The world is filled with intriguing and unusual traditions, ranging from wife-carrying to the art of carving giant radishes. Many of these peculiar celebrations have been passed down through generations, dating back centuries. While they may appear strange to us in modern times, they add an interesting and unique flavour to our global culture.
While celebrating without a specific reason is wonderful, having an excuse can make it even more enjoyable. Here are 6 weird and wonderful festivals from different parts of the world that I personally love.
1. Monkey Buffet Festival
- What: Monkey Buffet Festival
- Where: Lopburi, Thailand
- When: Late November
The Monkey Buffet Festival is an extraordinary event held in Lopburi, Thailand. Hundreds of monkeys gather in the streets to feast on a buffet specifically prepared for them. It is a spectacle like no other, with locals and tourists coming from far and wide to witness this unique celebration. The festival is a way for the people of Lopburi to express their gratitude towards the monkeys, who are considered sacred in Thai culture.
The buffet spread includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, and even ice cream! It's a sight to behold as the monkeys dive into the food with gusto, their mischievous antics adding to the overall charm of the event. The Monkey Buffet Festival is a must-see for anyone looking for a one-of-a-kind experience that combines culture, nature, and a touch of quirkiness. So, if you find yourself in Thailand, don't miss out on this unforgettable feast for the eyes!
2. Cheese Rolling
- What: Cheese rolling
- Where: Cooper's Hill in Gloucestershire
- When: Late May bank holiday
Photo credit: Dave Farrance (license)
The Cheese Rolling Festival is a quirky and exhilarating event that takes place in the rolling hills of Gloucestershire, England. It's a festival like no other, where participants gather to watch and take part in the heart-pounding cheese rolling competition. The rules are simple: a large wheel of cheese is sent rolling down a steep hill, and brave individuals chase after it, risking bumps, tumbles, and the occasional bruise.
The festival attracts people from all over the world who are looking for a unique and adrenaline-fueled experience. Whether you're a seasoned cheese rolling pro or a first-time spectator, the atmosphere is electric and the excitement palpable. So, if you're looking for a weekend filled with laughter, adrenaline, and perhaps a few cheesy puns, make sure to mark your calendar for the next Cheese Rolling Festival. It's an event that promises fun and excitement in the most unexpected way.
3. The Wife Carrying World Championships
- What: The Wife Carrying World Championships
- Where: Sonkajarvi, Finland
- When: Early July
Photo credit: VisitLakeland (license)
The festival has a rich history, with some believing it was influenced by a 19th-century figure named Ronkainen the Robber. According to legend, Ronkainen would test potential gang members by making them carry heavy sacks of grain or live animals over challenging terrain.
Others suggest that the festival's origins can be traced back even further to the tribal custom of wife-stealing. Interestingly, many participants nowadays enter the championships with someone else's wife, following the Estonian tradition of carrying where the women wrap their legs around the man's head and hang upside-down behind them. This festival is definitely not for the faint-hearted.
4. La Tomatina
- What: La Tomatina
- Where: Buñol, Valencia, Spain
- When: Mid-August
Photo credit: fly dime (license)
La Tomatina is a wild and messy tomato-throwing festival that takes place in the small town of Buñol, Spain. It is held annually on the last Wednesday of August and attracts thousands of participants from all over the world. The event is simple in concept: people gather in the streets and throw ripe tomatoes at each other until everyone is covered in a sea of red.
The origins of La Tomatina are a bit unclear, but one popular theory is that it started in 1945 when a group of friends began a tomato fight during a parade. Since then, the festival has grown in popularity and has become a must-attend event for thrill-seekers and adventure lovers. If you decide to partake in La Tomatina, be prepared to get messy and have a thrilling experience unlike any other. Just remember to bring goggles and wear clothes that you don't mind getting stained with tomato juice!
Night of the Radishes Festival
- What: Night of the Radishes festival
- Where: Oaxaca, Mexico
- When: Late December
Photo credit: drew heavy via Flickr (license)
The Night of the Radishes Festival is an annual event that takes place in Oaxaca, Mexico. It is a unique and vibrant celebration that showcases the creativity and artistic talent of the local community. The festival, which started over a century ago, involves the carving of radishes into intricate and elaborate sculptures. The participants, both young and old, spend hours meticulously crafting these creations, which range from animals to historical figures.
The festival also features live music, traditional dances, and delicious street food. It is a joyful and lively atmosphere, as locals and visitors alike come together to marvel at the stunning radish sculptures and immerse themselves in the rich culture of Oaxaca.
During the 16th century, radishes were introduced to Mexico by the Spanish. According to legend, Spanish monks suggested that local farmers should carve radishes into creative shapes in order to attract customers to their market stalls. If you ever find yourself in Mexico during the month of December, make sure to experience the Night of the Radishes Festival for an unforgettable and truly unique cultural experience.
The World Toe Wrestling Championships
- What: The World Toe Wrestling Championships
- Where: Ashbourne, Derbyshire
- When: Late August
The 38th World Toe Wrestling Championship is taking place this year, where participants engage in intense rounds of toe wrestling to outperform their rivals. In this unique sport, two opponents interlock their toes and wrestle until one of them forces their opponent's foot to touch the sideboard. Notable competitors in this event include Tom “100m” Martin, Paul “Toeminator” Beech, and Alan “Nasty” Nash, who currently holds the title of world champion.
Have you ever attended any of these unique festivals or any other peculiar festivals you've encountered? One of my memorable experiences was attending Songkran in Thailand, known as the water-throwing festival. It was quite amusing. I also participated in a festival in India dedicated to a specific god, where people threw coloured chalk. Overall, both experiences were truly remarkable.