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Society - People
By: - at June 10, 2013

15 Weird Festivities Around the World

People and cultures around the world have held interesting celebrations throughout history. Some of these celebrations continue to exist today. They are a way for cultural groups to continue celebrating their traditions. Of course, to an outsider, some of these celebrations can seem a bit odd, but for those who grew up around it, it's not unusual; it's a part of their cultural upbringing.

festival people clapping hands

Although most weird festival celebrations are rooted in historical practices, new ones continue to appear throughout the world. They are almost always joyous in nature. Some religious festival especially may not seem to be in good nature, but despite seemingly dangerous or painful traditions, the message behind them outweighs any possible negatives. Local communities stage them as a way to practice traditions, historic or otherwise. The greatest amount of weird festivals seem to originate from Spain. This shows that Spanish cultural and religious values are not only more celebrated than other parts of the world, but also quite fascinating. Most festivals revolve around some kind of cultural, religious, or social event. Others are created as a way to attract tourists or promote a marketing campaign. These 15 weird festivals not only bring a community together in observation and practice, but they also attract tourists who are interested in witnessing these seemingly bizarre events.


15)  La Tomatina  (Bunol, Spain)
The La Tomatina food throwing festival is an annual festival in the town of Bunol, Spain. It is held every year on the last Wednesday of August. La Tomatina is a weeklong festival that revolves around a massive food-fight. There is also other celebrations, including parades, firework celebrations, and dancing events. It began in the 1940s in Bunol, Spain under unknown circumstances, according to the La Tomatina Festival website.

One Big Tomato Food Fight
la tomatina
By flydime via Wikimedia Commons

The La Tomatina celebrations begin just before noon, when many trucks deliver massive amounts of cheap tomatoes to the Plaza del Pueblo, in the center of town. The fight does not officially begin until one person has made it to the top of a two-story high greasy wooden pole. At the top of the pole is a ham. Traditionally, when the ham is confiscated, water cannons fire and the fight begins. Strategy for the fight is each man for himself. People battle each other with tomatoes that they squish beforehand. It is also recommended that people wear protective eye-wear, to protect themselves from flight juices and pieces of tomatoes. The fight only lasts one hour, which is also marked by the water cannons, but the festivities stretch out much longer. The tomatoes food fight does not cause extensive damage to the city, but it does require an elaborate cleaning effort. Fire hoses go about cleaning the streets after the fight, as the food fight participants either return to their homes to clean up, or head to the nearby river to wash up.

Every Woman and Man for Themselves in an All-out Tomato Fight
la tomatina Every Woman and Man for Themselves in an All-out Tomato Fight
By flydime via Wikimedia Commons

La Tomatina may just be one of many food-fight festivals, but it is considered to be the world's biggest. It attracts thousands of people, not only from Spain, but from all around the world. According to La Tomatina Tours, the festival attracted approximately 50,000 participants in 2012.


14)  Encierro  (Spain)
Another festival that is celebrating each summer in Spain is the Encierro, or The Running of the Bulls. It is celebrated in the Spain's Navarra region, originally in honor of Navarra's patron saint, San Fermin. It takes place during the second week of July each year at the Calle Santo Domingo, the street heading from the corral to the city's bullring. The festival began out of necessity. Bulls needed to be corralled from outside the city's limits, into the bullring.

Do you Have the Nerves for Encierro?
encierro running of the bulls spain Do you Have the Nerves for Encierro?
By Dirección General de Turismo via Wikimedia Commons

Encierro begins in the morning, with bulls being unleashed to charge from the corral to the bullring. The run is about half a mile. It lasts less than 10 minutes. To be eligible to participate, you must be over the age of 18 and sober. Participants must also adhere to the other regulations regarding permissible behavior. Traditionally men have only run it, although women willing to risk themselves are also permitted to participate. It used to be a rite of passage for Spanish boys to take part in. The only protection you have against the charging bulls is a wooden stick. No other weapons are permitted. Participants have to be in good physical form and be able to react quickly if necessary. Every year people are injured, if not killed, in the festival events. Many attendee of the Encierro do not participate in the run, opting to spectate it instead.

