February festivals: Italy’s ‘Battle of the Oranges’

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By Karen Hart

Teach your children about an Italian orange-throwing festival and conduct a simple science experiment.

Battle of oranges

Image from Alessioans/Wikimedia Commons

Very similar to Valencia’s famous La Tomatina festival, this popular three-day event is all about pelting each other with fruit. Here, nine teams, known as ‘revolutionaries’, pound each other with 400,000kg of oranges, with 3500 people in total taking part.

The festival’s roots lie in a twelfth century story, telling of a miller’s daughter who sparked a revolt by refusing a tyrant count’s amorous advances. On foot, and armed with stones, the impoverished townsfolk pelted the count’s troops as they rode around town in their horse-drawn carts. The resulting uprising later provided an excuse for rival gangs in the town to stage annual riots during the town’s carnival. It wasn’t until the early 1800s, following Napoleon’s occupation, that orders were given to swap stones for oranges and put a stop to what had become fatal street fights.

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