Everybody loves a party, but would you love a party where you get pelted with fruit? How about a party where you have to pierce your tongue? Or jump over babies without killing them?
For some reason, the idea of a good time varies widely from country to country. Whereas most of us celebrate holidays in the typical way of congregating with our family and complaining about the weather, other nations seem to think this is just passe. They like to spice things up with animal dung or fireballs.
While that certainly adds something to familial interactions, it’s a little questionable as to whether or not that’s a family-friendly event. I personally don’t remember the last time I had to worry about fireballs being hurled by my parents over the holidays.
Actually, I do remember: 1995. That was the year my parents took up Zoroastrianism and I’d just crashed the family minivan. Fire is a big part of the Zoroastrian faith. I lost many eyebrows that year.
Anyways, I don’t consider fireballs to be a particularly fun time, but maybe you do. Or maybe you think that climbing a giant tower made out of pastries is the event that’ll draw the crowds. Whatever you’re into, there’s a festival somewhere out there that’ll cater to your tastes no matter how bizarre. Let’s take a look at a few of them and what it says about the people that celebrate.
You’ll find it mostly says they’re insane.
15. Kanamara Matsuri – One Crazy Fertility Festival
When you think of Japan, you usually think Anime, sumo wrestling, and questionable monetary policy. You usually don’t think of a bunch of dudes carrying a giant pink penis.
But that’s exactly what one village in Japan does every first Sunday in April. The Kanamara Matsuri (or literally translated, “Festival of the Steel Phallus”), is held in Kawasaki, Japan, and as you might expect, it’s a fertility festival. The central theme of which is reflected in posters, candies, carved vegetables, and decorations, all of a distinctly erect nature.
The culmination of the festival is the mikoshi parade, where a palanquin carrying a giant pink phallus is carried throughout the streets. The legend goes that a jealous demon hid inside a young woman’s vagina and bit off the appendage of any man she slept with. After one too many unsatisfied nights (and too many emasculated men) she asked a local blacksmith to fashion her an iron implement to break the demon’s teeth. The item was later enshrined and is now celebrated by all Kawasaki residents.
14. Bolas De Fuego – Great Balls Of Fire
There’s a town in El Salvador called Nejapa that has a very strange (and dangerous) celebration. Around the turn of the last century, a volcano almost completely destroyed the town. To celebrate their brush with death, every year on August 31st, the whole town gathers, douses a bunch of rags in alcohol or gasoline, wraps them around a rock, and sets fire to them.
Then they throw the burning balls of fire (hence the name) at each other.
I’m not sure where the bright idea came from to celebrate a near death by fire by throwing literal fireballs at each other, but it seems ironic. And dangerous. I suspect there’s a whole lot of ointment tossed around after the party, as well as many fire extinguishers kept on hand. Y’know, just in case.
13. Cheung Chau Bun Festival – Look At Those Buns
I love me some Chinese-style buns. And the best place for Chinese-style buns is China, naturally. Specifically the island of Cheung Chau in Hong Kong, China. There, they celebrate their love of baked goods by constructing a giant mountain of buns and then having residents climb them in a race.
Held every April/May (it’s based on the Chinese calendar, so it changes from year to year), Cheung Chau’s Bun Festival draws tens of thousands of spectators to watch the race to the top of bun mountain. According to tradition, whoever reaches the top of the tower to pluck the highest bun will bring good luck to their entire family.
12. El Salto del Colacho – Woah Baby
Catholicism is naturally pretty weird, but the town of Sasamón in Spain brings it to a whole other level. In a celebration dating back to 1620, every year the residents celebrate the Catholic feast of Corpus Christi by getting every baby born in the past 12 months to lie down in the street and then having strangely dressed men jump over them.
The festival is naturally rife with metaphor. The guys doing the jumping are dressed in yellow and red and known as the Colacho (or the Devil), and the jumping is supposed to cleanse the babies of the original sin. It’s actually a little controversial with the rest of Catholicism, as the Pope says only baptism can cleanse souls, not being hopped over by dudes dressed in creepy clothing.
11. Air Guitar World Championships – Party On
If you’re a rock fan, and you’ve spent many a night jamming out and your favourite imaginary Fender to the best of AC/DC and Judas Priest, then you might have a shot at winning the Air Guitar World Championships.
Held every year as part of Finland’s Oulu Music Video Festival for the last weekend of August, competitors from around the globe congregate to show a panel of judges (many of whom are real rock stars who use real guitars) just which one of them is the best imaginary rock star. Although it’s just themselves on stage, competitors go all out, often choreographing dance numbers that would be Aerosmith to shame.
10. La Tomatina – The World’s Biggest Food Fight
We return to Spain, which is apparently a much crazier place than I was ever lead to believe, for La Tomatina. Held every last Wednesday in Buñol in August, the festival involves everyone piling into the streets with a bag full of tomatoes, and pelting them at the guy next to them. Repeat ad nauseum or until you’re out of tomatoes.
It is quite difficult to run out of tomatoes however, as the town has entire truck fulls driven in before the festival. Most party-goers wear goggles to prevent themselves from being blinded by a stray bit of rind.
The history of La Tomatina is a little fuzzy, but as the story goes, in 1945 some kids were watching a parade and pissed off one of the participants. He flew into a fit of rage and started after the kids, which angered the residents who threw tomatoes at him to make him stop. This devolved into a massive food fight that has now become an annual tradition.
9. The Battle of Oranges – More Fruit, More Mayhem
Tomatoes are at least fairly squishy so when you get struck by one it tends to break and not cause a lot of damage. The Northern Italian city of Ivrea likes to up the ante by using oranges for their annual food fight every February.