Will You Participate or Spectate in Encierro?
encierro Running of the bulls Will You Participate or Spectate in Encierro?
By Rastrojo via Wikimedia Commons


13)  Air Guitar World Championship  (Oulu, Finland)
Since 1996, the city of Oulu, Finland has hosted the Air Guitar World Championships. It began as a small event, but inevitably attracted media attention and grew to become an international event. Rockers, audiences, and media flock to Oulu every year in August. The Air Guitar World Championship coincides with the Oulu Music Video Festival. It was originally a side event of the music festival. According to the Air Guitar World Championships' website, the main purpose of the festival is to promote world peace. This ideology excludes any participants who are involved in any sort of mischief or bad behavior. Its purpose it to promote unity.

Practice Your Air Guitar for a Venue Beyond Your Own Living Room
Air Guitar World Championship Practice Your Air Guitar for a Venue Beyond Your Own Living Room
By Antti Kultanen via Wikimedia Commons

The Air Guitar World Championship contestants have to go through a variety of events and training. Each year a compulsory song is chosen for each contestant to rock-out to. In its inaugural year, it was the Deep Purple's "Smoke on the Water." Over the years, compulsory songs by bands like Weezer, Jimi Hendrix, and Nirvana have been performed. Beginning in 1999, contestants were able to also choose a self-chosen song.

Seriously Intense Air Guitar at the Air Guitar World Championship
Seriously Intense Air Guitar at the Air Guitar World Championship
By Antigraser  via Wikimedia Commons

The popularity of the festival has caused the organization to branch out to introducing distinctive "Schools of Airdeology". According to the Air Guitar World Championships website, these schools are: Artistic Airdeology, Pure Air Rock 'N' Roll, Air Extravaganza, and Futur D'Air. It is a good-natured festival that brings air-guitar rockers, music lovers, and spectators from around to world together.


12)  Holi: Festival of Colors  (India, Nepal, and Guyana)
Holi is the Festival of Colors. It is an annual Hindu spring festival, celebrated in India, Nepal, and Guyana. Before the festival begins, vendors start selling colors of all hues in the form of powders in the markets. Participants prepare by collecting colors to use during the festival. It is a spring celebration so people tend to buy bright colors. Although the colors chosen have some symbolic significance, most children go wild with their colors, with no regard to symbolism. The festivities represent bringing joy and color to your life and your home. Some participants make the colors traditionally, from colorful flowers. On the day of festivities, people head out into the streets and to each other's homes to color each other with the spirit of Holi. This is done while also singing and dancing.

Holi Hindu Festival of Colors Celebrating Spring - Ritualistic Day for Forgiveness
Holi Hindu Festival of Colors Celebrating Spring - Ritualistic Day for Forgiveness
By FaceMePLS  via Wikimedia Commons

The legend of the festival's beginnings is with the Indian god Lord Krishna. He was jealous of his soul mate's fair complexion. To appease her son's jealousy, Lord Krishna's mother painted the face of his soul mate to the color he wanted. From there, the festival began. Each color signifies a different meaning: red for purity, green for vitality, blue for calmness, and yellow for pious feelings. People are expected to let loose, and embrace the freedom and joy of the occasion. The festival is supposed to be purely in good nature, with no intentions to offend anyone.

Now a Worldwide Holiday, Holi is Even Celebrated in Germany
Now a Worldwide Holiday, Holi is Even Celebrated in Germany
By Tim via Wikimedia Commons


11)  Phallus Festival  (Japan and Greece)
Two countries in the world celebrate annual Phallus festivals: Japan and Greece. In Japanese culture, this festival is called Kanamara Matsuri, or "Festival of the Steel Phallus." It is celebrated in Kawasaki, each year during the month of April. It is centered on a local metal penis shrine. The shrine was historically visited by prostitutes who would pray for protection against sexually transmitted diseases. Phallic shaped parade floats, shrines, and merchandise appear throughout the city. People can buy products of any kind that are made to resemble penises. According to news reports from MSN and Metro, the profits from the festival go towards HIV research.

City Jammed Full of Phallus Shaped Props
Phallus Festival in Japan Cities Jammed Full of Everything Phallus Shaped

The Greek town of Tyrnavos also celebrates an annual Phallus Festival. Each year, on the Monday before Lent, people celebrate this pagan fertility festival. The day of the event is also called "Clean Monday," or "Dirty Monday," depending on whom you ask. The festival springs from ancient Dionysian times, when lewdness was common practice.

