Celebrating Spanish Culture
Rich in flavoursome foods, fruit-filled festivals and alluring languages, Spain is a country flourishing with culture. A trip to Spain is never a dull one with the locals more than happy to include you in their traditions and beautiful seas and landscapes to find yourself lost in. Allow us to take your hand and guide you through some of the incredible celebrations Spain has to offer…
Food Glorious Food
What would Spain be without perfectly cured jámon (ham for the Spanish beginner) or delicious paella? Originating on the farms of Valencia quite some time back, Paella is undoubtedly one of the most popular and favourable dishes around the world.
Cooked by local farmers and farm labourers over a wood fire for lunchtime, it was made with rice and whatever was to hand around the fields – ranging from snails to tomatoes and onions or even duck. The famous ingredient, saffron, used in most paellas these days was back then a commodity, only to be used on special occasions.
Arguably, paella is one of the most social of culinary occurrences often bringing in many people to feast around the hot, steel pan. There are regularly paella competitions across Spain, challenging locals and tourists alike to create a giant paella!
Want to find the best paella? Head to Valencia and look out for a tiny town called El Palmar – about 30 minutes south of the city. Its nestled in Albufera National Park, a beautiful array of wetlands, forests and orchards. This is the birth town of Paella and thankfully, the hundred old tradition has stayed strong and healthy.
Held on the last Wednesday in August, La Tomatina takes places in a town called Buñol in Valencia. Much as the name suggests, it is a food throwing festival where tomatoes are the main source of ammunition. Thousands upon thousands of people fled to the town to have a go at launching a tomato through the air at unsuspecting targets.
Holding the title of The Worlds Largest Foodfight, more than 100 metric tonnes of tomatoes are thrown between 40-50,000 people (quite the increase in comparison to the town’s total population of just 9000 people). Since 2013, official ticketing has been put in place to limit the festival to just 20,000.
This crazy food fight has been a tradition in Buñol since 1944 with no concrete evidence as to how the tradition originally started. Some rumours suggest that it began as a local food fight between friends or as a result of an accidental lorry spillage! However it started, the festival is as strong as ever and remains a sure-fire reason to pack your bags and head over to Spain.
Las Fallas De Valencia
One of Spain’s largest national festivals, Las Fallas De Valencia takes place in Valencia from the 15th to the 19th of March attracting tourists far and wide on a yearly basis. San José, the patron saint of carpenters, is the official focus of the festival. Dating back to the middle ages, the festival started as a result of carpenters who used to display planks of wood in the winter to support their candles while they were working. As the beginning of Spring drew close, the carpenters would burn the pieces of wood as a way of celebrating the end of the dark, working winter days. After a while, the planks of wood were dressed up in clothing and became well known local personalities.
Low and behold, after years and years these became the forerunners to the extravagant and enormous figures seen today. These days, each local neighbourhood has an organising committee dedicated to creating a figure for the festival. Over the course of the festival, controlled pyrotechnical explosions are let off across the city whilst parades parole through the streets. Each night is graced with its own spectacular firework display until one night the beloved characters are adoringly burnt. The final grandest fire takes place on the final night, where all the characters you know and love have been stuffed with fireworks to be set off that night.
No matter how loud you think it may be, it doesn’t even compare to the actual volume of the festival. Pregnant women are forbidden to attend whilst firemen are on hand for worst-case scenarios. An unbelievable tradition, Las Fallas De Valencia is definitely one to see in your lifetime.
As welcoming as Spanish people are, when delving into little and undiscovered towns, it’s always best to do your research and try to learn as much of the language as possible. Whilst it shows you care about their culture, your understanding of your surroundings is enhanced making it a better experience for all. We have a number of Spanish for Beginners courses available and would love to see some of you there!