There are many strange and amazing things in the world. Sure, going to places you’ve always wanted to see is a big part of travel. Cooking experiences, homestays, and city excursions are likely to be the highlights of your trip. But, what if it happens every now and then? Cultural encounters come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Knowing even a few of the Most Unusual Cultures And Festivals Around the Globe can bring out a traveller to rise within each of us.
Every country, I’ve discovered, has a lighter, even slightly ludicrous aspect. And there’s no better way to get a peek of it than to attend one of the world’s quirky, distinctive, or utterly bizarre festivals. While tomato battles in Spain and city-wide mud wrestling in South Korea aren’t as popular as they once were, 2022 will still provide plenty of reasons to rejoice.
Some annual festivals are inspired by religious or cultural rituals, while others are the result of commercial experiments or boredom. The following festivals may leave you scratching your head.
Here’s a list of the 10 Most Unusual Cultures And Festivals Around the Globe.
1. Las Bolas de Fuego, El Salvador-
Residents of Nejapa assemble every year on August 31st to shoot fireballs in remembrance of the 1658 El Playon volcano eruption. According to legend, the people of the ancient town were compelled to escape and settle in their current site due to a natural calamity. Residents split into two teams today, painting their faces like skulls and launching palm-sized kerosene fireballs at the opposing team to kick off the festival. Despite its dangers, Las Bolas de Fuego has been ongoing for almost a century and is considered one of the world’s most bizarre celebrations.
2. Boryeong Mud Festival, South Korea
Boryeong Mud Festival invites you to splash about in the mud. Boryeong, a town 200 kilometres south of Seoul, is well-known for its mud cosmetics. What began as a marketing campaign in 1998 has grown into a well-known festival that attracts millions of tourists each year.
While it may seem strange to bathe in mud, Boryeong’s mud is known for its high concentration of natural minerals and nutrients, which offer excellent skin benefits. The yearly festival, which takes place in July, lasts ten days and includes a variety of mud-related activities such as mud baths, mudslides, and mud skiing, as well as a variety of makeover and massage services.
3. World Bodypainting Festival, Austria
This isn’t one of those normal animal face and butterfly body paintings you see at birthday parties. The World Bodypainting Festival in Austria brings together the best of the best from over 40 countries to compete in body and face painting competitions. Participants utilise their faces and torsos as canvases for their masterpieces, which include special effect make-up, UV effects, and more.
The festival also provides a venue for all art lovers to visit numerous exhibitions, workshops, and demos, as well as the Body Circus, an event where guests may dress up in the wackiest ensembles possible, including body paint, masks, and extreme make-up appearances.
4. International Hair Freezing Contest, Canada
Winters in the north are so brutal that you wouldn’t think of going outside without a cap in case your hair froze! Despite this, Canada has dedicated an entire event to the creation of the strangest frozen hair sculptures. The International Hair Freezing Contest is held every year in Whitehorse, Yukon.
Contestants immerse their heads in water for the yearly competition, and when they are lifted, the frigid temperatures outside begin to mould frozen coiffures. The winners are revealed in March after this odd festival takes place in February.
5. Running of the Bulls, Pamplona
The famed running of the bulls in Pamplona, which takes place during the San Fermin celebration, is one of Spain’s most dramatic adrenaline-pumping spectacles! Every year in July, hundreds of thrill-seekers from all over the world descend on the city to run in front of six ferocious and powerful bulls (plus six steers) through the city’s historic and narrow streets.
The bulls run in the mornings, and guests can see bullfights in the evenings. The balance of the time is spent with food, drinks, and other entertaining activities. Among all of Spain’s bizarre festivals, this is by far one of the most divisive yet well-known events in the world.
6. Battle of the Oranges, Ivrea
Visit the UNESCO-listed Italian village of Ivera to see a citrus battlefield where people shoot 600,000 kg of oranges at one other to celebrate Shrove Tuesday, the city’s famed traditional carnival. The conflict tries to recreate a battle between locals and Royal Napoleonic troops in the 12th century.
Teams of arancini (orange handlers) on foot throw oranges at arancini on carts (representing the tyrant’s ranks). This significant celebration in Italy commemorates one of the country’s largest food fights, propelling it to the top of the list of strange festivals celebrated around the world.
7. Día de los Muertos, Mexico
The Day of the Dead Festival is a day dedicated to individuals who have died, as the name suggests. The traditional Mexican event, which takes place in November, bears a lot of visual resemblance to Halloween. During this time, family and friends gather to pray and remember those who have passed away.
The souls of the deceased are said to awaken during this time and return to earth to feast, drink, and dance with their loved ones. Living family members, in turn, treat the departed like honoured guests by preparing the deceased’s favourite foods and offerings. Rather than being a day of mourning, it is considered as a day of celebration.
8. Naki Sumo, Japan
Although you may believe that making a baby cry is the worst thing you can do, Japan is here to show you wrong. The 400-year-old tradition of Naki Sumo allows you to watch an entire event centred on grown men’s ability to make babies cry! Every year in April, the festival takes place at Sensoji Temple, where babies are partnered with a sumo wrestler who will attempt to make the children weep.
The rules are simple: the first person to make one of the babies cry wins. A wailing baby is thought to have the potential to fend off evil spirits, and a strong, loud cry indicates that the child will grow strong and healthy. Though the audience appears to love the show, the unconventional festival plainly has a negative impact on children.
9. Underwater Music Festival, Florida
The Florida Keys Underwater Music Festival is the place to go for all divers and music fans. Bill Becker, the founder, coordinator, and music director of UMF, elevated music festivals to new heights with the goal of raising awareness for coral preservation.
The unusual July celebration at Looe Key Reef has been attracting hundreds of snorkelers for more than 25 years. The event features pre-selected radio playlists and ocean-themed tunes streamed live from underwater speakers, as well as musician-divers and local artists performing quirky instruments, providing an unforgettable visual experience for all.
10. Up-Helly Aa, Scotland
Up-Helly Aa is a fire celebration that takes place every year in Shetland, Scotland, between January and March to mark the conclusion of the Yule season. Shetland takes pride in its Norse heritage and celebrates Viking culture by parading through the cobblestones with brilliant torches held aloft as they pass through the dark alleys. The Festival, which dates back to the 1880s, attracts thousands of locals and visitors from all over the world to celebrate the city’s rich heritage.
The world is full of strangely beautiful or strangely bizarre items and places. Knowing this makes me feel as if I’ve already visited each of the festivals mentioned. But I’m looking forward to really being there. What’s your call on Most Unusual Cultures And Festivals Around the Globe?
Also Checkout: Top 8 Festivals and Carnivals of Haiti