Much like La Tomatina, the origins of the festival are a little hazy, but legend has it that it began in the 12-century after a reigning member of royal family tried to rape a young woman on the eve of her wedding. The tyrant’s plan blew up in his face when the woman instead decapitated him and burned the palace to the ground.
Thus, oranges. It makes sense to me.
8. Underwater Music Festival – Even More Difficult Than Air Guitar
First air, now water, as we head to the Underwater Music Festival in the Florida Keys. Held every first Saturday in July, the festival sees musicians don scuba gear to attempt to put on an underwater concert. The fish in attendance don’t clap so much as blub their appreciation.
The whole thing started as a way of bringing attention to the destruction of the coral reefs, and then sort of took on a life of its own. The concerts put on are not just enjoyed by local wildlife, but also by people. Underwater microphones pick up the acoustics and broadcast it on local radio. The sound is described as “ethereal” and “bad”.
7. World Toe Wrestling Championships – Toejam Just Got A Whole New Meaning
Britain used to be the pre-eminent power, having a world-spanning Navy and colonies around the globe. Then things sort of turned around for them and ever since they’ve been bemoaning the fact that nobody thinks of them as champions anymore.
At least, that’s what a bunch of drunk guys thought in Staffordshire. To alleviate their feelings of inadequacy they invented the sport of toe wrestling, where you lock toes with an opponent and try to pin their foot for three seconds.
The current world champion is Alan “Nasty” Nash, a bald dude with an attitude and the words “unleash the beast” tattooed on his foot. He has won the championship a record 14 times, with no end to his reign in sight.
6. Up-Helly Aa – Vikings Really Liked The Whole Fire Thing
I don’t see what’s so celebratory about fire. It seems more destructive than festive, but apparently the culture of Scotland disagrees.
Up-Helly Aa marks the end of the Yule season, which is like Christmas only involving more religion. It also serves to pay homage to their Viking heritage, as everyone gets dressed up like Vikings while bearing torches and marching down the streets. They even create a replica Viking vessel.
The festival goes way back to the 1800s when the end of the Yule season was celebrated with tar barrelling. For those ignorant of the tradition, it involves rolling a barrel of tar down a hill while lighting it ablaze. After a few too many houses burned down the practice was outlawed, and instead people started using somewhat safer wooden torches.
5. The Thaipusam Festival – Taking Partying To The Extreme
Celebrated by the Tamil community, the festival of Thaipusam takes place on the full moon of the Tamil month of Thai (which is usually between January and February). It’s also pretty brutal since part of the celebration involves ritualistic acts of devotion by carrying heavy burdens.
Those burdens can vary from carrying a pot of milk on your head to piercing your cheeks with skewers and hanging ornaments from them. Those that go even more extreme have their entire bodies pierced by hooks while also piercing their tongues.
The whole thing is supposed to commemorate the tale of Parvati giving Murugan a Vel “spear” to vanquish the evil demon Soorapadman. Most also believe that it commemorates Murugan’s birthday. Apparently he had some weird birthday traditions.
4. The Songkran Festival – You Will Get Wet
Once you’re all covered in fruit and possibly bleeding from pierced cheeks, it’s time to head to Thailand to take part in the Songkran festival. Songkran marks the Thai new year and is held between April 13 and 15. The old folks tend to do the religious thing and go to temples to pray and make offerings to the monks, but the young ones fill the streets for the annual water festival, which is the biggest water gun fight on Earth.
For an entire day, people fill the street and take aim with various implements of watery projection to soak everyone, everywhere. The water fight lasts an entire day, with parades usually getting in on the action by spraying water from the backs of trucks. However, beware of Thai decency laws that require everyone to remain clothed while out in public, no matter how hot or wet you get.
3. Boryeong Mud Festival – Let’s Get Messy
Maybe we should have gone to South Korea before heading to Thailand. This next festival gets pretty messy.
Every July in the city of Boryeong South Korea they hold a festival for the various attractions around town, but it’s known for the event held on the last weekend of the festival. That’s when “Mud Experience Land” opens to the public. Mud is trucked in from the nearby mudflats until there’s a huge, gooey pile in the middle of the beach, and then everyone dives in and gets sticky.
The mud is supposedly rich in minerals, and the whole thing was originally designed as a marketing ploy to get people to use cosmetics created from the mud. Then it took on a life of its own and now every year people get really dirty in the name of incredibly smooth skin.
2. Moose Dropping Festival – What A Crappy Festival
Our second to last festival brings us to Talkeetna, a tiny town in Alaska, that for whatever reason decided to venerate the noblest of local creatures. But mostly their poop.
The Moose Dropping Festival is a two-day celebration held every July that culminates in the moose drop. A helicopter is rented by the town, and everyone gets together to bet on how many varnished pieces of moose feces will hit a target several hundred feet below the hovering helicopter.
Whatever happened to counting jelly beans? Is that no longer a thing?
1. Konaki Sumo – Big Crybabies
We return to Japan for the last festival, Konaki Sumo, or Crying Sumo. The Japanese hold sumo wrestlers in such high regard that they have a festival where they become the implements of childhood trauma. Such an honor.
The festival is a 400-year tradition whereby two sumo wrestlers each enter the ring armed with a baby. Whoever’s baby cries first is the winner. If both babies start crying at the same time then the one that cries loudest is the winner. To help things along, the referee will shout and wave at the babies.
If this seems like child abuse to you then you don’t understand Japanese culture. Frankly, I don’t think the Japanese understand Japanese culture, but here’s the logic: it is believed that the louder a baby cries the more blessings they receive from God.
Someone should call child services on God.
- Ad Free Browsing
- Over 10,000 Videos!
- All in 1 Access
- Join For Free!