It’s said that there is someone for everyone, and maybe the same could be said about festivals. No matter the interest, from strawberries and music to garlic and mud, there is probably a festival for it somewhere in the world. Here are 10 of the most bizarre.
1. La Tomatina
Thrown in Spain where thousands of people pilgrimage in order to partake in the “World’s Biggest Food Fight,” La Tomatina is the only festival where tons of ripe tomatoes are thrown, stepped and squashed on the streets. It’s an adult’s version of slip and slide. Like paintball, revelers are encouraged to wear protective safety goggles. The festival only lasts one hour. Once the fighting ends, fire trucks spray down the streets. A number of theories exist as to how the festival began, including one that it stems from anti-Franco protests in 1945.
2. Noche de Rabanos
Translated as the “Night of the Radishes” (sounds like a terrible horror movie), this festival is all about, you guessed it, radishes. Held in December in Mexico, the festival celebrates the radish’s appearance in Oaxaca in the 16th Century. Artisans carve radishes and compete in categories for prizes.
3. El Colacho
A traditional Spanish holiday that dates back to 1620 to celebrate the Catholic feast of Corpus Christi, El Colacho is celebrated with men dressed as the Devil. These men jump over babies born during the pervious twelve months of the year in order to cleanse them of original sin. It’s been rated as one of the most dangerous festivals in the world, and it’s easy to see why.
4. Ivrea Orange Festival
Held in February in Italy, this festival has a lot in common with La Tomatina. The difference, of course, is the item thrown. Every year, residents re-enact an ancient battle in medieval costume armed only with oranges. The battle is a representation of a local insurrection in 1194 against the Holy Roman Emperor. But does it matter? It’s Italy’s largest food fight!
5. Burning Man
Burning Man (cue dissenters who say it’s gone “corporate”) takes place in late summer/early fall in Nevada. It’s eight days of what has been called an experiment in community, art, self-expression and an assortment of oddball characters weathering extreme conditions. The festival culminates in the burning of a giant wooden effigy. Some call it magical and life altering; others call it an overrated hippie love fest at the gates of Hell.
6. Monkey Buffet Festival
Looks more like something from “National Geographic” than a festival. Held in November in Thailand, it isn’t even for humans; it’s for monkeys. Over 2,000 monkeys feast on meat, fruit and vegetables. Locals see it as a thank you to the monkeys, which inhabit the village and attract thousands of tourists each year.
7. Up Helly Aa - Viking and Fire Festival
Held on January 31 in Scotland, the festival is Europe’s biggest fire festival that marks the end of the Yule season. Local men dress up as Vikings (no women allowed) and light torches and eventually throw them into a replica long ship or galley. Sounds like a grown-up version of Halloween.
8. Hadaka Matsuri
Hadaka Matsuri translates into “Naked Festival,” and that’s pretty much what it is. A bunch of dudes pack together during cold weather wearing a minimum of clothing, drink a lot of sake and try to please the gods. They keep warm by jumping up and down and chanting “Washoi!” Turns out it’s a Shinto purifying ritual and sometimes there’s a “sacred object” that people try to touch for good luck. If that object happens to be you, run.
Thaipusam is a Hindu festival in Serangoon Road, the spiritual heart of the Indian community. It’s held to celebrate the birth of Murugan, the son of gods Shiva and Parvati. Devotees seek blessings and offer thanks. As part of the festival, devotees perform a pilgrimage culminating with a piercing in their body. Ouch.
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10. Kanamara Matsuri
The “Festival of the Steel Phallus” (yes, you read that correctly) is held each spring in Japan and is centered on a local penis-venerating shrine once popular among prostitutes who prayed for protection against STDs. The shrine also helps with marriage and birthing. People make penis-objects from candles, candy and even vegetables. Today, the festival is used to raise money for HIV research. I’ll leave the “size” jokes up to you.