Traditions are rituals and beliefs that form a part of our culture. They are practiced to remind us of our history and passed down from generation to generation. Some cultural traditions around the world are widespread and adopted by one and all, like celebrating Christmas and birthdays, and then there are some that are quite strange or interesting and practiced only by a niche group of people. Here are some interesting traditions around the world that are both informative and amusing - some even determine the travel dates of curious wanderers.
1. Flag-throwing in Tuscany
Having started in the medieval period, flag throwing has long been popular in Tuscany. As the Italians love a good celebration, military parades were held with marching bands and flag bearers. Since flags are considered sacred, the flag bearers have to make sure that they do not fall to the ground. Today, flag throwing is not just popular in Tuscany but also in the whole of Italy. Volterra Medieval Festival is celebrated annually in August, which features markets and unique performances, including the famed flag throwing.
2. Professional finger-pulling competitions in the Alps
Formerly used as a way of putting an end to a dispute, finger-pulling is now considered a competition in the Alps. Before the competition, contenders undergo rigorous training. Two persons compete, and the first to be able to pull the other contestant to his side using just his finger wins the competition. Though a relatively unusual tradition, finger-pulling is considered a sport in several European places, such as Finland, Austria, and Bavaria.
3. Śmigus Dyngus (giant water fights) in Poland
Also known as “Wet Monday,” Śmigus Dyngus is a unique tradition practiced in Poland, where people throw water at each other. Though the origin of the tradition is somewhat unknown, Śmigus Dyngus is celebrated annually on Easter Mondays. The traditional way to do it is for boys to throw water at girls, and it is believed that the girl who receives the most water has the greatest chance of getting married. Today, lots of Polish people still practice it on the said holiday.
4. Cheese chasing near Gloucester, England
A beautiful neighborhood in Gloucester, England, Cooper’s Hill is popular for celebrating a rather unusual tradition known as cheese chasing or cheese rolling. Having originated in the 1800s, the tradition involves competitors have to go down a steep hill to chase a rolling cheese. With that, not a lot of contenders can successfully stay on their feet. The winner of the competition gets to take home a delicious wheel of Double Gloucester cheese.
5. Baking money into food in Bolivia
Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing
The South American country of Bolivia celebrates a unique tradition during the New Year. While others look forward to seeing fireworks and enjoying delicious food, Bolivians literally bake money into sweet treats like cakes. Whoever gets the money is said to have a great year ahead. This tradition is still practiced today and even bakeries all over the country partake in the festive celebration.
6. Battle of the Oranges in Italy
The Battle of the Oranges started in the town of Ivrea in Italy, which originally began during the medieval period. This tradition lasts for three days and was historically practiced to show the rebellion of commoners. Though the battle does come with risk for injuries, the people of Ivrea still honor this tradition today by gathering as groups and throwing oranges at each other. It is celebrated annually and ends on Shrove Tuesday.
7. Cimburijada festival of scrambled eggs in Zenica, Bosnia
Satisfy your egg cravings in Bosnia every March or during spring. Hundreds of eggs are cooked in huge pots and given out for free. This is to celebrate the start of a new season. Visitors flock to Zenica, Bosnia, every year for this tradition. But not because they want a taste of the scrambled eggs, but because it’s fun, interesting, and a sight to behold. In fact, a lot of people support this tradition.
8. The Polterabend custom in Germany
Family members and friends of future married couples meet at dinner, and break a lot of porcelain (except glasses). The couple is then asked to clean up the entire mess. This is supposedly to teach them the importance of unity and hard work, and bring good luck. Germans think this tradition is essential in making marriages last a lifetime.
Do you know in Japan, giant penises are paraded through the town? This interesting cultural tradition happens every first Sunday of April, Thousands of people visit Kawasaki to witness the Kanamara Matsuri or penis festival. During this festival, you’ll get to see lots of penises in varying colors and sizes, and even eat penis-shaped sweets. It used to be known as the Shinto fertility tradition and was later changed to a sex-positive ritual. The organizers of this ritual are priests of the Kanayama that worship Shinto religion.
Legend has it that a demon possessing a vagina ate penises. The demon was defeated when a girl asked a blacksmith to create a penis made of steel, which broke the demon’s teeth. It’s kind of amusing, yet the people in Japan consider it a serious religious practice.
10. Famadihana: dancing with the dead in Madagascar
Also called the turning of the bones, this festival honors the dead and celebrates family ties. Every seven years or so, families who can afford lavish dinners for guests and new clothes for the living families and the dead ancestors, celebrate the Famadihana festival. The living families dance with their dead ancestors to show them respect. They even give out gifts for the dead. Crying is discouraged during the celebration. Families in Madagascar have been practicing this for many years, and intend to continue the strange tradition in future, as well.
