Battle of the Oranges

Carnival, Karneval, Mardi Gras, or Martedi Grasso. Whether you are in Rio, Quebec, Marseille, Binche, Cologne, Dakar, New Orleans, or Sydney it is a day to celebrate. Maybe nobody does this with more gusto than the residents of Ivrea, Italy, with the Battle of the Oranges.

Many years ago a friend from Ivrea, Italy told me about the Battle of the Oranges when the entire town turns out to throw oranges at each other. Everyone is soaked to the skin and the ground is covered with oranges, smashed orange peels, pulp and juice. At the time I didn’t realize that this was Ivrea’s version of Mardi Gras, Martedi Grasso. This insanity dates back to the 12th century when a miller’s daughter, Violetta, cut off the head of the local tyrant, freeing the town. Originally, the celebration involved throwing beans but in the 19th century, oranges became the weapon of choice. Now in Ivrea, the revelers are split into 2 teams dressed in medieval costumes, including the very necessary protective helmets. Those not choosing to throw, purchase red hats, Berretto Frigio, which mark the wearer as revolutionaries/spectators, and are protected from the volley of oranges. Oranges fly from every direction fast and furiously. This madness continues for 3 days! I have no idea how the city gets cleaned up. I suppose the residents head to the closest cathedral and pray for rain.

My friend from Italy sent me this video which I think must only capture a bit of the wild and wonderful 3 pre-Lenten days.


Jean McGavin
Bethlehem, CT 2014

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