It’s the world-wide adage that children shouldn’t play with their food, but at these parties, it’s widely encouraged to get your mitts on an edible missile and pelt it at your opponent. It’s not a delicious dream – it’s a reality at these five unbelievable food fight festivals.
1. La Merenga, Vilanova I La Geltru, Spain, February
La Merenga, aka the Meringue War, is the best place to get your just deserts. Candy is the weapon of choice in this food fight, which symbolises the beginning of the Festival of Vilanova i la Gelru.
To locals, the last Thursday before the commencement of Lent is known as ‘Fat Thursday’. If you can believe it, kids are allowed to skip school and throw meringue at one another. The day-long food fight is known as the Batalla de Carmelos, which literally means ‘candy fight’.
The batalla forms part of a carnival that proceeds with brass band accompaniment and ends at the Plaza de la Villa where music continues as the background soundtrack to the ongoing candy barrage. Delicious and rewarding at the same time!
2. La Tomatina, Bunol, Spain, August
La Tomatina is without a doubt the most famous food fight in the world. The Valencia battle brings in tens of thousands of brave warriors willing to become covered from head to toe in fleshy, over-ripe tomatoes. The festival began in the early 1940s when two men began throwing tomatoes in a political protest and the tradition still lives on today.
While the local population on Bunol is 9,000, during La Tomatina the region swells to 30,000 festival participants – so be prepared for crowds and book your transport and accommodation early! Cheap fares are available via bus or train to and from the region’s capital of Valencia.
3. Flour War, Galaxidi, Greece, March
Before carnival season transforms into the beginning of the Greek Orthodox tradition of Lent, locals in the fishing village of Galaxidi hold a very usual celebration. The annual Flour War is a street battle which brings in both domestic and international visitors to the coastal region west of Athens.
Hundreds of bags are filled with baking flour and tinted by food colouring. Once the cowbells ring it’s on for young and old! Villagers don protective goggles, suit up and shield their homes with sheeting before the flour flies. Spectators can watch safely from the comfort of the nearby quay.
The tradition comes from the 19th Century as a defiance to the Ottoman rulers occupying much of Greece. Today, it’s just fun and games followed by days of washing coloured flour out of your hair and clothes.
4. World Custard Pie Championship, Coxheath England, June
It might sound like a laugh but this English-held pie off boasts some solid competition. The brainchild of Charlie Chaplin back in 1967 as a fundraiser for the Coxheath village hall, the tradition lives on to this day in serious fashion. Teams of four, some venturing from overseas just to participate, dress in identical fancy dress and take turns pegging delicious home-made custard pies at their opposing team. Points are tallied by where on the body the pie lands – the big six-pointer is obviously a pie to the face. Points are deducted for a miss so aim true!
While the pies secret recipe is closely guarded, we know that they contain flour and water – a deadly combination for your hair and clothes.
5. The Bean Festival, Japan, February
Setsubun – the bean throwing festival, marks the beginning of Japanese spring season. Because of its timing with Lunar New Year, some see the event as similar to New Year’s Eve or a new start. The spiritual ritual of bean throwing (mamemaki) is believed to ward off any evil mojo from the previous year. Roasted soybeans (thought to be the arch-nemesis of evil spirits) are thrown from homes out into the street, or sometimes even at fellow family members – fun! Lots of beans are eaten too in order to bring health and good fortune.
Temples all over Japan play host to the bean throwing festivities which are attended by celebrities and politicians with the biggest ones televised and even sponsored.