On the 29th June every year, to celebrate St Peter’s day, an unusual festival takes place in the Rioja region of Spain in a town called Haro: the Battle of the Wine.
The origin of this tradition is a possible dispute over land rights with the nearby town of Miranda de Ebro. Following a mass, the wine ‘fight’ begins between two groups who throw thousands of litres of wine at one another without rest. It’s an impressive show which ends at midday. Afterwards, the participants return to Haro and congregate in the Plaza de la Paz – Peace Square.
The Battle consists of soaking adversaries with wine until they are completely purple and takes place 6 kilometres north of Haro in a location called Riscos de Bilibio, next to a spot known as Las Conchas, where the river Ebro flows into the region of La Rioja.
At this location, Felices de Bilibio, master of San Millán in the 16th century, lived and died. Since then this place has been visited and honoured by pilgrims. It appears that the establishment of a more organised pilgrimage began with the construction in the area of the first hermitage during the 18th century.
The beginnings of the pilgrimage, now known as the Battle of the Wine, originated with the revelry occurring during the lunch which the pilgrims enjoyed after attending mass in the hermitage. A huge amount of wine was consumed at the festivity which animated the participants to sing and make jokes while filling their boots with wine and drinking from them. Not everyone approved of this and for several years the numbers attending the pilgrimage went down, especially among the women who did not want to stain their dresses. However, by 1949 the wine festival had recovered and was mentioned for the first time as the Battle of the Wine. Over the years it has become more and more popular and now attracts thousands of people from all over the world.
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