The Onion Festival That Is Over 600 Years Old

There are a few food and drink festivals that are popular across the world. You may have heard of La Tomatina, celebrated annually by the Spanish on the last Wednesday of August. Perhaps you're familiar with the great pancake race that Olney, a town in the U.K., takes part in a day before Lent each year. Germany celebrates Oktoberfest, a day of beer drinking that has even become a popular festival to celebrate in the United States. However, there's one lesser-known food festival dedicated to an unusual food item.

Bern, the capital city of Switzerland, wakes up on the fourth Monday of November each year to celebrate onions! Farmers, vendors, and artisans from all over Switzerland gather in Bern to take part in the Onion Market, or Zibelemärit, where they show off their skills with the glorious onion (via House of Switzerland).

According to House of Switzerland, folklore has it that the origin of the Onion Market dates back to the 15th century. On May 14, 1405, a blazing fire broke out in Bern. Now considered to be the largest fire that Switzerland has ever seen, the fire destroyed 600 homes, took 100 lives, and damaged most of the town. Farmers from neighboring towns came to Bern's aid and helped put the fire out. In return, city officials thanked the farmers by inviting them to sell their produce in the city of Bern for an entire day each year. And so, the 600-year-old onion festival came to be.

Over 50 tons of onion and garlic is used at the onion festival

Bern's Onion Market has over 150 food stalls, 400-plus stalls selling regionals produce and artifacts, and sees over 50 tons of onion and garlic. Naturally, onions are the star of the show. According to Swiss Vistas, the market opens early in the morning at about 5 a.m. and remains open until 4 p.m. Farmers show off all kinds of things that they can do with different types of onions, including turning them into beautiful braids and wreaths.

Edible food is a huge part of the festival, too. Visitors will find all sorts of onion-based food items including onion tarts, onion soups, onion pizzas, and onion sausages (via Made In Bern). Although onions are the highlight of the market, the House of Switzerland says that there are plenty of stalls selling other winter vegetables grown in the country, as well as fruits, ceramic pottery, and mulled wine to keep people warm as they stroll through the market.

There's another unusual-but-fun tradition that takes place at the onion festival. Kids often engage in a confetti battle and throw colorful streamers at each other and at visitors all through the day. If you do plan to make a trip to Bern's Onion Market, be prepared for sneak attacks of confetti.