Next time you travel abroad, try to give the usual sightseeing a miss and you just might stumble upon some zesty and colorful local festivals. Sling on your camera and gulp down a double espresso because you won’t want to miss even a moment of fun that unfurls in front of you. From strutting naked to traveling in coffins, here are ways in which people celebrate top ten nutty festivals from around the world:
10. Phallus Festivals
Head to Greece or Japan to see how people can create a fuss over male genitals. Licking penis-shaped candies, parading with a giant penis, sitting on carved wooden phallus; everything is done with aplomb at the annual Kanamara Matsuri festival in Kawasaki, Japan. A phallic shrine once worshipped by prostitutes attracts hordes in this festival of fertility and fun.
In Lerissa, Greece a similar celebration is held before Easter. Come prepared because you can be goaded to kiss model penises or made to sit on phallus-shaped thrones as locals sing raunchy numbers.
9. Baby-Jumping Festival
Villagers of Spain’s Castrillo de Murcia have taken baby blessing ceremonies to new “heights”. During the annual Corpus Christi, babies are laid down on a mattress for the ritual. Men in devil costumes jump over the babies for the little ones’ sin-cleansing, luck and good health. Recent papal orders have asked the local priests to stay away from the ritual that has been taking place since 1620.
8. Food-Throwing Festivals
Before heading to Spain, where people love throwing-festivals, let’s make a detour to Italy. The Ivrea orange festival started centuries ago when love-struck damsels in balconies threw oranges at suitors in parades. Soon the parade became an open-to-all orange slugfest which attracts tourists from world over.
Most of us know about the famous tomato-throwing La Tomatina fight of Bunol, Spain. But things don’t end with tomatoes in Spain. In Horo’s Batalla del Vino people arm themselves with barrels for a wine war and there is also an annual water fight in Alpujarras near Granada.
Spaniards who are not happy with food-throwing festivities celebrate their own fiestas: dead rats, ant, paint and tar are some objects hurled at these annual Spanish celebrations.
7. Hole-y Festivals
Chants, prayer songs and feasts almost make Thaipusam like other Hindu festivals held in honor of a deity from its huge pantheon of Gods. This Tamil festival takes a different turn when devotees start piercing their skin and face with skewers. The pain is looked up to as a test of endurance and love for Lord Murugun.
6. Naked Festival
January in Japan is as cold as in other northern parts of the hemisphere. But the freezing temperature does not deter thousands of men running in the streets with nothing but a loincloth on them. Hadaka Matsuri is a festival for ritual purification held in different forms across Japan. In Inazawa, men in loin cloths struggle to touch a naked man called Shin-otoko for good luck. These naked festivals are fun events but with undertones of spiritual significance.
5. Near-Death Experience Festival
Heading back to Spain again, we now come to Fiesta de Santa Marta de Ribarteme. This festival celebrates people who faced death and lived to tell the tale. In the small town of Las Nieves, this festival is held in honor of Santa Marta de Ribarteme, the patron saint of resurrection. On the day of celebration a parade is held in which the lucky survivors are carried in coffins to the cemetery and around the church. Offerings are made and blessings are sought by thousands of people who throng the small town every year.
4. Color-Throwing Festival
This is the only Hindu festival where people do not dress up for the occasion. In fact, the oldest of clothes are dug out from wardrobes in preparation for a huge color-throwing festival called Holi. In this spring festival associated with Lord Krishna, people play with colorful powders called gulal. Wet colors are also used in many parts of India. Food and drinks laced with a local cannabis plant called bhang are served during the festival feast.
3. Monkey Buffet Festival
As the name suggests, this festival is a huge feast laid down for primates of Lopburi, Thailand. Tons of fruits and vegetables are laid by devotees in honor of Hanuman, the monkey God. What follows next is absolute mayhem as hordes of monkeys swarm the site, start attacking the food piles and interacting with spectators. The festival over the years has become more lavish and has put this small province on the world tourism map.
2. Fish-Swallowing Festival
At the outset, let us make it clear that this is not your “regular” food festival. Yes, the festival involves consuming fish but the difference is that they are still alive! The last Sunday of every February, residents of Geraardsbergen in Belgium celebrate during the Krakelingen festival, which commemorates an unsuccessful siege of the city. Besides throwing bread rolls, the locals gulp down small wriggling gray fishes called grondeling soaked in red wine. The ceremony draws protests from animal rights activists who want to substitute live fish with fish-shaped marzipan.
1. Crying Baby Festival
Grossly overweight men with loincloths can be a very scary sight for many of us. So, you can imagine how babies will react when held by one of these men. In Konaki Sumo, a Japanese festival, pairs of babies are held by Sumo wrestlers facing each other. The winner is the baby who breaks down first. If the wrestlers were not traumatic enough, the crying winner is held aloft by parents and showered with camera flashes. The festival is based on the Japanese proverb “crying babies grow fast”. Wails, weeps and sobs, on this occasion, signify a blessing for good health.
by Mankani Deepa