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10 Crazy Holiday Celebrations Around the World

by Laura
la tomatina

It seems like every day is a holiday somewhere so it is hard to keep track of all of them. Even wherever you live there are likely to be holidays you have never heard of.  Some of these holidays have widespread celebrations while others are followed by only a few. One thing they have in common though is they can all be considered strange and wacky, especially to those unfamiliar with them.

Here are 10 crazy holidays that are celebrated around the world.

1. Singles Awareness Day

Valentine’s Day is the well-known holiday celebrating love, but those not in a relationship just need to wait another 24 hours for their day. February 15th is Singles Awareness Day to help unattached people get over the Valentine’s Day depression. Some celebrate by meeting up with friends while some places organize singles meet-and-greets. Those looking for a bigger way to celebrate sometimes travel to Brazil where the Carnival is in full swing and Valentine’s Day is not celebrated until June.

2. Bean Throwing Day

bean throwing day

Credit: iriskh (via Flickr)

Another February holiday is Bean Throwing Day, known as Setsubun in Japan where it originated. It occurs the day before spring begins in Japan. It was believed that on that day the spirits were closest to the living world so something had to be done to drive them from homes. This resulted in the practice of throwing beans out of the front door and saying “Demons out! Luck in!” Now, rather than throwing the beans out of the door, some people throw them at a family member wearing a demon mask while others celebrate at shrines.

3. Straw Bear Festival

The Straw Bear Festival came from an ancient holiday that kicked off the agricultural year. It was common in parts of Europe and featured a young man or boy dressed from head to toe in straw. He would travel from house to house dancing in exchange for food and money. It died out in the early 20th century but was resurrected some places in the 1980s. Today the festival lasts longer and features many people besides the Straw Bear drinking and dancing but the Bear is still involved too.

4. Up Helly Aa

up helly aa

Credit: brockvicky (via Flickr)

Up Helly Aa is a large Viking fire festival celebrated in Scotland. Hundreds of men dress up in costumes and participate in a procession carrying torches. At the end of the processions the torch bearers throw the torches into a replica Viking ship. This is followed by all night parties. The festival only lasts one day and night but the planning of it takes up the rest of the year. It is said to be the largest fire festival in Europe.

5. Tinku Festival

The Tinku Festival is one of the most violent holidays celebrated around the world. It is held in Bolivia each May. The day begins with thousands of people from neighboring communities gathering together and dancing. Then chanting begins and the revelers, typically only the men, begin fighting each other. It is based on a religious festival dating back more than 600 years where people spilt blood to ensure a good harvest from the Goddess Pachamama. In the old days the fights could go pretty far, even leading to death, but today they are kept to one-on-one fights that end once blood has been drawn.

6. Battle of the Oranges

Many celebrations involve food but not the way it is used in this Italian festival. The origins of the festival are unknown but local lore attributes it to the townspeople’s defense of their village from a tyrant in the 12th or 13th century. It takes place each February in Ivrea, a city in Northern Italy. The festival involves thousands of people dividing into teams of nine and battling each other using oranges, which can hurt being that they are fairly heavy. The festival ends on Fat Tuesday when many others around the world are celebrating Mardi Gras.

7. Kanamara Matsuri

Kanamara Matsuri

Credit: woofiegrrl (via Flickr)

Kanamara Matsuri translates to the Festival of the Steel Phallus but is commonly called the Japanese Penis Festival. It occurs the first Sunday in April and has become very popular, with many foreign tourists coming to experience this unique celebration. It features a giant pink steel phallus being paraded around with people making their way to the Kanayama Shrine. There is music, wacky costumes, and penis-shaped candy. It is said that the festival got started from prostitutes going to the shrine to pray for protection against STDs. Today people pray for fertility and a good harvest at the shrine.

8. Gaijatra

Gaijatra is celebrated in Nepal sometime in August or September. The name means the festival of cows but it is actually to commemorate those who lost their lives the past year. Each household that has had a death partakes in a procession with a cow, or someone dressed as a cow if they do not have one. It is not a sad affair but instead features bright and colorful outfits and music. After the procession people wear masks, sing songs and tell jokes. Though it may sound a bit strange at first, it has become one of the most popular festivals in Nepal.

9. La Tomatina Festival

la tomatina

Credit: puuikibeach (via Flickr)

Spain has become somewhat known for crazy festivals between this and the Running of the Bulls. La Tomatina is a large food fight using tomatoes. It takes place in Buñol which only has 9,000 residents, but nearly 40,000 people gather there each year for la Tomatina. While the tomato fight, considered the largest food fight in the world, is the most popular event, the entire festival actually lasts a week with parties, music, dancing and fireworks. It culminates with the tomato battle which takes place the last Wednesday of August.

10. Monkey Buffet Festival

It is usually humans who are enjoying festivals the most but in this case monkeys have the greatest time. It is held in Lopburi, Thailand, home to 2,000 monkeys, towards the end of November. Elaborate displays of fruits and drinks are laid out at the Pra Prang Sam Yot temple for the monkeys to enjoy. The cost of all the food given to the monkeys has been estimated to be around $15,000. While many holidays have ancient origins or some meaning behind them, the Monkey Buffet Festival began in the 1980’s as a way to bring tourists to the area.

What makes a holiday crazy or not is simply your perception. What commonly celebrated holidays do you think are crazy or bizarre? Are you interested in participating in any of these festivals? What is the craziest holiday you have heard of?

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