I think it is pretty safe to assume that each of you reading this has been to some festival of sorts in your lifetime. Every town and city has one, if not many, and there are a plethora of music festivals for every genre. Festivals are a great way for the community or people with like-minded interests to gather and celebrate, well, whatever it is you are celebrating, over food, entertainment, rides, etc... But there are some festivals out there that really make you scratch your head and think WTF!? I know, different strokes for different folks, but who would have thought that these things were popular enough to warrant a whole festival in their honor? On that note, here are 15 of the weirdest festivals around the world.
16 Monkey Buffet Festival
The Monkey Buffet Festival is held yearly in Lopburi, Thailand, just north of Bangkok. And no, it's not buffet full of monkey meat, but rather a buffet for monkeys; the festival is actually held in honor of these lovable primates. The community lays out an amazing banquet of fruits, vegetables, baked goods, candies and even soda on tables in front of temples. They estimate that there is about 8819 pounds of food all together presented to the 3000 monkeys living in the region. But do not fret, there are of course festivities for the humans as well, which include monkey themed music, dances and sculptures. Many people also dress up like monkeys (Though I wonder if any of those costumed humans pretend to be a monkey just to get in on all of that yummy food action).
The festival was launched in 1989 with the original purpose being to attract tourism. And it has been a success, with thousands of people coming each year to be see the spectacle, and perhaps have a monkey rob their lunch, which they have been known to do.
Every January, on the weekend closest to Australia Day, the town of Port Lincoln in South Australia pays homage to this particularly tasty fish during the Port Lincoln Tunarama Festival. The festival includes a wide array of family friendly entertainment, including live music, fireworks, rides and a plethora of vendors. There is a parade that features colorful costumes and floats on the morning if the second day, and later that day someone is crowned the Tunarama Ambassador. But the most famous aspect of the festival is the World Championship Tuna Toss. People travel from around the world to compete in this event. The object: to see who can toss a 22 pound tuna fish the farthest! The winner receives a fairly large cash prize. A few years ago the festival organizers decided to replace the fish used in the trials with a rubber fish, but the finals still use an actual, real tuna. Who wouldn't be proud to be the best tuna tosser in the country?
14 Phuket Vegetarian Festival
Every October the city of Phuket, Thailand hosts a nine day festival in which local residents Chinese heritage stick to a strict vegetarian or vegan diet. the purpose is to achieve a type of spiritual cleansing; those that adhere to it are believed to receive good health and peace of mind. Sacred rituals and ceremonies are performed at various Chinese shrines and temples throughout the city as well. Apparently their gods are sadistic and enjoy watching them mutilate themselves, because all of the rituals include some dangerous act that risks self harm. Entranced festival goers walk barefooted over hot coals (ouch) and climb ladders with blades for rungs (um, no way). The most well-known and oddest ceremony involves festival goers piercing their cheeks with various items. They use pretty much anything with a sharp tip, including knives, skewers, anything you can find in your kitchen drawers, even flag pole tops. But do not fret, the Chinese gods won't allow anyone to really get hurt, or even scar.
13 Konaki Sumo Festival
The Konaki Sumo Festival is held in April in the Sensoji Temple in Tokyo, Japan. Konak means "crying", and there is plenty of that during this weird festival. Sumos, which look like giant men dressed like babies, face each other holding babies to see which one cries first. A priest stands between them and antagonizes the babies. If they both happen to cry at the exact same time, then the louder one is the winner.
If you are wondering who would enter their baby in such a contest, then you need to ask the parents of the 100 babies that enter every year for the past 400 years. There is a positive purpose behind this weirdness; it is meant to serve as a ritual to pray for good health for the babies. The Japanese believe that the louder the baby cries, the more gods' blessing she or he will receive.
12 The Beer Can Regatta
Now this sounds like my kind of festival; a festival that is chock full of frothy ambrosia. The Darwin Lions Beers Can Regatta takes place every July in Darwin, Australia. Contestants construct boats out of, you guessed it, beer cans, and then race them. They can also use soda cans, bottles, and milk cartons to create their wacky vessels. People can get pretty creative in their creations, as there are also competitions for the boats themselves. However, the funky boats usually don't float very well and end up sinking throughout the race, which is all part of the fun. There are a bunch of other equally silly events, such as the "Henley-on-Mindil" competition, where people race their boat-like constructions on land (think The Flintstones). Another competition is a thong toss, where ladies toss their flimsy underwear to see who could throw theirs the farthest. And of course, there is plenty of beer to be consumed throughout the day's festivities.
