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Austria: Celebrating Krampus
In Austria, a popular Christmas tradition is to celebrate Krampus, a figure who deals with naughty children. Not only do people dress up as this horned beast, dishing out coal and Ruten (twigs painted gold), but they actually hold Krampuslauf runs where people dress up as huge hairy beasts and run through the streets in a huge alcohol-fuelled rage. The ultimate goal—to spank people. The costumes are varied, and include (but are not limited too) blinking LED eyes, burning horns and props (CHAINSAWS!). On account of the alcohol consumption, they have been known to culminate into a Krampus booty-dance at the end of the night.
Spain: Annual Baby Jumping Festival
Baby Jumping (El Colacho) is a traditional Spanish holiday that takes place during the Catholic feast of Corpus Christi. During El Colacho, men dressed as the devil jump over babies born in the past year as they lie on mattresses in the street. It is thought that this is for luck, and that it could cleanse a babies’ soul of “the original sin”.
Italy: Feast of Polentone
Gorging before fasting is a well-known tradition. I mean, what’s the point unless you get to stuff yourself before AND after? Yet the only country still devoutly religious enough to have this feast turn into some kind of strange omelette-party is Italy. On the Friday before Lent every year, the people of Ponti, in Piedmont, Italy, make a load of maize pudding and a giant omelette containing 1000 eggs, which are then ceremoniously distributed to the poor and needy. Coincidentally, it takes place in a commune. Hurrah!
Czech Republic: The Great Whipped Cream Battle
Just for fun. Enough said?
Japan: Wine Baths
Japan is often seen as a hub of cultural-cool, but sometimes that cool can begin cross over into just plain weird. Remember how Jesus could turn water into wine? Well, so can the Japanese. At Yunessun Spa Resort, they offer a vibrant range of baths, with an equally vibrant range of health benefits. Immerse yourself in red wine, coffee, sake, green tea or even noodles! The menu changes seasonally. Red wine baths are said to reduce cellulite, while the antioxidants in green tea can give you radiant skin. Perhaps the noodles will give you that greasy complexion you’ve always wanted.
In Taiwan there is a bathroom-themed restaurant called “The Modern Toilet”. Here customers can dine out of a sizzling toilet bowl, drink out of a plastic urinal, while sitting on acrylic toilets adorned in “roses, seashells, or renaissance paintings”. Upon researching the menu, I was disappointed to discover that neither the food or the drink resembled human excretion, nor did the names of the menu items have any reference to bodily waste. You wouldn’t find a single sundae resembling poop here ☹
Thailand: “The Lompuri Monkey Buffet”
Every year there is a feast held for the thieving, sneaky monkeys in the tourist haven of Lompuri, Thailand. Because if you can’t beat them, join them? This has become more of a bit of an attraction. It will probably keep them off stealing food for a day or two, but they’ll soon be back in business, stealing bananas and peanuts from unsuspecting Australians (who love it).
Alaska: Ice melting lottery
When half of your life is living in a Frozen wasteland, nothing is more highly anticipated than ice-less-ness. So what better thing to do than to place bets on the EXACT moment of when the ice melts? There are pretty decent cash prizes for it too. But you have to guess, like, right down to the very second. How do they measure that, exactly? Well, a pole on a frozen lake will stop a clock when it falls.
United States: Competitive Dog Grooming
The United States is home to all things absurd. Have you ever heard of child pageants? What about competitive dog grooming? If you take an innocent animal and combine it with hyper-consumerism, this is the inevitable result. The procedures inflicted on the animals verges on animal cruelty. But because the dye is non-toxic, it is morally legit right? When dogs are presented at these competitions, owners often dress up in the same stupid costume as their dog, complete with a scenic backdrop. Sometimes they even do a little performance.
Mexico: Night of the Radishes
The night of the radishes is a giant radish carving festival held in Oaxaca, Mexico every year. Today, the festival is giant in terms of size, particularly size of the radishes. Oaxaca is traditionally a wood carving community, and people began carving radishes after they were introduced in the colonial period to attract the attention of customers. It was so popular that it continues today on a much, much larger scale. Radishes are now grown especially for the event. The land is doused in fertilizers to ensure abnormal growth and unpredictably shaped radishes which also make them unfit for consumption.
In Tsawana culture, there are normal New Years practises. You know, fireworks, partying, food and… customary sex at the stroke of midnight? That is, if you’re lucky enough to be happily married. Sex at the turn of the New Year is said to ensure it will be a fruitful year. On the other hand, it often follows with unnecessary heartbreak and even divorce if one fails to show up, since, you know, it takes two to tango.
Do you like bad soap operas? Did you know that Nigeria has the second largest film industry in the world? For real. Second only to the United States—all that oil-money must have been put to good use! Welcome to Nollywood! Featuring films such as Living in Bondage and Osufua in London. It’s cool, because it all began with an informal, low-quality video trading. So, for fun, they emulate American indulgence and life. Nollywood had a huge boom in the 1990s after a lot of aggressive marketing, which apparently worked because it has gained popularity across the continent.
“Goanna pulling” is Australia’s tug-o-war, but instead of using your hands, you use your neck, and instead of a rope, there are leather straps. Confused? Me too. The name comes from the way contestants position themselves in order to play. Contrary to what the name suggests, they, fortunately, do not actually pull goannas (large, terrifying Australian lizards). People begin in a crawling position with leather straps around their necks, and pull against each other. This is a serious competition. There are weight divisions. Be afraid.
For those of you who didn’t take ANTH101, the Pentecost Islanders of Vanuatu practise land diving, or, bungee jumping over soil. Scaffolds are built, and people jump off them using only rope. The goal is to actually brush the soil with your head, which is said to assure a good harvest for the coming year. If you succeed in doing so you are considered lucky. If you overshoot it by a few inches you could break your neck.
Rotorua, New Zealand is the home of the Zorb—one of the World’s dumbest extreme-leisure activities. Otherwise known as “orbing” or “the human hamster ball”, it has become very popular in Europe. Okay, so I’m not sure if New Zealanders actually do this, but the point is, because we invented it the rest of the world thinks we do. And that’s what matters. Aren’t you proud that we are known as the country to invent this? Like, who cares that we were the first to conquer Everest, or split the atom when we have a giant, inflatable ball of fun.