Phallus Festival

The phallic symbol was used as a satirical symbol. People tease one another with penis-shaped models, in addition to consuming phallic shaped breads and other foods. The festival has been celebrated for centuries and is one of the oldest religious rites in Greece.


10)  Roswell UFO Festival  (Roswell, New Mexico)
The city of Roswell, NM is known for the many UFO sightings that have occurred in its area over the past century. In July 1947, the "Roswell UFO incident" occurred. According to unofficial reports and theories, a spacecraft was seen to have crashed, potentially carrying extraterrestrial life.

International UFO Museum and Research Center - Roswell, NM
International UFO Museum and Research Center - Roswell, NM

The event has been speculated since its occurrence, causing many conspiracy theories as well as many hard-core UFO believers to be born. Believers and alien enthusiasts gather in the area each year in July, celebrating the Roswell UFO festival over a three-day event. The three-day event includes guest speakers, authors, and live entertainment for attendees.

Attendees in Full Costume
Roswell UFO Festival Attendees in Full Costume

People are also encouraged to attend in costume, according to the UFO Festival website. There is a costume contest, for humans and pets, as well as other family friendly activities, attracting skeptics and believers alike.


9)  Baby Jumping Festival  (Castrillo de Murcia, Spain)
Since the 1620s, the Spanish have celebrated El Colacho, the annual Baby Jumping Festival. It is celebrated in the Spanish town, Castrillo de Murcia, near Burgos. Two weeks after Pentecost, Catholics traditionally celebrate Corpus Christi. Catholics lead processions through the streets, carrying the Blessed Sacrament. El Colacho celebrations include parents dressing up their babies and bringing them to the town's square. Parents of the babies place their children on mattresses, along with several other infants.

Baby Jumping Festival

A man that is symbolically dressed as the devil, or El Colacho, in a yellow and red jumpsuit. He leaps dramatically over the mattress of babies. According to tradition, this act cleanses the babies of original sin, much like the act of baptism. This tradition is upheld by the Brotherhood of Santisimo Sacremento de Minerva. Members of the Brotherhood also chase people of all ages throughout the streets on this day, also as a sin-cleansing act.

During El Colacho Grown Men Dress up as the Devil and Jump Over Babies
During El Colacho Grown Men Dress up as the Devil and Jump Over Babies

According to CathNews, former Pope Benedict has asked priests to distance themselves from this potentially dangerous activity. This is because the sacrament of baptism is the way in which the Catholic Church recognizes the elimination of original sin from an infant, not with a man symbolically dressed as the devil leaping over them.





8)  The Redneck Games  (East Dublin, Georgia)
The Redneck Games The one-day Summer Red Neck Games have been celebrated since 1996 in East Dublin, Ga. It was started by a local radio station manager in response to comments made by the media about the style in which Atlanta would host the Olympic Games. According to the Summer Redneck Games' website, it started as a silly charity event. With the media attention it attracted, it soon became an annual event. From the beginning, the festival was more popular than anyone could have expected. Organizers expected only about 500 attendees its first year, and got 10 times that many instead. Over the years, almost 100,000 people have attended the festivities, according to the festival's website.

Hosted events at the Summer Redneck Games were created in true satirical fashion. Events range from the "Hubcap Hurl" to the "Redneck Horseshoes," in which the participants throw toilet seats instead of horseshoes. Participants also compete with each other in categories such as dumpster diving, and seed spitting. Other notable events include a wet T-shirt contest, big-hair contest, and the cigarette flip. Appropriately, the trophy for each event is a half crushed, mounted beer can.

Celebrate Your Inner-Redneck
The Redneck Games Celebrate Your Inner-Redneck

The Summer Redneck Games are good for the community because all proceeds are donated to local charities in the Atlanta area. It has also spawned a Canadian version of the games. The Minto Canadian Redneck Games were created in 2006.


7)  Albuquerque Balloon Festival  (Albuquerque, New Mexico)
Albuquerque, New Mexico has held the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta every October for more than 40 years. The fiesta attracts visitors from all around the world to engage and marvel at the art of ballooning. It began in 1972, with only 13 balloons participating. Today, hundreds of balloons take part in the festival. All the balloons are launched from the Balloon Fiesta Park's 78-acre field. There are event challenges like the long-distance race, taking some participants as far as Canada, and a target dropping challenge. It is also a way for ballooners to enjoy the craft with people like themselves.

