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10 Weirdest Festivals Around The World
Humans have an affinity for celebrating the mundane and the ridiculous. If anything, it’s a testament to every culture’s ability to enjoy a good party, no matter the reason. Here are 10 festivals that comprise the height of absurdity in theme or execution, and that’s what makes them so utterly enjoyable to participate in.
1. Blackawton International Festival of Worm Charming
At this competition in southeastern England, teams are given a square metre of land in the middle of a field and tasked with “charming” as many worms as possible to the surface from the soil-y lair in 15 minutes. Strategies vary wildly for charming the worms, the only rule being that you can’t dig them out. Some competitors woo the worms with song, playing out beats on the ground or melodies on a lute. Others opt to ape nature, sprinkling water on their patch of ground to replicate a soft spring rain. All are wary of the punishment for cheating: getting put in the stocks and publicly humiliated.
Where: Devon, England
(Photo: Courtesy of Blackawton International Festival of Worm Charming)
2. Moose Dropping Festival
What’s white and falls from the sky above Alaska in July? At least in the small town of Talkeetna, it’s not snow – it’s moose feces. Until 2009, the Moose Dropping Festival culminated in, well, the dropping of moose droppings, shellacked and painted white, onto targets from a helicopter or balloon. Locals would bet on where the droppings might fall. The festival grew in popularity over the years until 2009, when an influx of tourists overwhelmed the small 876-person town and a near-tragedy forced the cancellation of the festival. However, the town decided to bring it back in 2013, with moose-dropping festivities prudently spread throughout the year.
Where: Talkeetna, Alaska
(Photo: Courtesy of Talkeetna Chamber of Commerce)
3. Baby-Jumping Festival
For almost 400 years, men dressed as devils have been jumping over babies in this small town in northern Spain to cleanse them of sin and guard them against evil spirits and illness. Each year on the Catholic feast day of Corpus Christi, infants born in the last 12 months are set on mattresses throughout the town for a devil incarnate to leap over. Reportedly, the Catholic Church has tried to distance itself from the festival, which combines pagan rituals and Catholic beliefs, since Catholic babies are traditionally baptized under water, not under flying adult men dressed in devil costumes.
When: May or June
Where: Castrillo de Murcia, Spain
4. Wife Carrying Championships
Matrimonial vows compel husbands to metaphorically carry their spouses in times of sickness and trial. For a couple decades in a small town in central Finland, this challenge has been taken a bit more literally. Men are tasked and timed carrying their wives through a 253.5-metre obstacle course, with prizes awarded to the quickest, the strongest, the most entertaining and the best-costumed pairs. The festival stems from a legend about a local robber-baron who is said to have pillaged local villages in the 1800s, running off with ill-gotten gains and female villagers. The competition has since caught on worldwide, with similar events in the U.S., Hong Kong and India, among other places.
Where: Sonkajärvi, Finland
(Photo: Courtesy of the Wife Carrying World Championships)
5. Naki Sumo
Two giant sumo wrestlers step into a ring, looking as tough as they are massive, and they square up to each other threateningly. Each is holding an infant. The goal of each sumo wrestler? To make his opponent’s baby cry. This may seem like a setup for either disaster or comedy in the minds of most, but to the Japanese parents handing over their babies to the giant wreslters, it’s an effort to bring good luck to their kids. It is also said to ward off evil spirits. And what if the kids don’t cry? The referee steps in wearing a terrifying mask to make sure that no infant goes psychologically unharmed for the day.
Where: Tokyo, Japan
6. Rayne Frog Festival
Billed as a “toadally awesome time” by the festival’s organizing committee, despite an apparent lack of toads involved, the Rayne Frog Festival nevertheless delivers on its anuran promises every fall. The festival features all things frog: frog races, frog jumping, the selection of the Frog Derby Queen and, naturally, lots of Cajun-style frogs’ legs to eat. The self-proclaimed Frog Capital of the World also showcases local, regional and national musical talent and holds a variety of frog-themed runs, fairs and other activities. To be sure, if you are into frogs, there’s no other place you’d rather be in mid-November.
Where: Rayne, Louisiana
7. Noche de Rábanos
The Noche de Rabanos, or “Night of the Radishes”, may sound like a particularly terrible B-horror movie but in reality, it’s a delightful Christmastime celebration that occurs every December 23rd and features intricately and ornately carved radish sculptures. The tradition began when local radish growers began carving their produce in order to attract customers. It continues on a much grander scale today, with specially grown radishes that can weigh up to 7 pounds being chiseled into all sorts of detailed structures, from skyscrapers to nativity scenes. But radishes are just radishes after all, and the carvings don’t last. That’s why it’s “Noche”, and not “Semana”.
Where: Oaxaca, Mexico
8. Cooper’s Hill Cheese-Rolling and Wake
The Cooper’s Hill Cheese Roll has become quite famous the world over, but that hardly makes it any less strange. To recap: An official takes a 7-pound round of Double Gloucester semi-hard cheese and tosses it down a dangerously steep hill, whereupon competitors hurl themselves after it, flailing, rolling, crashing and flying toward the bottom, until one lucky athlete latches onto the cheese and raises it above his or her head in triumph. A team of local rugby players is positioned at the bottom of the hill to halt the descents of the now-out-of-control competitors.The grand prize? The round of cheese.
Where: Gloucester, England
(Photo: Cooper’s Hill Cheese-Rolling and Wake)
9. Boryeong Mud Festival
According to Boryeong Health Life Company, mud is great for your skin. Specifically, the Boryeong mud used in their Boryeong Mud Cosmetics line is great for your skin. To convince a doubtful populace, the company established the Boryeong Mud Festival at idyllic Daecheon beach, where participants get down and dirty in the local mineral-laden mud. The festival has since become a hit with the Korean expat population. A variety of mud-themed activities take place on the day of the fest, from mud photography to mud massages. And if things get too dirty, participants can just take a dip in the sea.
Where: Boryeong, Korea
10. Argungu Fishing Festival
As a spectator activity, fishing usually leaves a lot to be desired. At the Argungu Fishing Festival in Nigeria, however, it’s far more spectacle than you could ever imagine. At the firing of a pistol, hundreds of men storm into the shallow Malan Fada River and catch fish using nets, gourds or just their bare hands. The man with the largest fish wins the day. Since fishing is banned save for this one day in spring, the river is well-stocked and the fish are huge: winning catches have topped 160 pounds. Unfortunately, Nigeria’s tourist troubles have forced the festival to be cancelled often recently, though there is always hope that it will come back next year.
Where: Argungu, Nigeria