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Orange Day

While there are enforced holidays for some (bye bye Boris), the rest of us can expect to resume our duties in a few weeks after some well-earned time off. The summer offers lots of weird and wonderful festivals for people to visit.

If, like myself, you think that burning thousands of pallets in honour of a battle that took place 330 years ago is a bit weird, it’s nothing compared to what goes on in other parts of Europe - assuming Loyalists don’t mind being described as being part of Europe.

In fairness, I don’t like to see people sneering about Orange day traditions in the North although I very much welcome the fact that Doug Beattie, leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, has spoken out against burning EU and Irish flags on the bonfires.

In the late 90s, I took the train to Belfast one July 12th and watched the parade. Each impressive orange lodge banner was affixed with a ‘no Dublin interference’ sign across the front. You couldn’t help but be saddened that the event had such sectarian overtones. Hopefully, it will become just another great festival that everyone can go to in due course.

I recall queuing up at a chip van alongside the parade before discreetly pulling out of the queue rather than asking, in my best Ross O’Carroll-Kelly south Dublin accent, “I’ll have, loike, a burger and fries.” Mightn’t have made it home.

So, just in case pipes, drums and burning pallets doesn’t do it for you, here is a quick scan of the more eccentric festivals you could stumble upon this summer in Europe.

Keeping with the orange theme, if throwing citrus fruit is your thing, head to Ivrea in Italy where festival-goers arm themselves with 600,000kg of oranges to take part in Europe’s biggest food fight. There are nine teams, it’s completely chaotic and is also only vaguely rooted in an event that took place many centuries ago.

Similarly, La Tomatina (a tomato throwing fiesta as you might have guessed) takes place in Spain every year although it was banned by Franco who frowned on pagan high-jinks. The total volume of tomatoes weighs in at a more modest 145,000kg but the craic is mighty.

The Spanish also do a wine fight in the village of Haro in the La Rioja region, appropriately enough.

Heading to France, once home to Europe’s biggest pig market, the small village Trie-sur-Baise in the Pyrénées plays host to La Pourcailhade. France’s annual Festival of the Pig features eating contests, piglet races, a Best Pig Outfit competition, and the popular pig squealing championship.

Next month, the air guitar world championship takes place in Finland over a couple of weeks.

I think the award for the singularly weirdest festival goes to the Baby Jumping festival in Murcia, Spain. Apparently, jumping over new-borns scares off the devil. It’s amazing it never took off internationally although my extensive research confirms that no injuries have been reported in the festival’s history.

Back in Finland, the Beer Floating festival involves thousands of participants floating down a river in all kinds of homemade inflatable vessels while drinking immoderate volumes of beer - what could possibly go wrong.

The English are the Usain Bolt of eccentricity. So, I think a guest appearance in this EU-inspired column is merited. The Olney pancake race takes place in Olney in Buckinghamshire and has done for more than 550 years (yesterday in English terms). The race is from the market place to the church and only women over 18 may enter.

Whether running with bulls in Pamplona or match making in Lisdoonvarna, there is something for everyone - or as my wife would say, a lid for every pot.

The Orange Day celebrations have the potential to be one of Europe’s most distinctive festivals, although it goes without saying that burning EU flags might not draw the tourists.

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