Traditionally, we celebrate New Years with a bang, Christmases with gifts and Christmas trees. Sometimes, other countries celebrate these typical celebrations with a twist. These twists can vary from country to country based on their culture and traditions. There are also festivals celebrated as a religious commemoration or a tradition that has been passed on and followed for generations. These festivals can be a one-day mardi gras or a week-long celebration. While most of the festivals are traditional, some are created just for the fun of it. Here are the top 15 list of most bizarre and craziest must-experience festivals.
15. Wife Carrying Festival – Finland
Do people think that being married is a burden? Well, the participating husbands in the Wife Carrying Festival literally think so. Eukonkanto or wife carrying originated in Finland. There are three legends that involves Herkko Rosvo-Ronkainen (or Ronkainen the Robber) that this event seems to be based on: first is that in the 1880s Ronkainen and his band of thieves stole food and women in his village, carrying the women on their back as they ran away; second, the thieves would go to villages and steal the wives of other men and making them their own wives; third, Ronkainen trained his minions to carry heavy, large sacks. Today, couples from around the world come to witness or join the competition. The husbands carrying their wives (or female partners) will run through obstacles to the finish line running the length of 253.5 meters. There are three ways allowed to carry the wife: fireman’s carry, piggyback, and Estonian-style where the wife hangs upside down with her legs wrapped around the husband’s shoulders while holding on to his waist.
14. Toe Wrestling– UK
Toe Wrestling is an unusual event wherein participants lock toes and try to subdue and pin the opponent’s toe. This little game was conceived in 1974 by four drinkers (who’s not surprised?) at the Ye Olde Royal Oak Inn in Wetton, Staffordshire. They were complaining that the UK doesn’t produce many world champions. With their drunk logic, they thought that if a sport that nobody else knows about was invented, the country could brag about having a champion. After unsuccessfully trying ear wrestling (wow, that’s definitely weird) and “push of war”, the team developed toe wrestling. They are so serious that they even created a small trophy with engraves. In the first year of the game, Mick Dawson, one of the originators, won the world championship. He retained the title in the second year as well. Unfortunately, in the 3rd year, a Canadian visitor defeated him becoming the new champion. Since the point and original purpose of the game was gone, they discontinued the event for a long time. Now, it is gaining popularity around the world, and is held at the Bentley Brook Inn in Derbyshire, England every year. Lucky for the originators, Englishman Alan “Nasty” Nash has held the title for 12 consecutive years.
13. Monkey Buffet Festival – Thailand
Armies of mischievous macaques in Lopburi, Thailand attract numerous visitors to this province. Locals who are annoyed by these raucous, silly creatures, are yet thankful for the influx of tourists that they bring. Every year on the last Sunday of November, a local hotel in this ancient province sponsors a buffet for the monkeys. According to Buddhist tradition, monkeys are revered and respected, believing that they bring prosperity and good luck. Also, there’s an ancient folklore that says Hanuman, a Hindu monkey deity, is believed to have rescued a bride from a ten-headed demon and the macaques in Lopburi are now his descendants. Dances and festivities are organized and several tables are prepared with over 2000 kg of well-arranged assortments of fruit. Be careful if attending this festival though; the macaques are so mischievous they are infamous for stealing food (and other things) from unsuspecting tourists.
12. Cooper’s Hill Cheese -Rolling and Wake Festival – England
Are you willing to break a limb (or worst case scenario, perhaps a neck, ) for cheese?The Cheese-rolling festival is a traditional annual event in Gloucester, England taking place every Spring Bank Holiday. A 9 lb. round Double Gloucester cheese is rolled down the hill and participants run (and tumble and roll) after the cheese. Whoever gets it first, wins. The event has become so popular that people around the world come to participate. Due to lack of management and safety concerns, local officials tried to stop the event. But hundreds of people still showed up and simultaneously continued the competition. One witty spectator described it perfectly , “20 young men chasing a cheese off a cliff and tumbling 200 yards to the bottom, where they are scraped up by paramedics and packed off to hospital”.
11. Songkran Festival – Thailand
Songkran is Thailand’s New Year Festival and is celebrated annually every April 13-15. The word Songkran comes from the Sanskrit word samkranti (lit. astrological passage) which means transformation or change. Traditionally, Thai people start their mornings with merit-making which includes visiting temples and offering foods to the Buddhist monks. Back home, Thai family and friends celebrate the holiday by splashing water on each other as a way of wishing blessings and abundance upon each other. Main streets are closed to serve as water fight grounds. Heavily armed with water guns and bucketful of waters, Thais shoot motorists and passersby with water. Some more notorious well-wishers will hop on a pick-up and shoot not so innocent bystanders. Now, tourists from around the world come and flock to one of the country’s major cities to experience the world’s biggest water festival.
10. La Tomatina – Spain
La Tomatina Festival is the world’s biggest food fight. Its history is unclear but the popular belief is that it was begun by two political protesters in 1944 or 1945. They started throwing tomatoes at random people and places. It turns out people liked it and they did it again in the years that followed. It was then banned by Francisco Franco during the Spanish State period because of lack of religious significance. It was held again after his death in the 1970s. Now, the festival is held annually every last Wednesday of August in Buñol, Spain. It is now held in honor of the town’s patrons Saint Luis Bertran and the Saint Mare de Deu dels Desemparats. Thousands of people around the world come to this small town to take part in the carnage. In 2013, in order to limit the number of visitors, the town officials issued tickets for up to 20,000 people. There are also rules to follow for the safety of all participants.
