1. Up Helly Aa Fire Festival — Lerwick, Scotland
When: Last Tuesday in January
Where: Lerwick, Scotland
Why you should go: This is Europe’s largest fire festival, complete with the burning of a full-scale Viking ship
2. Holi — Celebrated by Hindus Around the World
When: March 27 (for 2014)
Where: India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and other Hindu regions
Why you should go: Holi, also known as the Festival of Colors, celebrates the end of winter and the beginning of spring. It’s fun, safe, and free. Just remember to BYOD (bring your own dye).
3. Songkran Water Festival — Chiang Mai, Thailand
Jack Kurtz / Stringer
When: April 13–15 (for 2014)
Where: Chiang Mai, Thailand
Why you should go: This is the water fight of your dreams, so back up your Super Soakers, water balloons, and water bottles and head to Thailand for a wet and wild adventure.
4. Baby Jumping or El Colacho– Murcia, Spain
Where: Murcia, Spain
Why it’s weird: Men dressed as the Devil (known as the Colacho) jump over babies born during the previous twelve months of the year who lie on mattresses in the street!!! Why, why, why? Anyone who views this must feel their unborn children trembling in fright.
Baby jumping (El Colacho) is a traditional Spanish practice dating back to 1620 that takes place annually to celebrate the Catholic feast of Corpus Christi in the village of Castrillo de Murcia near Burgos.
The festival has been rated as one of the most dangerous in the world. The origins of the tradition are unknown but it is said to cleanse the babies of original sin, ensure them safe passage through life and guard against illness and evil spirits.
5. Egremont Crab Fair and Sports -Cumbria, UK
Photograph courtesy of Mike McKenzie.
When: September 20
Where: Egremont, Cumbria
Come and pull the ugliest face you can muster – those without teeth have an unfair advantage.
Egremont Crab Fair and Sports was established in 1267, which makes it one of the oldest fairs in the world. It combines ancient and traditional events with modern attractions. Events start in the early morning and continue into the late evening.
6. UFO Festival-Roswell, New Mexico
When: beginning of July
Where: Roswell, New Mexico
Staged in Roswell, New Mexico, the home of all things UFO-related, this festival takes place at the beginning of July annually and attracts thousands who the dress up as aliens and partake in activities such as attending lectures about extraterrestrials.
7. Toe-Wrestling Championship-UK
Where: Bentley Brook Inn, near Ashbourne on the Staffordshire/Derbyshire border
Toe wrestling is a sport gaining popularity in the UK. World championships started in Wetton in the 1970s and are now held at the Bentley Brook Inn in Ashbourne, Derbyshire. Top players include Paul “Toeminator” Beech and Alan “Nasty” Nash, who is the current world champion.
8. Thaipusam, Festival-Celebrated by Hindus Around the World
Where: India, Singapore, and Malaysia
It is celebrated mostly by Tamil community on the full moon in the Tamil month of Thai and celebrates the birth of Murugan, the son of gods Shiva and Parvati.
The revelers shave their heads to perform a pilgrimage, and it spirals downwards from there during the celebration. At the end of the rituals, participants shove sharp skewers through their tongues or cheeks and some put hooks on their back to pull heavy objects. Bizarre it might sound but the aim of the festivities is to endure as much pain as possible and those who endure the most pain are said to be given the most blessings.
9. Cooper Hill’s Cheese Rolling Festival — Gloucester, England
When: May 26 (tentative for 2014)
Where: Gloucester, England
Why you should go: If you’ve ever wanted to watch hundreds of men run down a hill while chasing a wheel of cheese, then you’re in luck — because the Cooper Hill Cheese Roll not only exists, it’s quite the romp.
10. Wife-Carrying Championship-Sonkajärvi, Finland
When: August 18-19
The North American Wife Carrying Championships take place every year on Columbus Day Weekend in October at Sunday River Ski Resort in Newry, Maine.
Where: Sonkajärvi, Finland; Monona, Wisconsin; Minocqua, Wisconsin; and Marquette, Michigan.
Wife carrying is a sport in which male competitors race while each carrying a female teammate. The objective is for the male to carry the female through a special obstacle track in the fastest time. The sport was first introduced at Sonkajärvi, Finland.
Looks fun…I would like to participate… lol!
11. Clean Monday-Greece
When: early March
Where: Galaxidi, Greece
Flour may not be a food, as such, but it is an ingredient. So, when Greek revelers dye it in a rainbow of colors and then fling fistfuls of it at one another, that makes for a food festival. Marking the first day of Orthodox Lent, in early March, Clean Monday is a two hundred-year-old tradition in the Greek town of Galaxidi. Galaxidi is a four-hour journey by shuttle or airport transfer from Athens airport. The sound of cowbells rings out over the town to announce the beginning of the battle, in which everyone gets well and truly filthy. The fight ends with everybody hurtling into the sea to wash themselves off, before enjoying a wild night out at the town’s tavernas. Way-hey!