11 Duct Tape Festival
Americans are so proud of the fact they invented duct tape (which I admit, really is an awesome invention) that they created an entire festival in its honor. The festival is held every summer in Avon, Ohio, who has claimed the title as the “Duct Tape Capital”, since that is where it was invented. It celebrates the history and all the glorious things that you can do with duct tape. It is showcased through duct tape art, sculptures and fashion. There is a parade full of costumes and floats created with, that's right, duct tape. However, let me clarify: not just any duct tape is used. The floats only use Duck brand duct tape from the ShurTech factory in Avon. Each year there is a theme to the parade, this year's having been "Fun in the Sun." There also a fashion show where models strut their stuff, wearing fashions created by the versatile tape. Participants can create duct tapes crafts at the Ducktivities Arts and Crafts Tent. Plus there are plenty of food, games, music and rides to be enjoyed. As you can see, this town really takes its duct tape seriously.
10 Cooper's Hill Cheese-Rolling and Wake
This annual event takes place at Brockworth, England at a local landmark called Cooper's Hill. Originally the event was just for locals, but now people come from around the world to roll their cheese down the hill. Yup, it is a race between cheeses. At the top of the hill, competitors start by rolling their 7 to 9 pound of round Double Cloucestor cheese, which is in a wooden casing decorated with ribbons, down the hill, then chase after it. They are in fact trying to catch their cheese, but since the cheese wheels can reach speeds up to 70 miles per hour, it is unlikely they ever will. So usually the first person across the finish line is the winner. A local cheesemaker and her son supply all the cheese for the race and the winner receives a cash prize.
Considering the length of the hill, the speed of the spinning cheese, and the fact that Brits are involved so most likely there is a lot of alcohol being consumed, there always is at least one injury during the event that results in an emergency trip to the hospital.
9 Kanamara Matsuri Festival
This festival is held every spring at the in Kawasaki, Japan. It is also known as the Festival of the Steel Phallus. An entire festival dedicated to the penis. A parade is held in which a portable shrine (know as a mikoshi) is carried around. And you bet that shrine is in the shape of a giant pink penis. Penis shaped statues adorn the streets, people dress in penis shaped costumes and wear penis shaped masks, they enjoy penis shaped candies and treats, and purchase penis memorabilia.
The festival is held at the Kanamara Shrine, which has a super weird mythology behind it. The story goes that a woman was cursed with vagina that had teeth, which kept biting off the penises of the men she bedded. She then went to a blacksmith, who created an iron dildo for her to use to break off the teeth of her "inner demon." The shrine is in dedication to that blacksmith. Since the 17th century, it is said that prostitutes travel to the shrine to pray for protection from sexually transmitted diseases. Pretty strange history for a festival if you ask me. But then again, it's Japan.
8 Testicle Festival
Yup, another festival dedicated to men's genetalia. But this one is quite different. Yes, it is celebrating testicles, but that is because it takes place in Clinton, Montana, where bull's testicles, also known as rocky mountain oysters, are a traditional meal. The festival was created by ranchers who would meet up to brand and castrate their cattle together, and decided to make a big event out of it. Despite the origins, there still is a heavy focus on the sexual aspect. During the five day festival, you can find such events as the Itty Bitty Titty Contest, Big Dick Competition, women's hot oil wrestling contest and a women's wet-T-shirt contest. The main event, however, is a rocky mountain oyster eating contest. Contestants compete to see who can chow down the most sliced, battered and deep fried bulls' balls. Thirty pounds of it are laid out in the hot sun, ready to be consumed.
Apparently the local authorities aren't the biggest fans of the festival, which is overflowing with alcohol and nudity. So to try to make them happy, the event donates some of their proceeds to charities, the latest fittingly being one for testicular cancer.
7 La Tomatina
Every August, in the town of Buñol, Spain, 30,000 people gather from around the world to compete in a giant food fight that involves over a hundred tons of overripe tomatoes. The entire festival lasts for about a week. It begins as many festivals do, with parades, live entertainment, dance parties and fireworks, and a paella cooking contest (ok, most don't include that, but it's not so far fetched). Then comes the crazy tomato-filled battle.
Trucks dump the tomatoes in the center of town. In order for the "fight" to begin, someone must first climb a long greased pole and pull off a ham that has been strategically placed on top of it. Once it's retrieved, (usually after a slippery battle to the top) a canon is fired and the chaos ensues. Participants are encouraged to wear safety goggles and gloves, and local shop owners cover their stores to protect them against the mess. Afterwards, fire trucks hose down the town and most people clean off in the Buñol River.