9. Boryeung Mud Festival – Korea
It all started with the production of beauty products made from mud in 1996. It is said that Boryeong mud contains natural minerals, geraniums, and bentonites that are good for the skin. The Boryeung Mud Festival was created in 1998 as a promotion of the said Boryeong mud cosmetics. It is held annually every July and lasts two weeks. There are a lot of fun activities to enjoy such as mud slide, mud prison, body painting, and mud skiing competition. The main attraction of the event is the mud pool, the arena for the mud fighting. It seems like people just can’t get enough of fun fighting, huh? Now, millions of tourists flock to the town to experience one of the messiest festivals ever.
8. Burning Man Festival – US
Amazing festivals can make a small town world famous. The Burning Man Festival is one of those festivals and is unique on so many levels. Black Rock City is a temporary city in the Black Rock Desert in Nevada. Every year, people from around the world go there to become a part of the Burning Man community. It was first started in the summer solstice of 1986 by Larry Harvey and group of friends as a bonfire ritual on Baker Beach in San Francisco. They burned a 9-foot wooden man and described it as a radical act of self-expression. In 1987, the effigy grew to 15 feet and in 1988 to 40 feet. In 1990, Kevin Evans and John Law conceived a separate event in the unknown dry lake in the Black Roock Desert. Evans first planned it as a Dadaist temporary zone where they burn an effigy and perform arts. Now, thousands of people gather in this temporary city every year, starting in the last week of August to the first week of September. The festival’s main principles are radical inclusion, self-expression and self-reliance, and communal effort.
7. The Testicle Festival – US
Do you have the balls to eat a testicle? The Testicle Festival is a bull testicle eating festival. It is held in several small towns in the US but Montana claims its origin. Since 1982, locals, bikers, and some nudists attend the event. It is held for 3-5 days in August and there are activities like Undie 500, ladies wet t-shirt competitions and small tricycle racing whilst wearing just underwear.
6. World Gurning Championship Festival – UK
The UK surely holds the wackiest festival ever. Gurning contests are held annually every Egremont Crab Fair. It is a rural English tradition and dates back to 1267. Participants of the contest traditionally wear a horse collar, framing their faces, and gurn. Gurn is a British English word which means a distorted facial expression. Those who have no teeth have anunfair advantage over those who have because they can control and move their lower lip up, sometimes even covering the nose. Peter Jackman, a four-time champion, even surgically removed all of his teeth to win the championship. False teeth manipulation is also allowed.
5. Festa del Cornuto – Italy
Festa del Cornuto literally means Festival of the Horned One. In Italy, horn is a metaphor for being cheated on by the wife. Its history dates back to the ancient Roman times when the brave soldiers returned from the battle, they were given a pair of horns as a symbol of heroism. But when they arrived home, they would sadly discover that their wives had cheated on them. These forlorn soldiers would pass through the streets to tell their stories. Today, cheated-on or dumped men “celebrate” their woes by parading through the streets of Roca Canterano near Rome, wearing a helmet of horns, crying or smashing sentimental things.
4. Near Death Festival- Spain
This list would not be complete without this creepy “festival”. In the small village of Las Nieves, Galicia, people who experienced a near death experience parade through the village—in their own coffin. People flock to this annual festival every 29th of July just to see this strange funeral. This festival is part of the Fiesta of Santa Marta de Ribarteme, patron saint of resurrection. The event starts when the giant statue of the saint patron is taken out of the church, followed by the coffins and its sweating content., The crowd and pallbearers will start chanting, “Virgin Santa Marta, star of the North, we bring you those who saw death”. The parade (and the coffins) will go to the town cemetery and circle back to the church.
3. El Colacho Festival – Spain
El Colacho or Baby jumping is an annual festival in Castrillo, Murcia that dates back to 1620. it involves the El Colacho, or men dressed as devils, holding a whip, as they jump over innocent babies. The act is known as El salto de colacho or the devil’s jump. It takes place 60 days after Easter as part of the religious feast of Corpus Christi. Parents who have babies born in the past 12 months bring them to the open street, and place them on pillows in rows with other babies. It is believed that the “jumping act” will cleanse the babies of original sin.
2. Kanamara Matsuri Festival – Japan
Japan, a country that has unique and fascinating culture, holds the most bizarre festival in the world. Kanamara Matsuri literally means Festival of the Steel Phallus. It is held annually every first Sunday of April at Kanayama Shrine, a penis-venerating shrine, in Kawasaki, Japan. According to the legend, a demon fell in love with a woman and it hid inside her vagina. This demon bit off the penis of two young men on their wedding nights. So the woman sought the help of a blacksmith to create a steel phallus in order to break the demon’s teeth. This phallus is now enshrined in the Kanayama Shrine. The festival attracts a variety of people, from tourists and religious people to prostitutes. It is most popular with the latter as they pray in the shrine for protection from sexually transmitted diseases. It devotees also believe that the shrine provides divine protection such as clan and business prosperity, as well as harmony within the marriage. Being the central theme of the festival, there are phallic shaped snacks and candies sold. The main event of the festival is the parade of numerous giant phalli. Profits raised in the festival go to HIV research.
1. Flaming Tar Barrels – England
Do you want to experience the ultimate bonfire party that is far more exhilarating than the Burning Man Festival? Then this is it. 400 years in the making, Flaming Tar Barrels of Ottery St. Mary (England) is by far the craziest and riskiest festival ever. Its history is unclear but the popular belief is that, during one of the traditional barrel rolling event in the town, one bored man decided to light and carry the barrel on his shoulder. The festival begins in early evening with the categories for women, youth and even children as young as seven years old, . The event culminates with the men’s competition. Flaming tar barrels are carried on the head or shoulder through the town center. Thousands of spectators come to the small town to witness the participants wrestle with the inferno. Unfortunately, only those who are born or long-time residents of the town are allowed to join the competition. So which of these 15 festivals do you think is the craziest and which is a must experience?