12. Kirpinar Oil Wrestling Tournament — Erdine, Turkey
When: June 29–July 5 (for 2014)
Where: Erdine, Turkey
Why you should go: Strong men wrestling while covered in oil. There is literally nothing else to say.
13. The Camel Wrestling Festival– Selcuk, Turkey
When: end of January
Where: Selcuk, Turkey
Camel wrestling is a sport in which two male Tülu camels wrestle, typically in response to a female camel in heat being led before them. It is most common in the Aegean region of Turkey, but is also been practiced in other parts of the Middle East and South Asia.
The events can occasionally be hazardous to spectators if the Camels attempt to flee through the crowd. Other hazards include Camel spittle. On some occasions fights also break out between the owners of camels.
Animal lovers will be happy to know there’s little damage done, and hardly ever bloodshed.
14. Running of the Bulls — Pamplona, Spain
Pedro Armestre / Stringer
When: July 6–14
Where: Pamplona, Spain
Why you should go: Let’s be real — who doesn’t like watching people make fools of themselves? The Running of the Bulls is a time-honored Spanish tradition, which is such to raise your adrenaline levels, whether you’re running or watching.
15. La Tomatina — Buñol, Spain
When: The last Wednesday in August (August 27, 2014, & August 26, 2015)
Where: Buñol, Spain
Why you should go: As crazy as it may seem, this festival is held every year purely for fun, meaning it isn’t tied to any ancient traditions. In 1945 a few locals began throwing fruits and vegetables during a parade — and ever since then, the tomato-throwing festival has continued on. The tomato fight lasts one hour until the cannons are fired, signifying the end of the event.
16. Cascamorras — Baza, Spain
When: Sept. 6
Where: Baza, Spain, in the province of Granada
Why you should go: Every year hundreds of Spaniards cover themselves in grease to reenact the stealing of a famous statue of “Virgen de la Piedad,”which took place over 500 years ago.
Best of all, after the greasing, a great big party ensues.
17. Oktoberfest — Munich, Germany
When: Last weeks of September to the first weekend in October
Where: Munich, Germany
Why you should go: Though there are many smaller offshoots of Oktoberfest around the world, Munich’s original fair is the biggest beer festival in the world. In 2013, more than $96,178,668 worth of beer was served every day during the festival.
18. Dia de los Muertos — Celebrated by Mexicans in the U.S., Canada, Europe, and Mexico.
When: Nov. 1
Where: Celebrations are held by cultural Mexicans throughout the world, but a few of the bigger celebrations take place in Mexico City and Los Angeles.
Why you should go: Dia de los Muertos, or “The Day of the Dead,” celebrates All Saint’s Day, which remembers all those who have passed before us. A colorful display of costume and culture, Dia de Los Muertos is a day you don’t want to miss.
19. Burning Man — Black Rock City, Nev.
When: Aug. 25–Sept. 1 (for 2014)
Where: Black Rock City, Nev.
Why you should go: Burning Man is where humans go to shed themselves of the conventions of society. If you want a break from the ordinary and can actually party 24/7, then head to the deserts of Nevada.
20. Monkey Buffet Festival-Thailand
When: last Sunday of November
Every year on the last Sunday of November, all of the province’s approximately 600 monkeys are invited to eat fruits and vegetables during an annual feast held in honor of Rama, a hero of the Ramayana, who, it is said, rewarded his friend and ally, Hanuman the Monkey King, with the fiefdom of what is now Lopburi.
Organizers of the annual monkey buffet use more than 3,000 kg of fruits and vegetables for the festival.
21. Montana Testicle Festival-USA
When: last weekend in July or first weekend in August
Where: Rock Creek Lodge-Clinton, Montana, USA
The Testicle Festival is really about what it says… a tribute to the eating of ‘Bulls Balls’…..it is also a great excuse to drink and party! It includes notable events like wet t-shirt contest, hairy chest competition, and the bullshit bingo.
22. Mud Wrestling Festival– Korea
When: July 18–27 (for 2014)
Where: Boryeong, South Korea
Why you should go: Korea is known for its plethora of seemingly random festivals, but MudFest is perhaps the greatest among them. It takes place right by the Daecheon Beach, so you can easily muddy yourself up, then pop into the ocean to rinse off.
The Boryeong Mud Festival was originally created in 1998 as a marketing scheme to promote “mud cosmetics,” aka the mineral-rich mud that washes up on the shores of Daecheon Beach.
