Some parties are just better than others. Sure Mardi Gras in New Orleans is fun what with the bead throwing and all the craziness associated with it. But how about the worlds biggest food fight? Or a festival where people try to set you on fire? This is a list of the greatest annual festival on earth where people battle each other.
Here they are, the largest, the most incredible and the most dangerous mock combat engagements from around the globe. If you go, make sure you bring your grrr face and a helmet, because things are about to get insane.
1 – La Tomatina
The Largest Food Fight In The World
- Photo from wikipedia
“And you thought Spain’s water parks were awesome.”
Often mistaken by vampires as a really big blood orgy, La Tomatina the largest annual food fight in the world. If you have severe tomato allergies then August 29th, Buñol, Spain is the perfect place to commit suicide. This little town of nine thousand swells to nearly 50 thousand celebrants for the messiest food fight on earth. The whole town shuts down and the streets run red with the life juices of this popular vegetable (fruit?). There are literal rivers of marinara after it’s all over.
The tomato festivities begin at 11 am with the launching of five tomato-packed rockets. Yes, the Spanish have developed tomato based artillery. Next someone from the crowd has to climb a greased poll to get the ham at the top (because you’ve got to have something to go with all of this ketchup, right). Then, for the next 2 hour everybody goes absolutely insane hurling 250,000 pounds of tomatoes at each other.
“At least there weren’t as many casualties as last year!”
The rules for the tomato fight are simple enough: no ammo other than tomatoes is allowed, all tomatoes must be squished before being thrown, and you have to fling these crimson wads of mush at everyone you see. No one knows exactly why the festival started, but it’s taken on a life of its own and is now copied in a few other tomato crazed cities around the world. After the two hours is up the fire trucks role in and they start hosing down the whole town. Although can you ever really wash away the smell of a metric ton of tomato paste? You should probably wear a mask if you go to this one since tomatoes are acidic and can irritate the eyes. And bring some crackers because there going to be a whole lot of soup.
2 – Batalla del Vino:
“We hope you look good in mauve”
Whereas most festivals in Spain are devoted to a particular saint, Batalla del Vino which takes place on June 29th exists for a whole different reason. There was a land dispute between two villages in Spanish wine country near the town of Haro over a hundred years ago. Apparently things got pretty heated and they tried to kill each other with the only weapon available to them…delicious red wine. The conflict didn’t go away over the years but it became less violent while still retaining the whole drown each other in wine thing. Whats unique about this event is that the purpose is not to get drunk on wine, but to soak each other with the grapey libations. It’s like a water fight where the water has been replaced by ten thousand gallons of happy juice.
“The wine fire hose……….. reason number 211 why festivals in Europe rule.”
Needless to say don’t wear anything you don’t want permanently stained pinkish purple. And you might want to invest in some sort of liquid dispensing device. People come to this event ready to do combat with just about everything you could imagine. Squirt bottles, leather water skins, water guns, buckets, cups, backpack insecticide sprayers (yeah, just rinse out the poison and fill it with wine, its all good) and fire trucks. Yes, they’ve rigged fire trucks to spray fermented grape juice. How awesome is that! Bring the kids as hosing down people in alcohol is a family event in Spain. They don’t even card.
“And the streets are paved with grape jelly!”
3 – Ivrea Carnevale:
The Battle of The Orange
“Kill the Oppressors”
While La Tomatina may be the largest food fight in the world the title of most brutal probably goes to the Carnival in Ivrea Italy, which is held 40 days before lent. For this one standard swim goggles may not be enough since you’re going to get beat with oranges. The battle consists of the crowd attacking groups of well armored men on floats with the citrus fruits. And the floats are pulled around the streets by teams of horses, so the battle changes as they move around the city. You also probably have a chance of seeing someone get trampled to death because a miss thrown fruit ticked off a horse. It’s pure orangy chaos.
It’s supposed to be a recreation of a battle that no one is sure actually happened.
“Yes, its that serious”
The peasants revolted against their cruel masters and beat them to death with fruit. Actually no, the oranges are supposed to represent stones and arrows. Even still, oranges hurt, so you’d better dress accordingly. And they say it’s not really a waste because these are excess oranges that the European Union forces them to destroy anyway. I guess because there are too many oranges in the world and we’ve solved world hunger while while none of us were looking.
In the end there’s so much orange on the ground they have to get slow plows to clean the streets. It used to be that people could chuck oranges from the windows of the houses surrounding the narrow streets. But apparently that was too brutal on the tourists (pansies) so now you have to either be on the ground or on a float to throw an orange. But even still, it’s a friggin orange. That’s like throwing a softball at someone. At least you won’t get scurvy though.
“Face shields are optional, because really, it’s just fruit…right?”
4 – Wasserschlacht Battle:
“Take the train. It’s safer. Probably.”
The Wasserschlacht is one of the more recent festivals, but it is no less crazy than any of the others on this list. In 1998 in Berlin German the districts of Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg were joined together governmentally. Unfortunately these two sections of town don’t get along very well. To show their dissention the disgruntled citizen staged a water fight on a bridge joining the two sides. However, over the years it has escalated somewhat. Now the Wasserschlacht has turned into more of a dirty food fight with some arson mixed in for good measure.
Although officially only flower and water and foam swords and shields are supposed to be the allowed participants on both sides have begun stepping up their game. First they added eggs and rotted fruit. But now you can get hit with anything from stinky fish to used diapers. No one has flung a dead cat yet, but its coming. And the event has been known to get a little out of hand at times.
“Someone is letting all this good trash go to waist.”
