WTF Fun Fact 13291 – Battle of the Oranges

The Battle of the Oranges is a festival held in Ivrea, Italy. Participants throw oranges at each other to commemorate the town’s liberation from a cruel medieval ruler. It is estimated that over 900 tons of oranges are used in the battle each year.

A medieval origin story

The city of Ivrea is located in the Piedmont region of Italy. This is where they hold the annual Battle of the Oranges, which takes place in February or March every year during the carnival season.

The battle is believed to stem from a medieval tradition. According to legend, the town of Ivrea was ruled by a cruel feudal lord during the Middle Ages. He was known for his tyrannical rule and oppressive taxes.

As the story goes, one day a young miller’s daughter named Violetta was chosen to spend a night with the lord, as was the custom of the time. However, Violetta refused to submit to the lord’s desires and instead beheaded him with his own sword.

Apparently, the townspeople were inspired by Violetta’s courage. As a result, they rose up against the lord’s soldiers and drove them out of town. To commemorate their victory, the people of Ivrea started throwing oranges at each other. The oranges symbolize the rocks that were used during the original battle.

The tradition of the Battle of the Oranges

The tradition of the Battle of the Oranges continued to evolve over the centuries. Eventually, it became a carnival event.

The festival is now divided into three days, with each day having its own unique rituals and ceremonies. The first day of the festival is called Giovedì Grasso (Fat Thursday), which marks the start of the carnival season. A large parade featuring floats, dancers, and musicians dressed in colorful costumes takes place. At the end of the parade, a large bonfire is lit in the town square. People gather around it to celebrate the start of the festival.

The second day of the festival is called Sabato Grasso (Fat Saturday). This is when the Battle of the Oranges takes place. The oranges used during the battle are specially grown for the event and are not suitable for consumption. The oranges are also carefully selected and checked to ensure that they hard enough to cause injury.

Participants in the battle wear traditional costumes. Some dress as medieval soldiers, while others are dressed as peasants or Violetta herself.

Those not participating in the battle are advised to wear protective clothing in case they get hit by the oranges.

Battle rules

The battle takes place in the city center, which is divided into nine zones. Each zone represents a different area of the town. Participants try to hit their opponents with oranges while avoiding being hit themselves. The battle lasts for several hours and ends when all the oranges have been used up.

The Battle of the Oranges is not just a fun carnival event, but it also has a deeper meaning for the people of Ivrea. It symbolizes the town’s struggle for freedom and its victory over oppression.

In recent years, the Battle of the Oranges has gained popularity and has attracted visitors from all over the world. The festival has also inspired similar “orange battles” in other parts of the world, including in Greece and Spain.

 WTF fun facts

Source: “The Age-Old Food Fight That Beats an Italian Town to a Pulp” — New York Times Magazine

WTF Fun Fact 13278 – St. Patrick’s Day Blue

Ready to don your St. Patrick’s Day blue and head out to the Irish pub crawl on March 17th?

If you’re like most people, you probably associate St. Patrick’s Day with the color green. After all, the iconic shamrock and leprechaun hats are all decked out in various shades of this vibrant hue. But did you know blue was just as much associated with St. Patrick as green?

St. Patrick’s Day blue

The truth is, the origins of St. Patrick’s Day are steeped in history and tradition, dating back to the early days of Christianity in Ireland.

Legend has it that St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, used the three leaves of the shamrock to teach the Holy Trinity to the Irish people. The color green, then, became a symbol of both St. Patrick’s teachings and the lush, rolling hills of the Irish countryside.

But what about blue?

Blue was actually the original color of St. Patrick – or at least the Order of St. Patrick. This chivalric order was established in 1783 to honor the patron saint of Ireland. Members of the order wore blue uniforms as they marched in parades on St. Patrick’s Day.

But even before that, blue was a prominent color in Irish mythology and folklore. The ancient Celts associated blue with the mystical realm inhabited by supernatural beings. Blue was also associated with water, which was seen as a source of life and renewal.

