We are lucky to live in a country that supports freedom of expression, which means all clubs, associations and religious organizations are welcome to honor whatever rituals they like, as long as they are not against the law. In some countries, the residents are expected to support and follow some of the rituals that were established by their forefathers, regardless of modernization and progress. In others, certain sectors, tribes and religions have practices we view as being way out there.
Suffice it to say, rituals are still very much a part of cultures worldwide and practice of them do not seem to be diminishing no matter how many men we have in space or how much technology drives our lives. You might think that people in the USA are so modern and progressive that they are above supporting weird rituals. However, if you think about the 320 million residents celebrating Groundhog’s Day, eating turkey on Thanksgiving and throwing simulated rice on brides and grooms, it is pretty clear that ceremonies and customs are a part of nearly everyone’s lives.
After researching hundreds of international ceremonies and customs, we came up with some of the most unusual and interesting to remind you that we live in a big world filled with people and customs that cross all boundaries. Some are funny, while others are a bit gruesome. See what you think and leave your feedback and comments.
10. Baby Jumping – Spain
In the village of Castrillo de Murcia in Spain, the ritual of baby jumping still exists. Luckily, it only happens on the Catholic feast day of Corpus Christi, which is between May 21 and June 24, depending on the year.
What happens during this bizarre practice is that all of the babies that were born in the previous 12 months are laid out on mattresses in the streets and men who are dressed like devils jump over them.
The purpose of the ritual is healthy and positive; it is intended to protect the children from illness, evil spirits and original sin. However, it appears to be more dangerous than not, so that even the pope does not support this one.
9. Special Women Whipped at Easter – Czech Republic
Like many rituals, this one is based on religion. On Easter Monday, women are lightly whipped with a specially designed tool called the ‘pomlázka’, which is a braided rod of willow. Men and boys actually go door-to-door to whip women on the legs, thighs or buttocks until a little blood is drawn.
The women are required to reward the males with chocolate, alcohol or an egg. The reason the women do not mind is because the ritual is intended to provide the women with a year of health, fertility and beauty. It is no longer used by the entire country and in some areas, women are doused with water to strengthen fertility. We think the water shower might be preferable.
8. Death Ritual – Amazonian Tribe
The Yanomami tribe does not hold the belief that death is a doorway to an afterlife. Instead, they fear that the dead person will be gone forever. In order to preserve their relationships and the life energy of the deceased, they use a ritual.
Their dead bodies are cremated and the ashes are then taken and mixed with fermented banana so it can be ingested by the tribespeople. To their way of thinking, this ritual allows their loved one to live on with them. We can’t imagine how they determined that fermented banana was the perfect complement to ashes, but that is the recipe.
7. Birthday Cake Surprise – Mexico
Beware, if you go down to Mexico to celebrate your birthday at a party, you may be in for a big surprise. After everyone sings “Happy Birthday”, you would be encouraged to take the first bite of the birthday cake.
As soon as your face is really close to the cake, it would be gently pushed into the icing. It is called “la mordida”, so while your face is buried in cake everyone around shouts “Mordida”, which generally means “bite”. Interestingly enough, mordida also means bribe in this country.
6. Self Mummification – Japan
Japanese Sokushinbutsu Buddhists monks practice the rite of self-mummification to demonstrate the depth of their spirituality. It is basically a long-term suicide that begins with a three-step process.
Step one is when they eat nuts and seeds for 1000 days. The second step happens over the next 1000 days when they ingest bark and a poisonous tea. Step three is the end of the end, when they put themselves in a sealed stone tomb that contains nothing but a small bell and air tube. The monk will then ring the bell once a day to let outsiders know he is still alive.
When the bell stops ringing, the outsiders know the end has come and the tomb is permanently sealed for 1000 days. Afterwards the monk is removed and his mummified body is displayed.
5. Cannibalism and Necrophagy – India
In Varanaki, India, the Aghori Babas eat their dead to overcome the fear of their own deaths. By eating the dead, they believe they will achieve more enlightenment.
Since the Hindu religion forbids cremation for children, holy men, pregnant or unmarried women and people who have died from snake bites or leprosy, these bodies are placed in the Ganges river and as they float down with the stream, the Aghori Babas pull them out and eat them.
4. Living with the Dead – Indonesia
In the Toraja district of Indonesia, there is a ritual that sounds pretty creepy, although it is actually endearing and respectful when viewed from their perspective. The dead bodies of loved ones are draped in special outfits and put in separate rooms of the house until they can be buried.
Evidently, this is partially done because the cost of a funeral is so high, whereby affording it may even take up to a year. There is another ritual in this district where once a year, they dig up their dead to wash, groom and dress them in new clothes. This is called “The Ceremony of Cleaning Corpses”. Interacting with dead corpses is not something our culture is accustomed to doing, so both seem a bit shocking.
3. Carrying Wife Over Coals – China
In China, when a husband carries his new wife over a hot bed of coals before entering their home for the first time, it is intended to enhance her possibility for an easy pregnancy and labor.
Evidently, the results actually affect the woman’s unborn child and her connection to the baby. Pregnant women are meant to do many additional things to protect their unborn children, such as guard their thoughts, read poetry and stories, never use bad temper and never sit on a crooked mat.
2. Kidnap the Bride – Romania
Kidnapping the bride actually started in Romania centuries ago with gypsies (Romani) who practiced this ritual. It was basically a way to get around paying the bride’s parents to wed their daughter and required the man to successfully kidnap her and get her to stay for 3-5 days.
As a take off on this old custom, modern Romanians are practising a newer version whereby the bride is kidnapped from under the nose of her groom and the guests and taken to a “holding spot”. Since it is a mock kidnap, the ransom comes in the form of a bottle of liquor or something more romantic. The typical holding spot in Bucharest is their Arch of Triumph monument.
1. Throwing Cinnamon at Single People – Denmark
Heaven forbid you live in Denmark, reach the age of 25 and are still single. No matter how much it is expected, it is still a big surprise when your friends cover you in a cinnamon shower all day on your birthday.
This tradition actually began in the 16th century when unmarried spice traders turning 30-years-old and not married were covered in pepper. The cinnamon ritual was developed more recently, to give singles another jolt and push to get married.