Floats and vehicles have been set ablaze by the overtly zealous combatants. It had gotten so bad that one year the city canceled the event. When the police blocked the rioters…I mean ‘participants’ the got pelted with all the ammunition instead, cuz don’t you dare deny the Germans their god given rights to fling refuse at one another. It has since started up again (sponsored by a garbage company of course) with each year getting more rambunctious than the last…of course. When can you get in on the action? It’s generally held on the last Sunday of August.
“The fire and the gas masks add a nice apocalyptic feel to the festival.”
The USA version of the Garbage day fight is a little different
5 –Nozawa Onsen Dosojin Matsuri:
The Drunken Arson Festival
“Do you think we’ve got enough fire wood? When this thing goes up it needs to be seen from space.”
The little village of Nozawa Onsen in the mountains of Japan takes their fire festival seriously. Originally began as an invocation to the gods for a good harvest, health and good fortune in the coming year, it has been expanded to include a supplication to the heavens for a good ski season as well. Taking place on January 15th every year, the festival is staged by men aged 42 and 25 which they believe are the “unlucky ages”. They don’t go into an explanation about why this is so, but it’s probably because men around 25 are just starting to get married (and instead of saying ‘hey you just lost all your freedom’ the Japanese call it ‘unlucky’) and men around 42 are just starting to get divorced (lucky for you she’s only taking half of everything).
So they build a two-story shrine made out of wood which the town will attempt to burn down. The 25 year olds defend the bottom with sticks and the 42 year olds sit on the top and get drunk. Actually everyone is drunk, but it seems that the 42 year olds only job in this festival is to get drunk and egg on the crowd…who are also drunk. Because trying to set each other on fire sober would just wrong.
“Probably the only place in the world where its perfectly legal to hit someone in the face with a torch.”
First the little kids are given flaming torches and told to run over and try to set that tower on fire thereby immolating those nice inebriated men protecting it. Once the rugrats have had their shot at manslaughter the entire town tries to set the shrine ablaze. The battle is fierce and cuts and burns are the order of the day. The outnumbered defenders try to bat the torches away while the rest of the town folk burn them. Yeah, it’s totally fair. And of course this is done at night in the snow and everyone is drunk. In fact, there are designated sake men whose job it is to walk around and offer people drinks.
After about four hours of everyone trying to kill one another the shrine is vacated and they set it on fire. The dry wood, likely infused with the drunken sweat and breath of its defenders goes up in a blaze of glory as an offering to the gods. The dying embers, kicked up by the mountain winds swirl about smoldering in peoples cloths. And then everyone passes out drunk, burnt and bloody. And if the gods are pleased then the skiers will come back next year.
“The guys at the top are tasked with the difficult job of getting really wasted and snarky.”
6 – “Las Bolas de Fuego”:
”And you thought Mortal Kombat was just a video game.”
Lots of places have festivals where weird stuff gets thrown through the air. There’s a festival in Spanish town of El Puig has their annual Batalla de la Rata Muerta where they’ll throw dead rats at each other. In Laza, Spain for Entroido they’ll get mud balls full of live ants and toss that into the crowd for fun. But none of those can hold a candle to Las Bolas de Fuego in Nejapa El Salvador for sheer craziness. They throw fireballs at one another…seriously.
In 1922 an erupting volcano forced the people of Nejapa El Salvador to evacuate. As they were leaving, locals saw great balls of fire spewing out of the volcano, and believed their patron saint, San Jeronimo, was actually fighting the devil for them. So to commemorate this event the locals stage a fight where they hurl friggin fireballs at each other. Not fireworks. Not balls of paper painted to look like flames. They wad up old rags, dip them in kerosene for a month and set them ablaze. The city divides itself into two teams. Those guys on that side of the street verses everyone else on this side. Equipped with water soaked gloves, cloths, masks, war paint, and massive kohones the festival participants then proceed to lob genuine, honest to god fireballs at one another!
Is it dangerous? No, of course not. Sure, people have gotten burned and some have died but nothing major. It’s just a solidified blob of plazma after all. Where’s the harm in tossing these things around crowded streets. And considering that this is El Salvador, getting hit in the face with a burning sack of kerosene is probably not your biggest worry. What other nation would have a firebomb festival right in the middle of town?
7 – Takeuchi Matsuri:
The Beat Each Other With Sticks Festival
Valentines day in Japan must be particularly brutal, but cause the very next day is the Takeuchi Matsuri. What does Takeuchi Matsuri mean? ‘Get The Biggest Stick You Can Find And Beat Your Neighbor Senseless’. That’s not an exact translation of course but it’s pretty close…probably. The day after Valentines Day men in towns all across Japan get liquored up, grab a twenty-foot length of bamboo and proceed to beat the snot out of their rivals. The towns divide into North vs South. The combat is three rounds and the police and medical teams are there to make sure the festivities don’t get out of hand. But what could possibly go wrong? It’s just a couple hundred inebriated neighbors pummeling one another with massive poles and sometimes fists.
It is believed that if the North wins, a good harvest of rice is promised, and if the South wins, the price of rice will go up. Kind of like our ground groundhog day, but with giant clubs and a hefty butt whoopin. So yeah, these guys are actually fighting for something…kind of. Where as the rest of the festivals on this list are just for fun or because you’re crazy, the Takeuchi Matsuri decides the fate of rice…but not really. So you can bet these people play for keeps. When you get there get a helmet, a thick jacket and guzzle down as much sake as you can to numb the pain because getting tagged with a twenty-foot stitch is going to smart.
But most of all have fun!