The word “festival” has many connotations, most commonly connotations that relate to music, dance, performance and prayer. Some of the most notable festivals from around the world include Mardi Gras, Carnaval, Burning Man, Coachella and Tomorrowland. Other well known religious festivals include Holi and Christmas. Festivals are huge local and national events that bring people together in a number of different ways. Festivals are now a summertime staple for many people, and the huge variety of festivals that exist today give people endless opportunities to have fun, travel and discover.
Music festivals, such as Coachella and Glastonbury, are the most universal of all festival genres. Glastonbury, which was started by hippies in a lowly field the day after the death of Jimi Hendrix, now has an annual attendance rate in the hundreds of thousands and has seen some of the world’s most iconic music acts grace its stages. And there’s huge money in these festivals: While figures for 2014 haven’t been released, Coachella 2013 raked in a staggering $67 million dollars.
However, some festivals around the world are a little different from those we commonly hear about. An increasing number of weird, wonderful, dangerous and even worrying festivals have come to light in recent years. While some stem from ancient tradition, others were invented recently and are purely in the name of fun. Take a look at our list of the 10 Weirdest Annual Festivals to see some of the strangest and most colourful events from around the globe.
10. Monkey Buffet, Thailand
The Monkey Buffet Festival is a festival that is held annually in Thailand. The aim of the festival, which takes place in the town Lopburi, is to promote tourism. Lopburi has a large population of Long Tailed Macaques. In a sense, the monkey population in the town has gotten rather out of hand: there are currently over 3,000 of them living in downtown Lopburi. The Monkey Buffet became a simple way to make the otherwise troublesome monkey population profitable. The Khmer temple is filled with pyramids of fruit and flowers, attracting every monkey in the town. The town is located close to Bangkok, which means that many tourists spill over from the capital to join the festivities.
9. El Colacho, or “Baby Jumping”, Spain
This bizarre Spanish festival dates back to the early 1600s, and is a traditional way of celebrating the Catholic feast Corpus Christi in Northern Spain. During the festival, a man dresses up as the devil or “colacho”. A group of babies are then placed on a square of material on the ground outside. The colacho then jumps over the group of babies, an act which is supposed to rid the young children of evil. The festival has never reported any injuries, but many believe that the practice is simply too risky and must be banned. The former Pope Benedict XVI famously asked Spanish priests in the area to cut any ties they had with the festival.
8. La Tomatina, Spain
La Tomatina is a festival that is held annually every summer in the town on Buñol, Spain. The origin of the festival remains a question mark- some say that it began when tomatoes were thrown at animals who were found stealing food from the market. Other stories state that it simply stemmed for market traders having a bit of fun, and eventually more and more people got involved over the years. The giant food fight lasts for one hour and uses about 40 tonnes of tomatoes. Tomatoes are the only thing that may be thrown, and they must be crushed beforehand to avoid injuring your target. At the end of the festival, the village is sprayed clean. Interestingly, the acidic juice from the tomatoes acts as a cleaning agent, leaving the streets sparkling clean!
7. Wanderlust Yoga Festival, Hawaii
Wanderlust is an annual festival that takes place every year in Oahu, Hawaii. It’s an international festival entirely dedicated to yoga. People flock to the island each year from all over the world to practise yoga in huge numbers, and in a huge variety of ways. Visitors can take part in ordinary yoga or the more extreme Stand-Up Paddleboard (SUP) yoga (when you do yoga on a floating surfboard). Other events include life coaching and “Blissology” workshops. This festival is the ultimate go-to for those who want some serious down time.
6. Encierro, or The Running of the Bulls, Pamplona
The Running of the Bulls is a very famous festival that takes place in Pamplona, Spain. The Pamplona festival is the most well-known, but other versions of the festival exist in Portugal and Mexico. With the route marked off by barricades, runners race through the town as a group of bulls charge after them. The practice is incredibly dangerous and there are many human injuries every year – so far, 15 people have been killed during the bull run. The festival has also raised concerns amongst animal rights organisations, who state that subjecting the bulls to the run, which is viewed by thousands of screaming spectators, is cruel and traumatising.
5. Snow & Ice Festival, China
This magical festival takes place every year in Harbin, China. This is a festival that caters to spectators. Sculptors display some of the most incredible ice and snow sculptures on earth at this festival. Every year, over 7,000 sculptors and artists take part to create the outdoor art pieces. This year, the festival had an estimated 1 million visitors. The incredible ice sculptures have coloured lights, making them breathtaking by night. Some sculptures even have in-built ice slides!
4. Woodstock Fruit Festival, New York
The WFF was created only four years ago, but already it has a band of loyal followers. The purpose of this festival is to promote the raw food movement – a lifestyle popularised by the diet guru Dr. Douglas Graham which advises those following it to eat only raw fruits, vegetables and nuts. The festival is open to those who already follow a raw food diet, or for those who are curious about it. It allows raw foodists to mix with like-minded people as they enjoy unlimited free fruit and vegetables. Other events include fitness classes and vegan cookery lessons. The entire festival is centred around health, relaxation and wellbeing.
3. Thaipusam, Southern and Southeast Asia
Thaipusam is a Hindu festival that is celebrated by the Tamil people. Asian countries that have Tamil communities include Thailand, India, Sri Lanka and Singapore. During Thaipusam, participants carry a kavadi (a wooden, decorated box) on their heads. The kavadi is supported by needles which are pierced through the skin of the carrier. This is an act which signifies either thanksgiving or penance. Participants gather in a temple and make a journey outdoors together, forming a long line of pierced, kavadi-holding people who are praying, singing or dancing. The devotion of the participants is certainly incredible- the body piercings endured are not for the faint of heart. Many people abstain from food for many days before the festival, which induces a trance-like state.
2. Kanamara Matsuri, Japan
The Kanamara Matsuri festival is an annual springtime festival held in Kawasaki. The festival is a celebration of the human phallus. You read that right – the festival simply celebrates the penis. The surprising festival is actually predominantly religious, a festival where people pray for fertility. Attractions include a penis parade, in which giant penises are rolled through the streets. Attendees can buy penis masks and penis-shaped popsicles. All the profits from these suggestive goods are donated to HIV treatment centres. The festival’s roots stem back to the 1700s, when prostitutes visited the Kanamara shrine in Kawasaki to pray that they didn’t contract a sexually transmitted disease.
1. Antzar Eguna, or “Day of the Geese”, Basque Region
This annual festival is centred around a very disturbing event. In a bizarre practice, a goose covered in grease is hung from a rope over a stretched out over a lake. Participants then take turns lunging at the goose and attempting to pull its head off before they fall into the water. The rope that the goose is hung from is jerked by other people in order to make the decapitation more difficult.
This barbaric festival came under attack by animal welfare groups for obvious reasons. As a result, dead geese must now be used instead of live geese during the festival. However, a large amount of people openly disagree with the festival and have called for it to be abolished.