There are many different celebrations and holidays throughout the year, all belonging to different nations and cultures. Some of these we all know well, such as Christmas, Easter, Halloween, Diwali or Hanukkah – though you might be surprised at how much festive customs in other countries can vary from our own! There are certainly some very strange ways to celebrate Christmas if you choose to travel abroad for the holidays.
Even stranger are some of the lesser known festivals and celebrations which take place through the year – those which are confined to small communities, and which have sprung up through that nation’s own cultures and customs. Here are some of the most unusual holidays, festivals and celebrations you can find around the world.
Nyepi in Bali
When you think of New Year’s Eve, you no doubt think of parties, of champagne, and of fireworks over Sydney Harbour. The changing of the year is a time for celebration all over the world, seeing out the old year and ringing in the new one. However, Bali’s approach to the New Year coming (which falls for them in March or April) is very different.
The day before the New Year begins is called Nyepi, or the ‘Night of Silence’. For 24 hours, all activity must stop. That includes no electronic devices, no work, no socializing, no play and no leaving the home. Most notably, no talking is permitted. The whole region falls into complete silence for the entire day and night, instead focusing on ‘self-reflection’. Just in case that doesn’t kill the party buzz, security guards patrol the streets and enforce the ‘no activity’ rule.
Noche de Rábanos in Mexico
If you visit Mexico on Christmas Day, you will find many of the traditional symbols you expect – Christmas trees, nativity scenes, big family dinners and gifts for loved ones. If you turn up a couple of days early to the city of Oaxaca, however, you will get to experience a very unique holiday indeed. December 23rd in the region marks the ‘Noche de Rábanos’, or in English, ‘The Night of The Radishes’.
Radish carvings which represent religious icons have been a small Christmas custom in Mexico for many years, but the tradition has grown into an event all of its own in Oaxaca. Hundreds of locals and those who have travelled to the event take part in the carving competition, with a grand prize for the best scene created entirely from radishes.
La Tomatina in Spain
Spain is well known around the world for its crazy festivals and events. Among the most familiar are the bullfighting championships – a dangerous and violent twist on the typical US rodeo – and the ‘Running of the Bulls’, which is literally a herd of angry bulls released down some narrow streets into a crowd of several thousand people, who then have to run away.
La Tomatina is certainly less dangerous and probably not so well known, but it is still pretty strange. In Buñol during August, Spaniards and people from around the world gather and spend just short of two hours throwing thousands upon thousands of tomatoes at each other. Why? Nobody is quite sure. However, the event has been celebrated for over seventy years and shows no sign of being stopped any time soon.
Groundhog Day in the USA
Many people have heard of Groundhog Day, made famous in the 1993 Bill Murray comedy movie of that name – order the DVD or BluRay from Quickflix if you haven’t seen it yet. But did you know that the event depicted is a genuine holiday, celebrated every February in the USA? Groundhog Day is not a celebration of time endlessly looping, but instead it is an elaborate celebration of a traditional weather prediction celebration.
It is said that if a groundhog emerges from his burrow and it is cloudy, spring will arrive early, but if the groundhog comes out and the sun shines, his shadow will send him hiding away in his burrow for another six weeks. Other countries have their own versions of this custom – in England for example, rain on the national day of St Swithens means 40 days of rain will follow. However, the Americans make this old wives’ tale a full celebration, with early morning groundhog watching, social dinners and street parades.
Tinku in Bolivia
Does your Christmas always end with somebody fighting? Spare a thought for the Bolivians, who have an entire festival devoted to having a good old punch-up with their nearest and dearest. ‘Tinku’ means ‘meeting-encounter’, but you certainly shouldn’t expect to sit down in a fancy boardroom and shake a few hands. Instead, the Andean Aymara people will take to the streets and perform a ‘Festive Tinku’ – somewhere between a war dance and a mass brawl.
Participants of both genders will have physical fights while wearing brightly coloured costumes. Some communities simply mimic the old-style fight club with a tribute dane, but other groups will take the fight literally – even going so far as to throw rocks or use them to punch others. Police often have to get involved and injuries are commonplace during the two to three days that the annual festival occurs.