Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara introduced Indians to La Tomatina, that outrageous tomato-hurling festival in Buñol, Spain that takes place on the last Wednesday of August every year. Participants from all around the world gather for one hour of saucy revelry (pun unintended!), followed by a large scale hosing down, which cleans up the merrymakers as well as the city streets, thanks to the acidity of the tomatoes. Reactions to this festival range from thrilled at the craziness to disgusted at the blatant wastage of food. Be that as it may, the festival is one of the most recognisable of Spanish cultural indicators, and has numerous cousins around the world, such as these:
1. La Tomatina en Reno
Reno in Nevada, United States also has an equally sloppy festival inspired by the Tomatina festival in Spain. An entry fee is charged per participant (you pay a premium to get a shot at the Mayor!), and all proceeds are donated to charity. A similar festival takes place in Sutamarchan, Colombia.
2. Battle of the Oranges
Ivrea in northern Italy has an orange-throwing festival with a rather violent history. An aristocratic tyrant from the city tried to use his privilege to rape a miller’s daughter, sometime in the 13th century. The girl was tough, however- she decapitated the aristocrat, and the infuriated people burned down his palace. This event is commemorated every year in February by a crew of Aranceri (orange-throwers) on foot who hurl oranges at Aranceri in carts, signifying defiance against the upper-class tyrant. Fascinating!
3. World Custard Pie Championship
In Coxheath, United Kingdom, Charlie Chaplin’s brand of humour is paid tribute every June since 1967. Participants form teams of four to hurl specially made custard pies at rival teams. With team names like Clash of the Pietans, Three Men and a Pie and The Custardteers, this food-fight is as British as it gets!
4. The Great Fruitcake Toss
Ok so this isn’t a food fight technically. But it does a great job with disposing the heaping pounds of fruitcake that one is sick of by the end of the festive season. This festival in Manitou Springs, Colorado, USA involves tossing a fruitcake (preferably your own) as far and as accurately as possible. Points are awarded accordingly, and the festivities also involve cook-offs, crazy costumes and other fun events!
5. La Merengada
The residents of Vilanova i La Geltrú in Catalonia enjoy a hearty lunch on ‘Fat Thursday’ in February, then go out and throw meringue (an egg-and-sugar dessert) and cream at anyone and everyone. And once the meringue is over, it’s candy time! The Batalla De Caramelos (Candy fight) involves tons of candies launched at participants, especially children, who have a gala time!
6. Els Enfarinats
Spain beckons us again for a 200-year old tradition, where the townsfolk of Ibi retaliated against bandits by throwing eggs and flour at them! The people dress up in mock-military uniforms, stage a proper coup d’etat, and the weapons of choice are of course, flour and eggs. The town must reek for days later, but hey, it’s all for a good cause. All the taxes collected go to charity!
7. Batalla del Vino
The Spanish sure enjoy playing with their food! Those who cringe at the thought of red wine stains on pristine white clothing, stay away from this festival which takes place every June in La Rioja, Spain’s wine capital. What started as a land-dispute some seven centuries ago is now a tipsy Holi-esque revelry, with the attendees dressed in white, armed with water pistons, balloons or just buckets, turning a uniform purple by the end of the day!
One can either regard these festivals as insensitive wastage in the name of tradition, or see it as a celebration of the agricultural abundance in a region. All these festivities claim to employ quantities of food which stands in surplus and would be spoilt anyway. So why not have some fun with it, right?
Title image: latomatina