If ever there's a nation that needs no excuse to throw a party, it's the Spanish who hold festivals and fiestas for just about anything, from tiny village harvest festivals to huge affairs such as the spectacular Fallas de Valencia. For most of us, visiting a market entails looking for a few bargains and maybe stopping for an ice cream, but for many Spaniards it's a day to dress smartly, meet up with family and friends, and have a good old time in the local tapas bars. For some countries, religious holidays can be sombre occasions with much prayer and reflection, but for the Spanish they are times to celebrate with street processions, bands and festivities.
Festivals and fiestas are held in Benidorm throughout the year, with many of the city's residents, clubs and associations getting involved. They really don't do things in half measures but spend weeks, and in some cases months rehearsing plays, reenactments and parades, designing costumes and displays, constructing floats and fireworks, and usually to end the festivities on a high note, arranging final day after parties.
One such elaborate affair is the Benidorm Patron Saints Festival, or should I say festivals as it goes on for 5 days, and although there are religious events and prayers such as the Flower Offering, the majority of the 5 days are lively and colourful events, and as is often the case with Spanish festivals, always include loads of fun stuff for the young ones such as the Parade of Humour. Many holidaymakers and local expats get involved too with a riotous after party.
Not as large and elaborate as the famous one held each year in Brighton, England, but just as fun, Benidorm Pride is a week long gay festival that attracts thousands of revellers both gay and straight. Pride is an outrageous week of festivities with a number of different events held each evening, parades, cabaret acts, drag queens, gogo dancers and nightly theme parties.
Probably the craziest of all Spain's festivals is La Tomatina, held in the town of Buñol and regarded as the largest tomato fight in the world! The tomato fight only lasts an hour, but to give you an idea of just how large it is, in that hour 145 tonnes of tomatoes are thrown and the town's normal population of around 9,000 residents swells to over 40,000 crazy participants who come from countries far and wide. A bonus for the town, after fire trucks have come in to hose down the mess, the streets are left nice and clean from the acidity of the tomatoes.
For many, Las Fallas de Valencia is the most elaborate and exciting festival of them all and really needs to be seen to be believed. A huge 5 day festival of fire and fireworks, Las Fallas is a pyromaniac's dream where throughout the year dedicated citizens and associations construct huge wood, cardboard and paper-maché puppets resembling all sorts of characters, some so large they reach several stories high and require cranes to move them. These are stuffed with fireworks and placed at points throughout the city, only to be set alight on the final night.
Another of Spain's festivals that attracts revellers from far and wide is the superb Benicassim Music Festival usually held during mid July each year. Similar to the famous Glastonbury Festivals but without the predictable bad weather and sea of mud, Benicassim is held over 4 days and, aside from all the on-site bar, snack and restaurant tents, has free on-site camping and a further campsite close to the beach. Some of the acts that have played at Benicassim include Echo & The Bunnymen, Kendrick Lamar and The Chemical Brothers.