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