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Strange Festivals around the World – Part 1

posted in: Events  |  posted by: Jennifer Gregory on December 10, 2008  |  No Comments

Everyone needs to let loose and have fun at some point. It just so happens that there are a few places around the world where having fun means being a little crazy and taking things just a few feet over the edge. Looking for something weird and entertaining to do? Check out one of these strange, yet still wildly entertaining festivals!

La Tomatina – Valencia, Spain

La Tomatina

Every year thousands of people gather in Valencia, Spain to play with their food – literally. On the last Wednesday of August the streets turn into a hot mess, with tomatoes flying through the air as men and women from all over begin what is quite possibly one of the largest food fights in the world.

La Tomatina Valencia

There’s no real explanation as to why this festival exists, but we highly recommend sticking to a dress code including the oldest clothes you own and a pair of eye goggles. There’s nothing quite as disgusting as getting squished tomato in your eyes!

Never fear, the folks in Valencia aren’t wasting tomatoes just because they can. La Tomatina is actually part of a week-long festival including food, music, non-hostile fun, and even fireworks!

Loy Krathong – Samut Prakan, Thailand

Loy Krathong

The Loy Krathong festival is held towards the end of each year in order to honor the Goddess of the Water. On the full moon of the 12th month of the Thai lunar calendar (usually in November on a standard calendar) citizens gather to release Loy Krathong rafts on the river.

Loy Krathong Festival

The rafts are small in size, usually around the width of a hand, and are made from pieces of the trunks of banana trees. They are then decorated with folded banana leaves, candles, incense, and anything else that might honor the Goddess.

During the festival there are several competitions to judge larger versions of the Loy Krathon raft as well as beauty contests, food, fun, and fireworks. The sight of thousands of small Loy Krathong rafts floating in Thailand’s waterways is a breathtaking vision!

Alien Festival – Roswell, New Mexico

UFO Festival

Every July in Roswell, New Mexico you’ll find a celebration honoring the existence of creatures from other planets. The alien festival, formally known as the Roswell UFO Festival, features dozens of activities all designed to educate the public about the existence of UFOs and alternative forms of life.

Visitors to the Roswell UFO Festival will find themselves amongst true believers. Over the course of the five day festival there are dozens of lectures, book signings, and musical events. You can browse the Alien Village or head on over to the stadium to take part in the annual Alien Chase.

Come alone, visit with friends, and feel free to dress in costume. This event is one you won’t want to miss!

Thai Elephant Day – Thailand

Thai Elephant Day

Thai Elephant Day is a national holiday in Thailand. Approved by the Cabinet in May of 1998, Thai Elephant Day is celebrated on March 13th of every year. Because Elephants are the national animal of Thailand they are highly respected and treasured.

At the turn of the last century the number of elephants living in Thailand was well over 100,000. Sadly, there are now only 3,000 – 4,000 left. Many of these are privately owned while others live in Thailand’s national parks.

During the festivals elephants are honored during a ceremony in which they are fed banana trees, fruit, and sugarcane. If you can’t make it to Thailand on the day of the festival, be sure to stop at the Elephant Conservation Center in Lampang. A popular destination for tourists, the center is also the home of the only dedicated elephant hospital in the world.

Fire Festival, Shetland

Fire Festival

Up Helly Aa is the formla name of the largest fire festival in all of Europe. On the last Tuesday in January the entire town of Lerwick, Shetland goes up in flames – literally.

At Up Helly Aa you’ll find yourself sitting, dancing, or stumbling around the largest bonfire you’ve ever seen in your life. The festival lasts only one day (albeit the entire 24 hours) but takes the entire year to plan.

The head of the festival is known as the Guizer Jarl and will be dressed as a character from the Norse Sagas. The festival is highly ritualistic, as the Jarl visits his doomed ship before it’s torched. Be prepared for an evening of singing, dancing, and fast-paced activity, and don’t worry about making it to work the next day – it’s a national holiday!

Cheese Rolling – Coopers Hill, Gloucestershire, England

Cheese Rolling

Every year people from all over England travel from afar to attend the Cheese Rolling Race on Coopers Hill. The traditional race has been in existence for hundreds of years and is believed to have evolved from festivals meant to bless the land with fertility for a successful harvest. A cheese is thrown from the top of the hill and participants race down to be the the first to grab it at the bottom.

Cheese Rolling Festival

The Cheese Rolling race is a dangerous event, as Coopers Hill is incredibly steep. There are 5 downhill races and 4 uphill races, with each competitor rolling a wheel of real cheese. During the event a quite a number of people have difficulty navigating the hill, resulting in several serious injuries each year.

Records show that the Cheese Rolling event has only been canceled a handful of times, mainly because of difficulty scheduling ambulance support during the event. Even during difficult economic times where food rationing was prevalent the race was still held – instead using wooden cheese wheels as a substitute!

No matter where you go in the world you’re sure to stumble upon some strange and interesting new traditions. Time your trip right and you just may find yourself in the middle of something incredible!

Image credits: 1, 1a, 2, 2a, 2b, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9

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