finding meaning in the ordinary

photographed by milan zrnic
words by tecla

food is a universal love language. sharing meals brings people together like nothing else does but for some cultures, eating the food is not enough— they’ve found other ways to create tradition with it. here are some rituals across the world that find new ways to connect people through food.

i. in bunol, a spanish town, they have a tomato fight every last wednesday of august. yes, you read that right, people gather to have a food fight consisting only of tomatoes. it’s called la tomatina. it all started in 1945 at a festival and the tradition carried on over the years, despite being banned for a few years (through which la tomatina was still going on illegally). this year, it’s been canceled due to covid-19 but is it weird that we have a strong urge to attend the next one?

ii. mexicans who live in oaxaca have an interesting art festival around christmas time. radishes are grown year long to finally be carved for la noche de los rábanos. the night of radishes dates back to the late 1800s. oaxaca is known for its extensive wood carving history, so farmers applied that skill to carving their radishes to attract people at the christmas market. soon, this tradition became an annual competition. the competition takes place on the 23rd of december but contestants can start carving as early as two days before.

iii. smelling or sniffing food before eating it is the norm in many places. but it’s a no no in tanzania. trying to get a whiff of the delicious aroma could come off as disapproving of the meal. so if you ever find yourself in tanzania, mind your p’s and q’s.

iv. in denmark, turning 25 has a unique twist to it. if you’re single, people throw cinnamon sticks your way. imagine just minding your business then bam! the clock strikes midnight and you’re swimming in cinnamon sticks? the good news is you’ll smell amazing for the next 24 hours.

v. so, you’ve found a significant other and survived being met with cinnamon everywhere you go on your 25th birthday. what’s next? if you’re in the mood to be subjected to yet another out-of-the-norm ritual, go to germany when you get engaged. couples meet family and friends for dinner during which a lot of plates (and any porcelain, really) are broken. the responsibility of cleaning the whole shabang falls on the engaged couple. it’s supposed to teach them the power of teamwork and unity and it’s rumored to make marriages last a long time. the whole breaking of plates reminds me of a rwandan belief | if a person living with their parents is breaking a lot of tableware and overall home utensils, that means they’re ready to say i do. my mom asks me if i want to get married even when i only drop a spoon

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