Festivals celebrate many things, like bountiful produce, patron saints, historic events, and culture. Some are solemn, while others involve dancing, singing, and other performances. All countries celebrate festivals because it’s one way to foster unity among citizens – or residents when the activity is localized.
Almost all festivals are symbolic, but there are quirky and outright weird ones, but that doesn’t mean they are meaningless. For outsiders, it’s hard to understand why some festivals are celebrated unusually, and the only way to grasp their nature is by witnessing them in person. Tourists should not miss attending festivals, be they weird or traditional, as it’s a way to mingle with locals and experience their colorful culture.
10 Boryeong Mud Festival, South Korea
Tourists ready to get down and dirty – literally – should head to Boryeong (Daecheon), home to the largest summer festival on the planet. Happening from July to August, this annual event attracts over two million people from different parts of the world, all eager to experience the wonders of slushy soil. After all, it is believed that Boryeong mud has cosmetic benefits. From being a “dirty beach” in the early 90s, Daecheon beach is now one big playground of international tourists who want to have fun with mud.
9 Baby Jumping Festival, Spain
In Castrillo de Murcia in Spain, the devils do not wear Prada, but bright red and yellow suits — and they hop over babies. The baby jumping festival, locally known as El Colacho, is an annual tradition where babies born in the past 12 months are laid on mattresses on the street, waiting for the arrival of the “devils” who will hop over them. It happens every June 23 and has been around since 1620. This traditional absolution and baptism of sorts attract tourists, who in turn can join the ritual by either being whipped by or berating Colachos (devils).
8 Bolas De Fuego, El Salvador
The summer heat in Nejapa in El Salvador is not just a phrase but a reality because of Bolas de Fuego. When the sun sets every August 31, the Fireball Festival starts its risky spectacle when masked residents throw gas-soaked “balls of fire” at each other. This seemingly dangerous activity commemorates a 1658 volcanic eruption, which, according to legend, was a fight between Saint Jerome and the devil. If it’s getting hot in Nejapa, the crowd is about to get wild.
7 Busó Festival, Hungary
When winter ends, Mohács, Hungary, is flocked by masked creatures called busós, who banish the cold season. Busójárás attracts thousands of visitors who want to witness a unique way to welcome spring. This tradition started when locals drove away invading Turkish forces. Busó Festival caps off the carnival season and is one of the country’s most famous celebrations. Though some costumed participants look scary, their parade is a stunning spectacle that will wow tourists of all ages. Hungary knows how to bid winter goodbye in style.
6 Thaipusam, India
The Hindu festival of Thaipusam is celebrated by Tamils, and it’s not for the faint-hearted. It’s a day of repentance, so it’s common to see festival participants whose bodies are skewered, pierced, or hooked – or all three at the same time. By doing so, devotees believe that they will lose their “arrogance, hatred, and greed.” Happening every January or February, this bloody tradition is a solemn way for believers to have second chances even as it’s flocked by tourists curious about self-flagellation.
5 Golden Retriever Festival, Scotland
Guisachan is a property in the Scottish Highlands where the breed of golden retriever was born. Every year, fur parents flock to the said area as pilgrims, celebrating the history of the breed in front of the ruins of their ancestral home. This cute activity happens every July, and one of its largest gatherings took place in 2018 during the 150th anniversary of the founding of the breed. Joining this furball spectacle will warm the hearts of dog lovers when they see the good boys and girls wag their tails and just be cute without doing anything.
4 Battle Of The Oranges, Italy
Alongside the tomato-throwing festival of La Tomatina in Spain, Italy’s Battle of the Oranges is among the world’s craziest celebrations. The photos and videos look stunning – and painful, maybe – but when tourists are in Ivrea throwing fruits, they’ll feel ecstasy and adrenaline. The festival dates back to medieval times as a commemoration of when residents were freed from the clutches of an evil duke, with the battle a reenactment of the fight between residents and the nobleman’s supporters. Today this fest kicks off the town’s carnival season, giving anyone more than the energy they need for a fun-filled celebration.
3 Rocket War, Greece
There’s a never-ending battle on the Greek island of Chios, and no one knows how this war started. Two hillside churches have been sending rockets at each other once a year since the Ottoman era. They even used cannons until 1889. Though considered by some locals as disruptive, Rouketopolemos continues to this day because it has become a tourist attraction. During the “war,” buildings and the two churches are boarded up with metals, except for their belfries. The goal of each opposing side is to hit as many times the other church’s bell. The next day, both churches announce victory and decide to settle the score next year – hence the never-ending conflict in Vrontados.
2 Argungu Fishing Festival, Nigeria
For four days, anglers who want to test their skills flock to Kebbi in Nigeria for the Argungu Fishing Festival. Matan Fada River serves as their playground as they compete in traditional practices like hand fishing, wild duck catching, and canoe racing. Happening between late February and March, this spectacular festival also involves wrestling, boxing, singing, and dance, making it a holistic celebration for locals and tourists. This cultural event is a conglomeration of many traditions, making it a feast for the eyes and food for the soul of curious wanderers.
1 Emma Crawford Coffin Races, U.S.A.
Every October, Manitou Springs celebrates the life of a long-dead woman uniquely: through racing. The Emma Crawford Coffin Races started in the early 90s and were inspired by the story of Crawford, who was buried in Red Mountain, but her coffin was dislodged by heavy rainfall, causing it to race down the mountain – hence the racing tradition. During this activity, costumed participants flex their wheeled coffins carrying a Crawford impersonator. It is believed that Crawford still haunts the mountain, but if she sees the race, she will probably enjoy the ride, too.