According to Smithsonian Magazine (cited below):

“When Henry VIII assumed the throne, after more than 300 years of English rule over Ireland, he took steps to strengthen his hold on the isle, declaring himself King of Ireland in 1541, making it a part of the England and giving it its own coat of arms. This was the first official instance of connecting the color blue with Ireland, using a golden harp on a blue background; the same symbol can be seen today on the Constitution of Ireland and the Presidential flag.”

The use of green as the color of St. Patrick’s Day can be traced in part back to the 19th century. Irish revolutionaries wore green as a symbol of their cause.

Blue bows to green

Over time, the popularity of the green shamrock rose as a symbol of Ireland. And St. Patrick’s Day overshadowed the blue of the Order of St. Patrick. The rest, as they say, is history.

So next time you head out to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, remember the history and traditions that shaped the holiday. You might even consider raising a glass while wearing blue this year!

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Source: “Should We Be Wearing Blue on St. Patrick’s Day?” — Smithsonian Magazine

WTF Fun Fact 13277 – St. Patrick’s Day Drinks

St. Patrick’s Day was originally a religious holiday and there were no “St. Patrick’s Day drinks.” In fact, for many years in Ireland, St. Patrick’s Day was considered a solemn occasion. All pubs were closed for the day.

It wasn’t until the 1970s that the Irish government began promoting St. Patrick’s Day. They did it as a way to boost tourism, and the celebration became more secular and associated with drinking alcohol.

The solemn holy-day

St. Patrick’s Day has become synonymous with excessive drinking. In fact, it’s become such a tradition that many people overlook the holiday’s true origins and meaning.

The origins of St. Patrick’s Day can actually be traced back hundreds of years. It was first celebrated as a religious feast day in honor of the patron saint of Ireland. So much for the drunken Irish stereotype.

Saint Patrick was a Christian missionary who is credited with bringing Christianity to Ireland in the 5th century.

Originally, the day was observed with prayer and church services. The writings of St. Patrick tell us that he was born in Britain but captured by pirates at age 16 and brought to Ireland as a slave. He believed his enslavement was due to his lack of faith as a child.

Later, after escaping slavery and returning home to be reunited with his family, he returned to Ireland to spread the word of God and repent for these sins. In Ireland, March 17 marks the death of the country’s beloved patron saint.

St. Patrick’s day became a day for drinking

Up until the 1970s, Irish law prohibited pubs from opening on March 17. This was meant as a mark of respect for this religious day. But this date also takes place during Lent, and authorities thought it might lead some to temptation to have the pubs open on a celebratory day.

But as the years went by, the religious significance of the day began to take a back seat. Celebrations became more “festive,” shall we say. And, to be fair, in the 18th century, the Irish were already using the day to celebrate the pride in their heritage.

Now, the wearing of green, the drinking of Guinness, the insisting that you’re Irish – those all have their roots in Irish-American culture, rather than the religious origins of the holiday in Ireland. But some of the oldest St. Patrick’s Day parades took place in Ireland to celebrate its culture.

Taking back Saint Paddy’s Day?

Of course, there are plenty of places that still recognize St. Patrick’s Day as an official religious holiday rather than the prelude to a nasty hangover.

In recent years, there has been a growing movement to reclaim the religious significance of St. Patrick’s Day, and to focus more on its origins as a day of reflection and spiritual renewal. This focus on the religious aspect of the holiday is seen as particularly important in a world where many of us are disconnected from our spiritual roots.

As for whether you have a St. Patrick’s Day drinks this year – well, that’s up to you!

 WTF fun facts

Source: “All the pubs in Ireland used to be closed on St. Patrick’s Day” — Irish Central

WTF Fun Fact 13261 – New Moai on Easter Island

Archaeologists on Easter Island have made a significant discovery. They recently unearthed a new Moai on Easter Island. The statue was buried in a dried-out lake bed. Now, there’s no telling how many more statues remain undiscovered on the island.

Easter Island’s new Moai statue

The new statue is around 1.6 meters tall and is estimated to be at least 500 years old. It appears to have been created to represent a group of ancestors as a deity or spirit.

The statue has some unique features which distinguish it from other Moai statues found on the island. These include raised eyebrows, almond-shaped eyes, and a pronounced mouth.

