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Never a Hungry Moment: Best of the Fests

By Elissa Leibowitz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 24, 2003; Page H03

Food and drink are integral to most celebrations -- what would Mardi Gras be without the potent drink called the Hurricane, that makes your head whirl like one? But during some special events, food is the cause for celebration, not just a part of one. Here's a look at some of the world's most popular and most unusual food festivals and celebrations. For more food and drink events worldwide, visit www.whatsonwhen.comand www.world-party.com.

November

2 Morelia, Mexico : Day of the Dead. The living pay homage to family members who have died by making marzipan coffins, chocolate skeletons and other edible scary things. In return, the dead "visit" the homes of the living. This seemingly morbid but actually reverential holiday is best observed in Morelia or other towns in the state of Michoacan. 713-772-2581, www.visitmexico.com.

Munich's Oktoberfest is the world's largest. The 2004 celebration will be held Sept. 18-Oct. 3. (Courtesy of the German National Tourist Office)

_____World's Fare_____
On the Olive Trail From Tuscany to Provence (The Washington Post, Oct 24, 2003)
Vietnam, From Market to Kitchen (The Washington Post, Oct 24, 2003)
Wine First, Business Later (The Washington Post, Oct 24, 2003)
In Napa, a Museum of Earthly Delights (The Washington Post, Oct 24, 2003)
Cooking Tours: An Appetite To Learn (The Washington Post, Oct 24, 2003)
Vineyards: How, When and Where (The Washington Post, Oct 24, 2003)
In the Italian Hills, Creating Intense Flavor (The Washington Post, Oct 24, 2003)
Subtle to Spicy: A World of Olive Oil (The Washington Post, Oct 24, 2003)
From a French Village, an Elite Oil Emerges (The Washington Post, Oct 24, 2003)
Oil and Vinegar, Yes. Side of Beef, No. (The Washington Post, Oct 24, 2003)

December

23 Oaxaca, Mexico: Night of the Radishes. Figures are carved out of radishes, then placed into dioramas reenacting the birth of Jesus. Tourists roam the Christmas light-covered pavilion where the radishes are displayed, trying to determine which will be judged the best. It's the oddest part of a large Christmas celebration of parades, piñatas and church services. 713-772-2581, www.visitmexico.com.

January

7-Feb. 24 Munich: Fasching. During the German version of Carnival (what Fasching means), revelers in snazzy clothes celebrate at elaborate balls, eat fish casseroles and doughnuts and fill the streets with singing and dancing. 212-661-7200, www.visits-to-germany.com. 18-Feb. 16 Reykjavik: Thorrablot Feast. During this month-long celebration of the strength of Vikings' stomachs, restaurants add dishes like sheep heads, sheep's blood pudding, pickled ram's testicles and rotted shark meat to their menus. To wash it down: a rye- and potato-based liquor called brennivin, also called "black death." 212-885-9700, www.icelandtouristboard.com.

February

8-11 Amsterdam: International Bakery Fair. The fair is quickly becoming one of the marquee events for bakers from around the world, who converge to exhibit their most creative breads, cookies, pastries and cakes. 212-557-3500, www.holland.com.

March

1-9 Rome: Eurochocolate. The Trinita dei Monti staircases are covered with 3,000 chocolate eggs and the streets are filled with vendors selling nothing but chocolate during this weeklong celebration. Chocolate confectioners from all over Europe participate. 212-245-4822, www.italiantourism.com. 8 Jerusalem: Purim. The Jerusalem Post gives these instructions on how to celebrate Purim: "Eat, drink, sing, drink, discuss the Purim story, give money to the poor, drink, eat, drink." You get the drift. Note: While Purim falls on April 7, it's celebrated within the walls of Jerusalem the following day. 888-774-7723, www.goisrael.com.

April

3 Austin: Spamarama. A festival that began as an April Fool's Day joke, Spamarama has reached star status among fans of the canned processed pork. In addition to a cook-off, the day also includes a prize for the Worst Dish, a Spam-eating contest and the Spam Jam of ham-inspired music by local rock bands. 512-834-1827, www.spamarama.com.

May

Mid-May Corozal, Belize: Cashew Festival. Celebrating the area's most abundant crop, the village of Crooked Tree -- which floats in a lagoon in the middle of a wildlife sanctuary 35 miles from Belize City -- thanks the heavens for its cashews with live music, games, storytelling and the crowning of the Cashew Queen. Cashew-heavy dishes served at all hours. Exact dates not determined at press time. 800-624-0686, www.travelbelize.org.

June

1-July 31 Kirwina Island, Papua New Guinea: Milamala Yam Festival. On a humidity-drenched island, very few vegetables can be stored for long periods of time. The yam is one of the few. Locals decorate themselves with paint and flower garlands, and perform traditional rituals, sing, dance, race canoes and feast. 949-752-5440, www.pngtourism.org.pg.

5-6 Amarante, Portugal: Festival of St. Goncalo. An ancient fertility ritual in which unmarried young people exchange phallic- shaped cakes as symbols of their affection. 415-391- 7080, www.portugal.org.


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