Albuquerque Balloon Festival
By Mav via Wikimedia Commons

The day of festivities begins in the early morning hours. A Dawn Patron Balloon is launched to check on the weather and wind conditions for all the festival's balloons. Later in the day, the hot air balloons head to the sky in a mass ascension. Festival coordinators guide the lift off of balloons in a safe and organized manor. Spectators are able to marvel at all the colorful balloons that take over the sky.

Attendees are able to walk through the Balloon Fiesta's field and meet to talk with the balloon pilots. Residents of Albuquerque enjoy the festival in the sky from the comfort of their homes, while others gather in the launching field area where the festivities occur.


By Sba2 via Wikimedia Commons


6)  Cheese Rolling Festival  (Cooper's Hill, near Gloucester, England)
Cooper's Hill, near Gloucester, England, is the location of the annual Cheese Rolling Festival. It occurs every year during the Spring Bank Holiday. It is organized by local enthusiasts, according to cheese-rolling.co.uk. Participants gather atop Cooper Hill before a round of Double Gloucester cheese is rolled down the slope. Competitors then race down the hill after the round of cheese. The cheese has approximately a one-second head start before the participants. In the past, it has reached speeds of up to 70 mph.

Master of Ceremonies at the Cooper's Hill Cheese Rolling and Wake
Master of Ceremonies at the Cooper's Hill Cheese Rolling and Wake
By YoLeArno via Wikimedia Commons

Over the years, many participants have been injured during the festivities. In 1993, 15 participants sustained injuries, according to Gloucester City. Since 2010, several controversies surrounding the event. Organizers were changing the management of the festival, which caused uproar from participants. As a result, in 2011, the event took place without any management.

View of Cooper's Hill and a Live Race
View of Cooper's Hill and a Live Race
By Dave Farrance via Wikimedia Commons

The festival was traditionally only celebrated by the member of a local town, Brockworth. Today, it attracts people from throughout England, and even the world. Participants in the Cheese Rolling Festival are very committed to the event, regardless of the dangers of the injuries they could potentially sustain.


5)  Near Death Festival  (Spain)
Most cultures celebrate life and death, but very few celebrate those who have managed to escape death. In Spain people celebrate the Fiesta de Santa Marta Ribarteme. Santa Marta de Ribarteme is the saint of resurrection. The festival occurs in As Neves, Galicia each year at the end of July.

Near Death Festival's Procession
Near Death Festival's Procession spain's near death festival

The festivities begin in the mid-morning, with thousands of people pouring into the streets of the small town, according to donquijote.org. First, all the attendees celebrate Mass. Afterward, those who have experienced near death experiences climb into coffins, which are carried through the streets by their families. Spectators line the streets and observe the procession of people being carried in caskets. The procession takes people up the nearby hill to the cemetery, which the procession circulates around.

spain's near death festival

The festival is a way for the people who escaped death recently to show gratitude for their life to the patron saint of resurrection.


4)  Night of the Radishes  (Oaxaca, Mexico)
Just before Christmas each year, La Noche de los Rabanos, or The Night of the Radishes, is celebrated in Oaxaca, Mexico. It occurs annually on Dec. 23, at sundown. Participants display intricate carvings on radishes for spectators and judges. This folk art festival is one of the most unusual in the entire world. Radish artists have the freedom to create art of any kind on their radishes.

Night of the Radishes
By drewleavy via Wikimedia Commons

The radishes used at the festival are different than the ones commonly eaten in the U.S. They are Spanish radishes, which were brought to Mexico from Spain in the 16th century. These radishes, though, aren't small. They are long, cylindrical, and thick. They can grow to be up to 20 inches in length, allowing the artists enough room to carve something out of them.

Artist Planning a Radish Sculpture
Pile of radishes Artist Planning a Radish Sculpture

The Night of the Radishes has been a formal festival since 1897. However, these Spanish radishes were being carved into unique pieces and shapes for centuries prior. According to legend, this was done to entice people to buy the unique root vegetable. The winner of the Night of the Radishes festival is bestowed with a monetary prize. They are also featured in the local Oaxaca newspaper on Christmas Eve.


