There are a lot of weird festivals out there—but some of the best involve chucking stuff at your friends and strangers. From the well-known to the obscure, it seems that every country has a tradition from way back involving a massive food fight. We picked our favorites (and a few we’d never heard of) for the ultimate guide to festivals that are guaranteed to help you let off some steam.
1. Holi Festival—India (above)
Also known as the Festival of Colors or the Festival of Love, the ancient Hindu festival signifies the victory of good over evil. The festival, in which participants color each other with brightly dyed powder, encourages “bridging the social gaps and renewing relationships.” Though primarily celebrated in India at the approach of the spring equinox, Holi has gained such popularity that festivities can be found all over the world.
Each year on the last Wednesday in August, the town of Buñol, Spain is flooded with thousands of people and tomatoes. The precise of beginnings of La Tomatina aren’t quite nailed down. It began around 1944 and legends include youths throwing tomatoes a bad musician, a protest gone awry, and a good old food fight among friends. Tomatoes must be squashed prior to being thrown and fire trucks are brought in afterwards to wash the streets. La Tomatina festivals can also be found in Sutamarchán, Colombia and Reno, Nevada.
The small town of Ivrea, Italy, collects over a million pounds of oranges every year for the Battaglia delle Arance. Translation: Battle of the Oranges, a festival that’s really a highly structured war. To participate, you have to be part of a team (there are nine for a total of 4,000 competitors), but there’s no cost to watch. Judges determine the winning team. The battle takes place annually, on the Sunday and Monday up until and including Mardi Gras Tuesday.
Imagine a countrywide water fight, complete with water balloons, Super Soakers, and hoses. Every year in April, that’s the scene in Thailand. The Songkran Festival has its roots in Buddhism—the water throwing is a purification ritual, washing away evil spirits before the Thai New Year. Nowadays, the ritual aspect is upheld by some Buddhists who pour water over statues of Buddha throughout Thailand. At the main festivities, which center in areas like Chiang Mai, Bangkok, and Phuket, the Super Soaker rules, and no one is safe from getting drenched.
December 28 is a day of theatrics for the town of Ibi, Spain. As part of the Day of Innocents celebrations, this 200-year-old tradition includes citizens dressing up in mock military attire and battling with eggs and flour bombs outside of the city’s town hall. Firecrackers also add to the festivities.
In La Pobla del Duc, Spain, the locals celebrate the end of grape harvest season in the most fitting way possible: by pelting each other with grapes. The town square is filled with over 90 tons of grapes from local vineyards, which are then pounced on by hundreds of people waiting to start the grape war. Grape harvest ends mid-to-late-August, so be prepared for battle in the month’s last two weeks.
The Tunarama Festival has been celebrating Port Lincoln’s tuna industry since 1962. Held in January over the Australia Day weekend, the family-friendly festival includes the famed Tuna Toss where competitors show their strength by throwing an 8-10 kilogram fish as far as they can. Plastic model fish are used until the final round when the remaining competitors get their hands on real fish.
One thing we’ve learned while researching this story: Spaniards love to throw things at each other. For the Haro Wine Festival, come dressed in white; leave in purple. That’s how it goes at the boozy event in La Rioja, Spain. Every June 29th at 7 a.m. sharp, the festivities begin. The celebration traces back to a battle in the 13th century, when two regions, Haro and Miranda de Ebro, fought over their borders. Haro marked its take on the dividing line with dark red banners, and over the next 400 years the celebration went from sharing a glass of wine to sharing a shower of it. Serious festivalgoers should bring a traditional bota bag—a Spanish wine satchel made of leather and lined with goat’s bladder. Fill with wine (red only, please), and douse everyone in range.
This daylong Fat Thursday celebration is one of the biggest highlights of the Festival of Vilanova i la Geltrú. La Merengada is a sweet and sticky meringue-throwing war. Once all the meringue is gone then out comes the candy for the Batalla de Carmelos—the candy fight.
The seaside town of Galaxidi, Greece, explodes with color once a year on Clean Monday (also known as Ash Monday). That’s the first day of Lent in the Greek Orthodox Church, and the Greeks celebrate by throwing bags of colored flour at friends, family, strangers, and visitors. The celebration is called Alevromoutzouroma, or the Flour Wars.
Celebrated all over Japan on February 3, Setsubun, also known as the Bean-Throwing Festival, marks the beginning of spring. In its association also with the Lunar New Year, the mame maki or “bean-scattering” ritual is believed to cleanse away any evil from the previous year. Traditionally, roasted soybeans are either thrown out the front door or at members of the family.
Okay, so technically this is neither a festival nor an act of throwing, but we still think the World Pea Shooting Championship in Witcham, England, makes the cut. It’s harder than it looks. Peas are not uniformly sized or shaped, which can throw shooters off their game. So it’s not easy, but it is accessible. After all, all you need is a pea shooter (not a straw) and some peas.