Archaeologists believe that this newly discovered statue will help them gain a better understanding of the religious and cultural practices of the people who lived on Easter Island in the past. (Easter Island (aka Rapa Nui) is located in the Pacific Ocean.)

Researchers believe the Moai statues played a central role in the island’s religious and cultural practices. The discovery of this new statue could provide valuable insights into the role the moai played in the lives of Easter Island’s inhabitants.

What lies beneath

The discovery of the previously unknown Moai statue buried in a dried-out lake bed on Easter Island has garnered international attention and excitement from archaeologists and researchers. These Moai statues, of which there are around 1,000 on Easter Island, have been a topic of fascination and speculation for centuries due to their unique features, imposing size, and mysterious history.

Beyond their historical and cultural significance, the Moai statues have also become a symbol of environmental stewardship. They also illustrate the need to protect the planet’s fragile ecosystems.

Deforestation, climate change, and overfishing are all a threat to Easter Island’s delicate ecosystem. The Moai statues serve as a reminder of the importance of preserving our planet’s natural resources for future generations.

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Source: “New Moai statue that ‘deified ancestors’ found on Easter Island” — Live Science

WTF Fun Fact 13259 – The Haribo Gummy Exchange

Are we alone in mistakenly thinking Haribo was a Japanese candy company? Well, in any case, Haribo is a German company, founded in Bonn over a century ago. They have a fun annual tradition at their German headquarters, allowing children to bring in acorns and chestnuts once a year and exchange them for gummy bears, or gummibärchen (which are actually labeled “Goldbears” – another thing we failed to ever notice). The Haribo gummy exchange has been going on since 1936.

What is the Haribo gummy exchange?

Haribo will hold its 80th+ gummy exchange this year (2023) at its facility in Grafschaft, Germany. (It would be its 87th year, but Haribo canceled the exchange at least once during the COVID pandemic). Over a weekend in October, kids (and adults, it appears) can bring in all the acorns and chestnuts they can gather and get candy in return. People come from all around the area with wagons and laundry bags and baskets full of nuts, which Heribo employees weigh on “golden gummy bear scales.”

People wait for hours to make their exchanges. In 2009, over 20,000 people showed up – a record. That year, they collected 150 tons (about 300,000 pounds!) of acorns and 260 tons of chestnuts. Dozens of Haribo employees supervise the festivities which culminate in the final weighing of the nuts.

What happens to the nuts?

While there may be a few cavities as a result, the gummy exchange is for a good cause. According to (a translation of) Germany’s General Anzeiger news publication:

“The fruits of the forest are weighed and then exchanged for pre-packaged Haribo products at a ratio of 10:1 (chestnuts) and 5:1 (acorns) according to the number of kilograms. Only chestnuts and acorns without shells will be accepted, the company said. The chestnuts must be separated from the acorns for weighing. The chestnuts and acorns are then donated to animal and game parks in Germany and Austria for feeding during the winter season.”

Clearly, there’s a bit of work to do before kids can cash in and get their gummy candies.

In some years, lines of nearly half a mile have formed for the event!

In the past, Haribo held the event at the company headquarters in Bonn. But they relocated to Grafschaft in 2018.

 WTF fun facts

Source: “Haribo to hold its annual exchange: chestnuts for sweets” — General Anzeiger Online

WTF Fun Fact 13253 – What Do They Throw at Mardi Gras?

Nowadays, New Orleans’ Mardi Gras parade is known for throwing beads into the crowd. But that wasn’t always the case. How’s this for a weird historical fact: In the late 1800s, people found some less appealing things to throw at Mardi Gras – like dirt and flour.

What’s the history of throwing things at Mardi Gras?

According to The Historic New Orleans Collection (cited below): “The first reports of items being thrown as part of the official parades we know today came in the early 1870s with the second procession of the Twelfth Night Revelers, according to Carnival historian Errol Laborde. Following their ‘Mother Goose’s Tea Party’–themed parade, a costumed Santa distributed gifts from his bag.”

Throwing things into crowds actually dates back to at least the ancient Romans and the fertility festival called Lupercalia.