3)  Monkey Buffet Festival  (Lopburi, Thailand)

Monkey Buffet Festival

The Monkey Buffet Festival takes place each year on Nov. 25 in the small province of Lopburi, Thailand, north of Bangkok. Thailand residents believe monkeys bring good fortune in the form of visitors to the region. The festival was initiated to promote tourism to Thailand. It is a way for the locals to thank the monkeys for bringing tourism to the town, according to the Telegraph. Locals set up tables of fruits and other foods that the monkeys will enjoy, and allow them to run around and eat as they please.

Monkey Buffet Festival

A local hotelier thought up the concept in 1989. Now, the Thailand Tourism Authority sponsors the festivities. Thousands of pounds of food are brought in for the monkeys to stuff themselves with. Each year, thousands of visitors come to witness the event. Other than the fun of watching monkeys go crazy over food, there is no other significance to the event.


2)  Boryeong Mud Festival  (Boryeong City, South Korea)
Boryeong City, South Korea, prides itself as being the site of the best mud in the world. As a result, they produce a mud-based cosmetics line that is said to be good for the human skin, in addition to having higher germanium, minerals, and bentonite. As a way to promote this cosmetics line, Boryeong launched the city's Mud Festival in 1998. It is held at Daecheon Beach, a unique sandy beach that is only found in eastern countries, according to the festival's website mudfestival.or.kr. People are able to swim or get massages in the mudpack. Not only is it a fun event, but it also eliminates impurities from the participants' skin.

The festival's events include mud wrestling, mud sliding, and mud fireworks. Any type of mud-based event a person could think of is hosted at the Boryeong Med Festival. Additionally, there is also a street and yacht parade through the city. All the events are located close to a beach to make easy for participants to wash themselves off after.

Boryeong Mud Festival
By Stinkie Pinkie via Wikimedia Commons

This is a marketing festival staged by Boryeong Mud Cosmetic products. However, it has managed to grow to attract over 2 million attendees annually within its first decade of celebrations.


1)  Thaipusam Festival  (Asian countries)
In Malaysia and other Asian countries, body piercing is a cultural rite. Piercing are a part of an annual festival, celebrated by Singapore's Hindu Tamil community each year on a full moon in mid-January. Beginning in the day's early morning hours, participants begin the festival with a 3 mile walk. In this procession, devotees seek blessings and offer thanks to their gods. People in the procession carry milk pots, which symbolize virtue and purity, and Kavadis, a symbol of devotion as well as humility.

Thaipusam is Celebrated on the Full Moon in the Tamil Month (Jan/Feb)
Thaipusam is Celebrated on the Full Moon in the Tamil Month (Jan/Feb)
By Peter Gronemann via Wikimedia Commons

The Kavadis' are decorated with flowers, palm leaves, and feathers. The main event for spectators of the festival is the spiritual preparation the devotees go through by enduring physical pain. It is typical for the Tamil people to endure piercing themselves with skewers through their tongues and other places on the body, according to yoursingapore.com.

Thaipusam is a Hindu Festival Mostly Celebrated by the Tamil Community (Malaysia)

By Peter Gronemann via Wikimedia Commons

The ethos of the event is to endure as much pain as you can. The more pain a practitioner can endure, the greater the blessings they will receive. Some go as far as pull heavy objects, like trucks, that are connected via hooks in their skin. To prepare for the festival, participants undergo a strict preparation process. For a month prior, they will maintain a strict vegetarian diet and practice abstinence.

All Three Images Taken at the Batu Caves Near Kuala Lumpur Malaysia
Thaipusam is a Hindu Festival Mostly Celebrated by the Tamil Community (Malaysia)
By Peter Gronemann via Wikimedia Commons

According to the Hindu community, the more pure of state your body is in, the easier you will be able to endure pain without experiencing physical discomfort. The festival is a way for Hindu peoples to thank their Lord Murugan for helping them defeat their demons, and for granting them their wishes.


Final Words
Every area of the world has weird festivals that celebrate the traditions of a culture or geographic group. Modern festivals are usually hosted to uphold the traditions of a group. Some of the more unique modern festivals are held as a form of entertainment for a geographical region or a subcultural group. Festivals often attract spectatorship from tourists as well as locals, so they are also beneficial to a region's economy, as well as to their social unity. Whatever the cultural significance of festivals, they are entertaining, and sometimes repulsive, to spectators unfamiliar with their context. Not only are they are a way to celebrate the culture of a group, but they also serve as a way for outsiders to learn and witness diverse traditions of people around the world.


 

 

 

 

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