Europe has an endless amount of festivals and parties, most of which are very old and very strange, if you happen to be visiting an area when there is a festival on then loosen up like a local and take part. They may seem odd, but you are guaranteed a day of fun and a great story to bring back home.
La Tomatina, Valencia, Spain
One of Spain’s’ most unusual and popular festivals is La Tomatina. Also Europe ‘s popular festival. In late August, watch the streets run read with tomatoes. Hurled, flung, squashed, stamped and crushed, tomatoes are indiscriminately thrown in random directions. The famous festival is relatively new, only dating back to 1945, when during a dispute over who could partake in a parade for gigantes y cabezudos, angered spectators started throwing tomatoes in disgust. The festival does have some rules, it cannot begin until a ham is released from the top of a greasy pole, and will only last for one hour. It is suggested participants wear goggles during the session. Afterwards, while the streets are being hosed down, those drenched in tomatoes will be offered hoses from neighbours for a rinse, or can take a dip in the local pool “los peñones”.
Battle of the Oranges, Ivrea, Italy
An event similar to La Tomatina, the Battle of the Oranges is another large organised food fight. However, there is the opportunity to spectate only, as the fight is actually a battle between nine organised teams. Spectators are encouraged to wear a red hat, signifying that they are “revolutionaries” to avoid being directly hit by oranges. The event is centuries old and part of a wider Ivrea festival. It origins are speculated to have been the result of a millers daughter, known as a Mugnaia, rejected the duke his right to spend the night with every newlywed woman. She cut off his head, and the oranges have come to be known to symbolise the Dukes head. Every year, one girl for the town is elected to play the role of Mugnaia.
Cheese Rolling Festival, UK
Another food related festival, cheese rolling is another strange one. But it has much more simple rules than the Battle of the Oranges and La Tomatina. Climb the steepest hill, Coopers Hill, claim a Double Gloucestershire wheel of cheese at the top, and roll it down the hill. The first person to catch a wheel of cheese is declared the winner. It may sound easy, but the massive wheels of cheese can reach speeds of up to 70 miles per hour. The official event was cancelled in 2011 due to the volume of injuries sustained, but it unofficially occurs every year. Be warned, another major danger of this event is the amount of alcohol consumed!
Halloween, Derry, Northern Ireland
Halloween is commonly mistaken as having its origins in American culture. Although it gained notoriety in America, the traditional actually stems from the ancient Gaelic holiday of Samhain. The North West of Ireland has maintained links with its Gaelic roots and although the practice of the holiday was banned under British rules, it has made a popular resurgence in recent times. Derry holds the biggest celebration in Ireland.
The city centre is closed off from traffic and becomes a zone for drinking alcohol. Fireworks are lit from the river and there’s always a chance to win a big prize for Best Costume. But come prepared, people spend weeks making their own costumes, and shops will have sold out well in advance. The custom of dressing up has its roots in “guising”, where Celts would wear animal masks to confuse spirits from the otherworld who awakened during Samhain. Take a tour that evening of local areas where there are bonfires over 30 feet high. You will be able to see the smoke from miles away in the city. Many ancient customs will be available to try out on the night.
Wife Carrying Competition, Sonkajärvi, Finland
This is the most different event all over the europe. The aim of this event is for a husband to carry his wife through an obstacle style race. Entrants are given the option of carrying their wife over one shoulder (Fireman Style), piggy-back, or Estonian style, where the wife hangs from the man’s shoulders with her arms around his waist. There are many tales as to how this originated, from robbers stealing women to take as wives to carrying wives as a form of exercise and means to building muscle tone. Regardless, it has now become an internationally recognized sport complete with a long list of rules and regulations, even though many people cannot take it seriously.
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