Trie-sur-Baise in the Pyrenees is home to La Pourcailhade, a bizarre celebration of everything that refers to pigs. Also known as La Fête du Cochon, the annual Pig Festival in France offers gastronomic competitions, pig races, a Best Outfit competition for pigs and the ever-popular Championnat de France du Cri de Cochon (pig squid championship).
New Year in August
Although the Christmas of July may not seem completely weird (since it is a real thing in the southern hemisphere), what about the New Year’s Day in August? Well, let Spain be partying in all. Every first Saturday in August, the premises of Bérchules, a small town in the province of Granada, celebrate New Year’s Eve with the parades of the Three Kings, home decoration contests and the famous mass consumption of grapes. This curious Nochevieja tradition originated in 1994, when a blackout before midnight prevented the inhabitants from making their traditional celebrations.
Near Death Festival
One virtue of Spain is that it is always surprising and it always leaves you speechless. An example is the Feast of Santa Marta de Ribarteme, a festival that celebrates near death experiences in Las Nieves, in Galicia. This particular festival occurs every year on July 29 and sees people who have survived a near-death experience in the last 12 months carried by their bereaved relatives, through the city, inside coffins. Despite its theme, the solemn procession culminates in a real Spanish festival, with lots of sangria, ballads, fireworks and delicious traditional dishes.