11. Throwing cinnamon to those still single at 25 in Denmark
In Denmark, they have an interesting yet strange tradition of throwing cinnamon to people who are still single at 25. The individual is doused with lots of cinnamon sticks on his/her birthday, mostly by friends and well-wishers. It’s interesting because it motivates you to look for a partner before you turn 25. If you like cinnamon though, then this shouldn’t bother you.
12. Burns Night in Scotland
Burns Night is celebrated for the celebrated poet Robert Burns and his contribution to the Scottish culture. On the 25th of every January, the people of Scotland hold supper and poetry recitations written by the poet. They prepare a dish called Haggis, a sausage made from sheep’s belly. The ritual is to read the poetry on that dish written by Burns before proceeding to eat. Formal traditional dinners are held every year at Burns Club as well as hosted by the Freemasons.
There is an old tradition in Sagada where people hang their coffins in limestone caves. It was carried out by the Igorot tribe of Mountain Province, which became a common belief among the people in northern Philippines. They believe that this ritual prevents monsters and beasts from taking the dead bodies, and also purifies or blesses the departed soul.
Banaue rice terraces and Sagada
Duration: 4 days
14. Sharpening of teeth in Indonesia
One of the most interestingly different traditions around the world is teeth sharpening or chiseling. This strange beauty ritual is practiced by women in Indonesian rural communities. It involves the sawing of the teeth, and women who undergo teeth chiseling are considered extremely beautiful. Thankfully though, this isn’t a mandatory requirement for all women.
15. Day of Silence in Bali, Indonesia
Bali’s Day of Silence, or Nyepi, as they call it, is a holiday celebrated with fasting as well as meditation. It is basically New Year in Balinese calendar. The whole island shuts off all sounds, lights, and all other activities, so there is peace all around. Days before the actual celebration, Balinese people really take their time to make the ogoh-ogoh (demon) statues that will be used and paraded through the streets during the ceremony of Pengrupukan, which is celebrated the day before Nyepi. The statues are then usually burnt after supposedly attracting demons and evil spirits so as to rid the place of the negative entities. Because of its intriguing nature, tourists even come to Bali specifically to witness Nyepi and the festivities that take place before it.
16. Wife Carrying Championship in Finland
Finland hosts an annual race that tests not only stamina, but also the relationship. The race allows three couples at a time to compete for the prize by overcoming wet and sandy obstacles. There are certain qualifications such as the wife to be carried should weigh at least 49 kg (108 lbs). Though Wife Carrying Championship is held in Sonkajärvi, Finland, there are other couples from other places who love to join the competition as well.
17. Yi Peng in Northern Thailand
This remarkable festival in Northern Thailand, typically celebrated in Chiang Mai in November, attracts plenty of people. During this notable event, you will see thousands of beautiful lanterns floating up in the sky. You probably have already seen such magnificent scenery in pictures or even in popular movies, but nothing beats seeing it in person. It is part of tradition to make a wish before the lanterns are released, so if you happen to be in the area while the festival takes place, then lucky you. Who knows? Your wishes just might come true.
18. Surva International Masquerade Games Festival in Pernik, Bulgaria
Surva is an exciting Bulgarian festival that involves colorful masks and rituals such as bell ringing meant to drive the evil spirits away. Usually held in January, the costumes and masks created are paraded in the streets for everyone to see. In this particular event, their traditional dances are showcased. It is also celebrated with rakia, Bulgaria’s traditional alcoholic beverage. It is said that the ceremony brings happiness and luck, so if you are fortunate enough to be in the area during the festival, take advantage of it as it can be an invigorating and amusing experience.
19. Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany
Oktoberfest is a two-week festival held in Munich, Germany. It was originally celebrated to commemorate the marriage of the crown prince of Bavaria to Princess Therese. Though it is called Oktoberfest, celebrations actually start in September and ends on the first Sunday of the month of October. During the festival, plenty of delicious food are consumed such as roast chicken, sausages, pretzels, and so much more. It also attracts millions of people as it is part of tradition to drink beer from local breweries during the celebration. Most tourists visit with their friends or significant others, so if you are planning to join the fun, dance to the music and explore the real culture of Munich.
If Bosnia cooks hundreds of scrambled eggs, Spain uses tomatoes for a fun fight. Every last Wednesday of August sees Bunol engage in the world’s biggest tomato fight. And there is no sombre reason behind this. The Spaniards do it simply for entertainment. Sounds like fun? You might want to add that to your itinerary next time you’re Spain-bound.
Bunol La Tomatina Festival Trip by Coach from Valencia
Duration: 6 hours
Some traditions may sound bizarre or strange, yet people hold them close to their hearts and still practice the age-old rituals to this day. Because it’s part of their culture and history, it shapes and defines them. In fact, this is what sets one community of humans apart from the other. It is due to their deep-rooted beliefs that these rituals and unique traditions around the world are still alive. It ties us to the unseen world of the past. To witness these amazing rituals, make sure you plan your visits accordingly and see at least one of them with your own eyes.
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