HNOC notes, “These annual rites of purification and fertility were associated with the vernal equinox that marked the return of the sun. In medieval France, the fête de la quémande saw groups of peasants emerging from the dark winter, donning miters and pointed hats to mock the wealthy classes, and begging and dancing for items to eat. That tradition continues today with the Cajun courir de Mardi Gras.”

In early New Orleans, ladies threw sweets and bonbons, But their kids had something else in mind.

“Bands of youths would throw flour (and, later, nastier substances, such as rotten fruit, plaster pellets, urine, and caustic lime) at revelers on Fat Tuesday. One newspaper in the 1840s reported on Ash Wednesday that the streets looked as if snow had fallen.”

Eventually, all that flour went towards sweeter things.

The rise of “King Cakes”

According to legend, a New Orleans baker named Roulhac Toledano made the first King Cake in the 1870s.

He was inspired by a French treat made of puff pastry filled with an almond paste called the galette des rois, traditionally eaten on Epiphany. But Toledano’s King Cake was sweeter and it wasn’t flaky but doughy. And it was decorated with sugar dyed the traditional Mardi Gras colors purple, green, and gold.

The tradition of hiding a small “baby” inside the King Cake wasn’t part of the deal until decades later. The baby in the King Cake tradition started in the 1930s.

Whoever finds the baby in their slice of King Cake will have good luck. But they also have to bring a King Cake to the next Mardi Gras party.  WTF fun facts

Source: “Throw me somethin’ mister! The history behind New Orleans Mardi Gras throws” — The Historic New Orleans Collection

WTF Fun Fact 13241 – Peru’s Christmas Fighting Festival

The festival called Takanakuy is a Christmas tradition in the Peruvian Andes, specifically in the region of Cusco. The Christmas fighting festival takes place on December 25th and is known for its tradition of resolving conflicts through physical combat. The festival is a blend of both pre-Columbian and Spanish cultural influences.

What’s the story behind Peru’s Christmas fighting festival?

The festival known as Takanakuy is an indigenous custom of the Quechua people, and it has been practiced for centuries. In Quechua, Takanakuy means “to hit each other.” And that is precisely what happens during the festival.

However, the fighting is not violent or aggressive, and the purpose is not to harm or injure anyone. Instead, the fighting is more of a symbolic gesture that aims to release any tension or pent-up emotions that may have built up over the year.

Takanakuy is a way to start the new year with a clean slate, free of any grudges or resentments.

How does the Takanakuy festival work?

The festival starts with a parade, in which participants dress up in colorful costumes and march through the streets playing traditional music and dancing. The participants are divided into different groups, each representing a different neighborhood or community. The groups then make their way to a designated central location. This is where the fighting will take place.

Once they reach the central location, the participants form a circle. Then, one by one, they step forward to challenge someone from another group.

The challengers will then take turns exchanging blows until one of them falls to the ground. Once a person falls, the other person stops hitting them and helps them up. The fallen person then has the opportunity to challenge someone else.

The fighting is conducted in a controlled manner, and there are judges present to ensure that it remains a safe and fair fight.

While the fights are the main attraction of the Takanakuy festival, there are also other activities and rituals that take place. For example, before the fighting begins, the participants will often make offerings to Pachamama, the Inca goddess of the earth, to ask for her protection during the festival. Additionally, there are often dance performances, music concerts, and food stalls with traditional Andean cuisine.

What’s the point?

The festival is a way for the Quechua to honor their heritage and promote unity among different communities. During the festival, old rivalries and grudges are put aside for the sake of a peaceful future. (Maybe this is where the idea for Festivus’ Airing of Grievances came from!)

Of course, Takanakuy comes with some controversy. There are people who view the festival as violent and barbaric. There are also concerns about the safety of participants. However, supporters of the festival argue that it is a vital part of their cultural heritage and should be preserved.

In recent years, Takanakuy has gained international recognition after being featured on numerous travel sites. As a result, it has become a popular tourist attraction.

