6 Annual Festivals That Encourage Celebrants to Fling Food at Each Other

“Don’t play with your food.” We’ve all heard that one, right? Well, what first came to many an adolescent ear as a valuable lesson about mealtime manners has evolved, not just into a rule meant to be broken, but one whose breakage is demanded, frequently in public during broad daylight by celebrants wearing colorful costumes. If you plan on participating in any of these six festivals from around the world, you’d best go prepared to get your hands dirty in ways mom and dad would never approve of, because every one of them not only allows but encourages revelers to chuck food at fellow attendees.
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  • Battaglia delle Arance - Italy

  • A popular legend explains that this event commemorates a peasant rebellion in the Turin province of Ivrea. This is said to have followed a despised feudal lord’s attempt to force himself upon Violetta, betrothed daughter of a local miller. The brave young woman decapitated her attacker for his efforts, igniting a full-on revolt as her fellow villagers took up arms and clashed with his soldiers. One stormed, burnt-out castle later, the town of Ivrea was short one tyrant, and an annual independence celebration was born.

    Nowadays, that celebration involves thousands of participants, split according to colorful sporting uniforms worn into nine squads of aranceri (orange-throwers) representing villagers and armored participants on horse-drawn carriages to fill the villain role of soldiers. Each year a young woman gets chosen to rep Violetta during the festival, though these days, the miller's daughter spends her time
    handing out sweets and flowers rather than decapitations. The Battaglia delle arance unleashes vitamin C-loaded hell every February; this year, from the 6th to 9th.
  • Gemüseschlacht – Germany

  • This vegetable battle grudge match between the denizens of East and West Berlin has been waged since 1998 on the Oberbaumbruecke, a bridge linking the regions pre-German reunification. The stakes of these matchups? Bragging rights for representin’ your 'hood. The objective? Meet your enemies on the bridge before beating them back to their side of the tracks with their food-splattered tails between their food-splattered legs. Rotten produce has long been the chosen weapon for the districts of Friedrichshain in the east and Kreuzberg in the west, however the regeln des krieges have since expanded to make fair game of soft comestibles like pet food, condiments, and sauerkraut, as well as non-injurious tools like foam batons, self-crafted water cannons, and food catapults. Gemüseschlacht tends to draw its battle lines in late summer, usually September.
  • Carnival at Vilanova i La Geltru Meringue Wars/Candy Fight– Spain

  • "Recognized as a Heritage Festival by the Catalonia government" might seem an odd phrase to find occupying the same sentence as "meringue wars." Nonetheless, La Merengada, said to be one of the world's 10 largest food fights, exists as part of Vilanova’s annual Carnival that earned the honor. Fought on the streets of seaside hamlet Vilanova i la Geltru with confectionery and cream, La Merengada ensues until all meringue has been exhausted. That's when the event morphs into the Batalla de Caramelos (Candy Fight) and wrapped candies start to rain from the balconies to the delight of every child present (though the kid that would choose to lob candy at friends rather than eat it stretches the imagination a bit.) This year, the meringue and candy will fly from February 4th to 10th.
  • World Custard Pie Championship – United Kingdom

  • Charlie Chaplin is said to have inspired this annual event aimed at finding the pie-pitching cream of the crop—presumably before loading said cream into a tin and chucking it at someone's head. Begun in 1967, the championship was conceived as a means of raising village hall funds in the town of Coxheath, in Kent. Themed and/or costumed 4-person teams hurl pies at each other from 8 feet apart. Varying
    point values get awarded depending on what part of an opponent's body gets struck (yes, face shots, being far-and-away the most hilarious, earn the most points.) This sweets-slinging fiesta now enjoys a global following as more countries enter for a shot at greatness. Looking to test your team tart-tossing talents? The next event meets on June 4th, 2016.
  • Setsubun/Mame-Maki – Japan

  • Households throughout Japan greet each February 3rd by pelting Japanese demons known as oni with roasted soybeans. In families with small children, the kids chase the “demon” (generally the father or head of household wearing an oni mask) around and ultimately out of the home while delivering fusillades of soybeans as the family shouts "Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!", meaning “Demons out! Happiness in!” The bean-scattering ritual is believed to cleanse the home of any residual bad luck from the previous year by driving away malevolent or negative vibes. Afterward, each family member eats a soybean for each year of
    their life to ensure good fortune ahead.
  • La Tomatina - Spain

  • Easily the most widely-known of food-flinging fetes, this one’s grown so popular in recent years that due to safety concerns over the ever-swelling throngs showing up for it, only ticketed participants can join in. Held in Buñol, Spain every August, La Tomatina is the great-granddaddy of all food-throwing festivals; so much so, that it
    has inspired copycat tomato-hucking festivities in countries as far-flung as Scotland, China, and Colombia. Not without guidelines (crush your fruits before throwing them to dull their impact, don’t wear flip-flops if you value life and limb because they’re easy to slip in once the ground is covered in tomato paste, etc. ) this nonetheless chaotic hour-long affair opens around 11 a.m. in the town
    square, with a jamon placed atop a greased pole. The rule is simple: reach the ham, get to keep the ham. Once the ham gets got, the tomato trucks arrive to arm the townsfolk and it’s open season on clean clothes everywhere as the attack of the
    slightly-injurious-if-mishandled tomatoes gets under way. People looking to paint it red this year will get their chance on August 31st.

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