6 World Toe Wrestling Championships
No, I am not kidding, toe wrestling is an actual sport, and there is a World Championship competition. It has been going strong since 1976, and is held every year in the UK at the Bentley Brook Inn in Derbyshire. It's much like you would think it would be. Two competitors take their shoes and socks off, place their feet on the 'toedium', interlock their big toes and try to force each other off. Whoever forces the other toes off first wins. Men and women from around the world flock to be crowned the Toe Wrestling Champion of the World. There is a women's division and a men's division; mixed matches are not allowed. In preparation, many have their feet massaged and stretched with some pretty odd equipment. All contestants toes are thoroughly inspected by a nurse prior to the competition, and must be given a clean bill of health in order to compete.
In 1997, the organizers tried to get the Olympics committee to accept toe wrestling into the Olympic Games. Shockingly, they were denied.
5 Boryeong Mud Festival
In the town of Boryeong in South Korea, just South of Seoul, millions of visitors come every summer to play in the mud, literally. Mud from local mud flats is transported to the beach and molded into something called the 'Mud Experience Land', which includes a mud pool, mud slides, a mud prison and mud skiing competitions. Even people not participating in these events will slather themselves in the stuff. The festival was launched in 1996 in an attempt to promote cosmetics derived from the mud in the flats, which is packed with minerals and supposedly has a number of healing properties.
There is also live entertainment and other things for the dirty partygoers to enjoy, like massages, acupuncture and beauty treatments, using, of course, Boryeong mud products. Despite much of the mud products' praise, there was a pesky situation in 2009 in which a group of school children developed skin rashes after playing around in the mud at the festival.
4 Underwater Music Festival
Every July hundreds of divers, snorkelers and boaters gather at Looe Key Reef in the Florida Keys to celebrate the only living coral barrier reef in North America with a very unique concert. Waterproof speakers are placed in the reef, playing a pre-selected musical playlist consisting of songs with ocean themes (like "Yellow Submarine" by the Beatles). Local artist August Powers creates "instruments", such as a "Fluke-a-Lele," for divers to play underwater, mimicking a live show. Participants usually dress up in creative and crazycostumes. (I don't know about you, but if I went, I'd totally be pretending I was Ariel from the Little Mermaid watching Sebastian sing Under the Sea.)
For the divers, the musical experience is quite surreal, as sound travels 4.3 times faster underwater. Those not playing the concert can experience the music at regular speed through their local radio station, or through a worldwide broadcast of the concert itself. The Looe Key Reef Resort's Tiki Bar provides drinks and snacks for everyone above water. Though, alcohol is probably not the best thing to drink before diving into the ocean.
3 Land Diving
This festival is not only strange, but really dangerous. It takes place in April or May in the Pacific islands of Vanuatu. It consists of locals constructing a tower from timber and vines around a tree, climbing that tower, securing their feet with the vines, then diving off of it, 115 feet downward. There is no net for safety in case those vines break, just what is considered "softened earth." The jump is a fertility ritual. The goal is for the jumper's shoulders to touch the ground, thus ensuring the earth's fertility for the upcoming harvest. Young boys also participate in this event, which is coupled with their circumcision, as part of their journey into manhood. Thankfully, they jump from a lower platform.
Each man is responsible for their own platform and vines. I am guessing the reason is that if they end up splattering to the earth, it is considered their own fault. At least they organize the net during a time when the vines are the most supple. Safety first, of course.
2 Las Bolas de Fuego
Las Bolas de Fuego, also known as the Fireball Festival, takes place every August 31st in the town of Nejapa, El Salvador. The festival pays homage to the event in 1922 in which the people of Nejapa had to evacuate because a nearby volcano was erupting. Their religious culture led them to believe that what was actually happening was that their patron saint, San Geronimo, was battling the devil. So to pay homage to his defeating the devil, they reenact this event every year. If it sounds pretty terrifying, that's because it kind of is.
Two teams of men wearing warpaint, gloves, and clothes soaked with water, throw rags dipped in fuel and set aflame at one another as spectators watch on in awe. The goal is for them to obviously avoid the fireballs being launched at them, but some do catch on fire, and even get hit right in the face with fireballs. Shockingly, there aren't a lot of reported injuries during the festival.
1 El Colacho
Yet another festival involving poor innocent babies. It means "baby jumping" and involves grown men jumping over babies. The event takes place in Burgos, Spain and is part of the Catholic feast of Corpus Christi. The act itself is known as El Salto del Colacho, which means "the devil's jump", and dates back to 1620. Babies that have been born during the previous year are laid out on a mattress in the middle of the street. The men from the village then dress like the devil (more specifically, in red and yellow jumpsuits) and proceed to jump over the babies. The purpose is to cleanse the babies from original sin and protect them from illness and evil throughout their lives. The jump launches festivities that continue for a week following. I don't know how the parents could sit back and watch this without having a heart attack, but apparently the many injuries suffered during the festival don't involve the babies, but rather the grown ass men jumping over them.