While tourism brings economic benefits to the region, it also raises concerns about the commercialization of the festival and the potential for its cultural appropriation. And don’t the rest of us already experience enough fighting around Christmas?  WTF fun facts

Source: “Peru’s Christmas fighting festival” — BBC

Photo via Mídia NINJA

WTF Fun Fact 13229 – Turkey’s Burj Al Babas

Turkey’s Burj Al Babas was supposed to be a luxury neighborhood. But today it’s a ghost town full of abandoned castle-like homes.

What’s the story behind Turkey’s Burj Al Babas?

Turkey’s Burj Al Babas is a luxury residential development located in Mudurnu (near Istanbul). It is full of fairy-tale-style castle-like villas – 732 of them, to be exact.

The Burj Al Babas was developed by the Turkish company Sarot International. Their goal was to provide a unique living experience for residents to wealthy Turkish nationals and foreigners alike. Sarot designed each villa in the style of a castle, complete with turrets, towers, and arched windows.

With a commitment to sustainability, the luxury neighborhood could have been an example of future living. Instead, it’s a ghost town. The villas are abandoned. Sarot declared bankruptcy and had to abandon the project before anyone moved in.

Despite Turkey’s Burj Al Babas being situated in a scenic location surrounded by lush green forests and replete with swimming pools, parks, and playgrounds, the peaceful setting is a bit too peaceful these days.

Why are the villas abandoned?

According to Architectural Digest (cited below):

“Construction started in 2014 and was expected to take four years, though, within that same time, the developers were forced to declare bankruptcy. As building the town got underway, locals became enraged with both the aesthetic of the homes and the business practices of the developers. According to the local news, many were frustrated that the castles didn’t resemble anything in the area, particularly the historical Ottoman-style mansions. A lawsuit against the developers also claimed the company destroyed trees and harmed the environment. Turkey’s economy then struggled in the years after the project started, and developers soon incurred a $27 million debt. A combination of bad choices and bad timing, construction was halted.”

While the Sarot Group was still hopeful about the completion of its project in 2019, they did not predict the pandemic. That further scuttled their plans.

In case you’re wondering if you can move in (the properties were set to be a steal at less than $500,000) the answer is no. Not a single dwelling is totally finished, and there are no utilities.

The site is now reminiscent of a postapocalyptic city. Construction materials lay strewn about. And yet the shells of the homes still look like neighborhoods of Disney castles missing their princes and princesses.

 WTF fun facts

Source: “Tour Burj Al Babas, a Massive Abandoned Town of Disney-esque Castles” — Architectural Digest

WTF Fun Fact 13222 – Buffalo Tool Library

The Buffalo Tool Library is a magnificent idea that we wish could happen in every city. It would sure save us a lot of cash during our DIY home improvement adventures!

What is the Buffalo Tool Library?

The Buffalo Tool Library is a non-profit community organization that provides a lending library of tools to its members in Buffalo, New York. Members can borrow tools for home improvement, gardening, and repair projects, much like they would borrow books from a traditional library. The goal of the organization is to promote sustainability, community building, and self-sufficiency by making tools accessible to everyone.

The Buffalo Tool Library operates as a membership-based service. Members pay a fee to join and are then able to borrow tools from the library’s collection for a set period of time.

To borrow tools, members must check out the tools in person. They can do this either at the library’s physical location or through its online platform. The borrowed tools must then be returned in good condition within the agreed-upon loan period. Late fees may apply if the tools are returned past the due date.

The library also offers classes, workshops, and events to help members learn how to use the tools and develop new skills.

The library is run by volunteers. It relies on community support to continue its mission of promoting sustainability and self-sufficiency.

Building community

According to the University at Buffalo’s website:

“The Tool Library—which celebrated its eleventh anniversary this summer—lends over 4,000 tools, large and small, to over 1,000 individual and group members for both personal and collective projects. In addition to aiding personal do-it-yourself efforts, it organizes extensive community work: planting and maintaining trees, flowers, and neighborhood gardens; spearheading organized cleanups and streetscape and store-front maintenance; staging do-it-yourself and repair clinics; equipping and training in safety and lead abatement efforts.”

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Source: “The Tool Library: How to Build and Maintain a Social and Environmental Justice Not-for-Profit Organization” — SUNY Buffalo