Top Eight Weirdest Festivals in the World

by GoAbroad Writing Team

Every community in the world has its own way of celebrating its history and culture. But some festivals have just gone overboard when it comes to strangeness and many end up appearing outright weird. If one is caught traveling to one of these countries at just the right time, they may come upon a festival they never knew be-ware, open minded, and most likely shocked.

There are many Indian festivals that celebrate the rice harvest, the stars and light. Among these, Thaipusam is by far the most spectacular. These devotees have their tongues and cheeks skewered with long silver needles and metal hooks pierced to their ch
There are many Indian festivals that celebrate the rice harvest, the stars and light. Among these, Thaipusam is by far the most spectacular. These devotees have their tongues and cheeks skewered with long silver needles and metal hooks pierced to their chest and backs. The most extreme form of devotion is the carrying of the spectacular Kavadi for the deity. Photo Courtesy William Cho on Flickr

1. El Colacho Festival

Also called the “Baby Jumping Festival”, the festival is celebrated by having men jump over babies lined up on the street. It is undoubtedly one of the most risky festivals out there. Practiced since the year 1620 in Castrillo de Murcia, Spain, the festival is believed to protect infants from evil spirits.

Not many cultures around the world would accept this behavior as anything but child abuse or torture.

2. Kanamara Matsuri Festival

The festival is celebrated in Japan every first Sunday of April. Penis-formed candles, candy, decorations, and many more phallic symbols are shown to the public. Prostitutes participate in the festivals by offering sacrifices and prayers to penis images. Married couples beginning a family have even started to take part in the festival and gays, lesbians, and transvestites also frequent the affair. This festival aims to protect people from sexually transmitted diseases, such as HIV and AIDS, so the variety of phallic items are sold and proceeds go to AIDS research.

Kanamara Matsuri isn't exactly the most traditional way to collect money for AIDS research, but nevertheless its the thought that counts in some cases.

3. La Tomatina Festival

In 1945, a group of young adults who wanted to be part of a parade called “Gigantes y Cabezudos” started a brawl using tomatoes in nearby vegetable stand as their weapon. According to just one theory, among many, this is how the La Tomatina Festival started. The festival is held in Buñol, a Valencian town in Spain and is celebrated by throwing tomatoes at other participants. An estimated 150,000 tomatoes are used during the typically one-hour long festival.

4. Entroida Festival

The festival is held in Galicia, Spain and involves throwing muddy rags at fellow festival goers.  The Peliqueros, a group of masked men wearing festive outfits, are given the license to throw vinegar-soaked and ant-infested rags at anyone they see. They also invite themselves into people’s homes, drinking, and eating their food. Homeowners welcome them, as they are believed to possess spiritual powers during the festival.

There may not be any other place in the world that individuals throwing ant-infested rags can get a free meal!

5. Fiesta de Santa Marta de Ribarteme

Also called the Near-Death Festival, the Fiesta de Santa Marta de Ribarteme is celebrated annually by individuals who have encountered a near-death experience. The festival begins with these individuals climbing into coffins, which are carried around Las Nieves before being taken to a small church located just outside the town in Spain. The procession moves on towards the local cemetery where they turn around and head back towards the church for the final portion of the festival. Once at the church for the final time, the celebrants recount the time they were in the brink of death in front a statue of Saint Martha. People toss coins at the saint, thanking her for protecting their loved ones. Food and fireworks follow the event to celebrate the life that was spared. Thousands of people visit Las Nieves yearly to participate in the Fiesta de Santa Marta de Ribarteme. 

It may be meaningful to celebrate the life of someone who nearly died, but being carried around a city in a coffin still brings this festival near the top of this list.

6. The Thaipusam Festival

Thaipusam, a symbolic Hindu festival, is celebrated by Tamil communities in Singapore, Malaysia, and Southern India. Annual processions are held in which Hindu devotees seek blessings, offer thanks, and fulfill vows. The festival honors Lord Subrahmanya (also called Lord Murugan), who represents power, youth, and virtue, and is believed to be the destroyer of evil. The Thaipusam Festival is celebrated every full moon during the tenth Tamil month. Called the “Thai”, this specific month usually falls in the middle of what is widely considered the month of January.

The odd part about this festival is the amount of intense body piercings. Some individuals go as far as to pull heavy objects (like tractors) through the use of hooks pierced into their flesh. Participants believe the more pain you endure, the more blessings you will receive in the future.

7. Hadaka Matsuri

Also called the Naked Festival, Hadaka Matsuri is a Japanese festival celebrated by wearing a minimal amount of clothing. Participants usually use only a  fundoshi, a Japanese loincloth, which is sometimes coupled with a happi coat. Hidden among a crowd of numerous men in loincloths is one completely naked man. The Japanese believe that touching this man will bring happiness and good luck, so the point of this festival is to do just that. 

Again there are not many countries in the world where this type of behavior would not be seen as some type of abuse, but during the Hadaka Matsuri Festival it is completely acceptable.

8. Cheese Rolling Festival

Held in England, the Cheese Rolling Festival is celebrated by having a  seven pound wheel of cheese rolled down a hill, with people racing after the cheese wheel in an attempt to catch it. With the cheese rolling down the hill, at a speed that sometimes reaches 70 miles per hour, it is safe to say that practically no one has the chance to get hold of the wheel so essentially the first participant to reach the bottom claims the cheese. Though seemingly mundane, the practice is actually highly dangerous, even lethal at times, because of the level of speed reached as participants race down the steep hill. 

There may never be another event in the world where people run so fast for cheese.