Now that the Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations are over, and Easter seems but a distant promise, many may be feeling a little down, counting the days until the next bank holiday. The traditional public holidays, religious celebrations and national memorials all have their merit, but did you ever wish the world’s calendar-makers would come up with some more wonderfully frivolous celebrations to fill up the empty weeks?
In fact, with just a little creative investigation you could make almost every day a celebration. And why not? We’ve taken a look at the funniest, yummiest and downright weirdest national holidays that take place around the world and compiled a top ten list to brighten your year. For fans of Halloween candy and Easter eggs, there’s everything from pickled herring to skull-shaped lollipops on our list. The festivals range from local events that pertain to a particular village to national public holidays, and reveal the traditions, experiences and beliefs of each nation in which they were born. We were hard pressed to find any interesting or out-of-the-way festivals in January, which means that the first month of the year will have to maintain its title as ‘most depressing month’ with little to alleviate it but the January sales!
10. February 5th: National Weatherperson’s Day
Last February the US celebrated National Weatherperson’s Day, which – as you may have guessed- celebrates weatherpeople the world over. The celebration date was picked to coincide with the birthday of one of America’s first weather observers, John Jeffries, who embarked on weather reporting in 1744. Today however, the event is more closely related to picking the best – or at least the most memorable moment – of weather-related news each year. For anyone who has ever watched a side-splittingly cringey Anchorman-style weather report on YouTube, this holiday is for you.
9. March 14th: Steak and BJ Day
This event may be somewhat overshadowed by the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations which take place only three days afterwards, but March is also the month men the world over celebrate, well, their own masculinity it seems. March 14th is national steak and blow job day, a fairly self-explanatory festival centring around the benchmarks of Western man’s masculinity: meat and, well his meat. It was initially set up as a counterpoint to the female-centric Valentine’s day celebrations of the previous month. If this seems like something of a crude or indeed redundant festival, then you may want to skip our next contender…
8. First Sunday of April: Kanamara Matsuri or Penis Festival
On the first Sunday of April, the Japanese town of Komaki celebrates men and their manhood. The festival is, of course, based around a traditional celebration of fertility and as such the festival is, in fact, deeply rooted in spirituality. However, due to the phallic nature of this festival, it has attracted significant tourist interest over the years. Presumably, it’s something for men to look forward to after Steak and BJ day.
7. May 24th: Bermuda Day
There are many reasons for wanting to live on the tropical island of Bermuda: sun, sea, sand, a relaxed pace of life, all of which are celebrated by this national holiday: May 24th is the day Bermudians celebrate the piece of clothing essential for any family holiday, the Bermuda shorts. In homage to this small nation’s massive contribution to fashion, Bermudians relax the dress code and wear their shorts for the day, to everything from trips to the beach, to business meetings. For anyone currently in a warmer climate and contemplating how many layers will be necessary for modesty around the office, this festival is for you.
6. June 21st: Midsommar
The traditional festival of Midsummer or ‘Midsommar’ is celebrated in many parts of the world, but it is in the Scandinavian regions that the longest day of the year is most famously celebrated. On June 21st, Swedes up and down the country don traditional costume, set up gloriously long dining tables outside, and load them up with enough pickled herring, summer berries, and alcohol to take them through a long year never mind a long day. They erect a May Pole for revellers to spend the summer night dancing around. Floral decorations in women’s hair are also a nice accompaniment. But really the emphasis is on eating, drinking and dancing. If you’re still stuck, perhaps this banned Ikea advert will help you figure it out.
5. August 12th: Melon Day
Another of the more quaint festivals to join our list, Melon Day is celebrated by the central Asian nation of Turkmenistan. Melon growing in the region has been a tradition since ancient times and melons have been used for medicinal purposes as well as for their nutritional value and sweet taste. Turkmens are said to be proud of the nation’s melon heritage and awards are given by the government to the country’s best melon growers. Indeed, the festival is so popular that it has even spread over into nearby Tajikistan. There, the festival centres on melons and honey, ensuring that Melon Day in Turkmenistan remains a truly unique event.
4. August 21st: Bolas de Fuego
The second of our August festivals, Bolas de Fuego takes places annually in the town of Nejapa in El Salvador. For any non-Spanish speakers out there, Bolas de Fuego translates as Balls of Fire and the festival originates from a volcanic eruption in 1658 which threw flaming orbs into the sky. Citizens of Nejapa commemorate the event by recreating the fiery sky: rags are soaked in flammable liquid and they’re thrown throughout the town. While this is obviously a serious hazard in terms of health and safety, it seems the local authorities turn a blind eye to the celebrations – as this festival has been going for over 300 years, the flaming skies are just a part of the fun for El Salvadorians.
3. September 20th-25th: Blessed Rain Day
If you happen to live in a country that gets as much rain as Bhutan, then you’ll probably understand why it is they celebrate when the sun finally comes out. Bhutan is subject to the rains of monsoon season and so, when the skies finally clear and the rains are over, Blessed Rain Day is celebrated. The waters in the country as considered sacred on these days, and people are encouraged to take public baths to cleanse and purify themselves. There is no precise date to this festival – at least not in the western calendar – but the festival is scheduled according to lunar changes and the calendar used by Bhutan as well as neighbouring Tibet and other regions. The day is a public holiday with all official buildings closed.
2. November 1st: El Día de los Muertos
Easily the most famous of the bizarre festivals on our list, El Día de los Muertos or The Day of the Dead is known for it’s colourful – albeit macabre – costumes and celebrations. The November 1st festivities to remember the dead are celebrated around the world and the tradition can be found in many pre-Christian and pagan celebrations. As such, the Latin American festivities combine both Christian and pre-Columbian elements and are intended to commemorate the dead joyfully, rather than in sadness. Skulls and other gothic imagery can be found on everything from sweets to religious displays as the dead are invited to rejoin the community and take part in the fun. Colourful costumes, parades and processions are all a major part of this day, meaning that the Day of the Dead is one of the most visually striking festivals out there.
1. November 6th: Obama Day
Since 2008, November 6th has been known in Kenya as Obama Day, named of course after the current American President. President Obama’s father was born in Kenya and members of his extended family still live there. When Obama was first elected in 2008, Kenyan were so delighted they decided to name the day in his honour. More radical members of American political life see Obama’s Kenyan heritage as a way to discredit him, even going so far as to claim that he was not born in America, but in the African nation. As the last holiday on our list, Obama Day appears to be the only one to come with its own conspiracy theories.