Thursday, October 18, 2007

World’s 15 Strangest Holidays


Bobr, Belarus: Ivana Kupala Night

On the night of this pagan festival, celebrated on July 7, the Gregorian summer solstice, young women don wreathes and celebrants jump through fire and swim naked. The rites are connected to ancient beliefs about fertility and autopurification.

New Delhi, India: Holi, the Festival of Colors

Indian girls throw gulal (colored powder) on each other during a Hindi holiday which marks the onset of spring.

Bunyol, Spain: Tomatina

In late August, thousands of people pelt each other with over 250 lbs. of tomatoes in a span of 60 minutes in an event modestly described as the world’s largest tomato fight.

Designed to promote the work of local artisans who weave traditional wool ponchos, the parade and festival are a relatively new celebration.

Novgorod, Russia: Maslenitsa

In Orthodox countries, the week before Lent is marked with a series of celebrations, including a free-for-all boxing match in which there are no rules. In centuries past, the fight ended only when the participates were covered with blood and bereft of clothes.

Inazawa, Japan: Hadaka Matsuri, The Naked Festival

Hidden somewhere in the midst of all these men in loincloths is one fully naked man. Touching him is believed to bring good luck and happiness.

Lopburi province, Thailand: The Monkey Buffet

Every year, all of the province’s approximately 600 monkeys are invited to eat fruits and vegetables during an annual feast held in honor of Rama, a hero of the Ramayana, who, it is said, rewarded his friend and ally, Hanuman the Monkey King, with the fiefdom of what is now Lopburi.

Brockworth, England: Cheese Rolling Festival

In a dangerous tradition dating back to Roman times, competitors from all over the world run up a hill and then chase a 7 kg round cheese back down. The first who gets to it, keeps it.

Sabucedo, Spain: Rapa Das Bestas

Since the Bronze Age, Galicians have been taming wild horses. On the first weekend of the month of July, hundreds of wild horses are rounded up by expert stockbreeders, known as agarradores, then trimmed and groomed.

Reading, England: Festival of Falconry

Bird-of-prey handlers from Turkmenistan hold falcons at the first Festival of Falconry. Bird keepers from all over the world attended the event to highlight the popularity and importance of the sport worldwide.

Bedford Square Gardens, England: The Chap & Hendrick’s Olympics

A series of tongue-in-cheek competitions for traditional gentlemen who are against the vulgarity of modern culture, this festival includes events such as mixing dry martinis, the three-trousered limbo and a pipe relay.

Dublin, Georgia: The Summer Redneck Games

L-bow, the official mascot of the Summer Redneck Games, poses next to the mud pit with the festival’s ceremonial torch. Started in 1996 as a spoof of the summer Olympics held in Atlanta, the Games feature bobbing for pigs feet, hub cap hurling and the Redneck mud pit belly-flop contest.

Ivrea, Italy: The Battle of Oranges

The origins of this festival are not well understood, particularly because oranges do not grow in the Alps of Italy, where the town is located. One legend has it that the Battle commemorates a popular rebellion of the 13th century, when the local poor deemed the largess of their feudal lord as inadequate, and threw it back in his face.

Boston, USA: Zombie March

For the third straight year, Bostonians dressed as zombies marched from Boston to Cambridge’s Harvard Square in what organizers call a non-political, no-agenda good time.