23. Go Blonde Festival-Riga, Latvia
When: last week of May
Where: Riga, Latvia
The Go Blonde Festival presents a parade of more than 2,000 blond women dressed in pink and their fans in order to promote economic growth and cheer up people. The event is organized by the Latvian Association of Blondes.
24. Day of the Geese-Basque Country
Where: Spanish Autonomous Community of Basque Country
The Day of the Geese, also known as Antzar Eguna, is a competition held as part of the San Antolín festival in the Basque fishing-town of Lekeitio, in which “brave” contestants have to wrench the head of a goose while being plunged into the water.
Boats pass beneath the bird, from which leap young men who hold on to the goose, which has been greased, and try to remove its head as those holding the rope on either side of the harbor pull the rope taught to raise the man and bird into the air and then let the rope slacken to send them falling into the water. This is repeated until either the young man has fallen off, in which case the next participant takes his place, or he has successfully removed the head of the goose. Any dispute as to who has won is resolved by racing around San Nicolas Island in the middle of Lekeitio Bay. As a prize, the winner of the competition gets to keep the goose.
The Day of the Geese used to be celebrated with live geese, at least nowadays they kill the goose beforehand (if that can be considered a positive aspect).
25. Goat Throwing Festival-Spain
Where: Manganeses de la Polyvorosa, Spain
The goat is then paraded through the streets on the shoulders of partygoers and thus begins the annual San Vicente de Martir festival!
No one knows exactly when/ how this tradition started, but it has been going on for generations, and the origins are speculated to be from when Saint Vincent himself came to visit the area. The well-loved lad would travel through the countryside with his goat. He would give the goat’s milk to the poor and needy. One day the goat ended up in the church bell tower, possibly having followed St. Vincent or else was looking for food when the bells went off and the extremely startled goat leaped out of the window. Luckily there were some townsfolk under the tower who managed to catch the goat. Possibly with a blanket, they were holding out. How convenient. Regardless, all variations of the legend have one thing in common; a goat flying out of the window. Not surprisingly, this tradition has raised more than a few eyebrows and has many animal rights activists shaking their angry fists.
26. Redneck Games-USA
The games themselves are down-and-dirty events like bobbing for pig’s feet, seed spitting, dumpster diving, hubcap hurling, bug zapping by spitball, an armpit serenade and a big-hair contest.
27. The Battle of the Oranges– Ivrea, Italy
When: end of February
Where: Ivrea, Italy
Every year at the end of February, the small northern Italian town of Ivrea comes under fruit attack during the Battle of the Oranges. Thousands come from far and wide to take part in the annual Carnevale di Ivrea, and it’s safe to say that no one leaves untouched by pulp.
Participants are divided into teams in carriages, who ride through the town and represent the emperor’s men, and teams on foot, which stay on the ground and represent the commoners. All, of course, are in full costume and armed with arance.
28. Onbashira Festival– Japan
The Onbashira festival (can be literally translated as “the honored pillars”) is reputed to have continued, uninterrupted, for 1200 years. The festival is held once every six years, however, the locals may say “once in seven years,” because of the traditional Japanese custom of including the current year when counting a length of time.
It looks scary and dangerous but it is still practiced in certain parts of China. Thousands of people come to witness this sport as it is not practiced anywhere else in the world on this scale.
29. Hadaki Matsuri (Naked Man Festival)-Japan
Hadaka Matsuri is a type of Japanese festival in which participants wear a minimum amount of clothing; usually just a Japanese loincloth, sometimes with a short happi coat and rarely are completely naked. Whatever the clothing, it is considered to be above vulgar on the level of holy Japanese shrine attire. Naked festivals are held in dozens of places throughout Japan every year, usually in the summer or winter. The most famous festival is held in Okayama, where the festival originated.Its origins lie in a decree issued by Emperor Shotoko in 767, which ordered the nation to offer prayers in order to dispel a plague. Want to participate? Then you ‘ll have to battle10,000 naked men for lucky “Holy Sticks.” Feelin’ lucky?
30. Mt. Hagen Sing Sing Festival-Papua, New Guinea
Where: Papua, New Guinea
Hundreds of Huli adorned with lavish face and body paint, dressed in their tribal attire arrive to show their distinct culture and peacefully share traditions. They dance and play music on homemade instruments, etc.
The sing-sings began in the 1960s as a government effort to halt centuries-old tribal rivalry and warfare.
Where: Thessaloniki, Greece
More than 2500 bell wearers from Greece and abroad dress up and parade from the White Tower till the Aristotelous Square with the loud rhythm of the bells in order to exorcize the bad demons that affect the fertility of nature.