Unique World Traditions That Show Every Culture Has Some Quirk In It

Sun Apr 03 2022

The world is filled with unique experiences to tickle everyone’s fancy. In every corner of the world, there is something that we can all find entertaining, exciting, or downright strange. From festivals in the middle of the desert where wooden models are set ablaze (like we have pictured here), to people dressing up as zombies and strolling through their city, there’s no shortage of interesting experiences to have.

Whether you want to see big, burning figures, or just want to see a field full of doggies coming to cuddle with each other from far and wide, there is something out there for every interest. We’ve compiled a list of some of the most unique traditions around the world that might be worth your while to check out.

El Calacho Baby Jumping Festival — Castrillo de Murcia, Spain

In a small town in northern Spain, between Madrid and Bilbao, inhabitants gather from far and wide to watch men jumping over babies. They reportedly are dressed like the devil and ceremoniously jump over babies laying peacefully with one goal in mind.

The festival happens 60 days after Easter and has been ceremoniously continued since 1600. While it might seem like pure entertainment, it’s actually intended to absolve all babies born in the last year absolved of any sin. That’s right, they’re not getting away with all those dirty diapers.

Wife Carrying World Championship — Sonkajärvi, Finland

If you were wondering if there was a specific word for wife-carrying in Finnish, well, there is. Known as eukonkanto in Finnish, wife-carrying originated as an official competitive sport in Sonkajärvi, Finland in 1992. This is has been part of their tradition, though, for much longer.

The participants are allowed to carry their wives however they see fit, but many choose to carry their wives “Estonian style,” with their wives legs wrapped around their shoulders while slung over their backs. Participants carry their wives through an obstacle course of 253.3 meters, and winners are rewarded with their wives’ weight in beer!

New Year’s Nyepi Day of Silence — Bali, Indonesia

While the rest of the world is celebrating New Year’s Day nursing a hangover and celebrating a new beginning, citizens of Bali are doing it a little bit differently. They’re spending the whole day in silence, and they’re taking their silence to a whole new extreme.

Every worldly activity you can think of is postponed for the day. There are no traffic lights, the airport closes, and really anything that gets in the way of complete and total meditation shuts down. They’re fully committed to the tradition of keeping their whole day quiet.

Air Guitar World Championships — Oulu, Finland

When you think of air guitar, you probably think of people pretending to jam out with themselves on a guitar that doesn’t exist. Well, these people seem to be able to take their love of playing this fictional instrument to the next level when they enter the annual Air Guitar World Championship in Oulu, Finland.

People come from far and wide to try their luck at becoming the world’s top air-guitarist. That’s right, people travel from all ends of the earth to get on stage and show an arena full of people just how great they are at using their imagination. How good is that?

Monkey Buffet Festival — Lopburi, Thailand

There is nothing quite as great as an annual celebration in which monkeys are worshipped and treated like royalty. Located in a lush area of central Thailand, shrines of food are erected in order to honor their citizens that swing from tree to tree.

There is a monkey population nearing 4,000 in this province north of Bangkok, and they’re gifted a feast of nearly 40,000 kilograms consistent of fruits and vegetables, cakes, and candies. It began in 1989 by a local businessman who wanted to drive up tourism in the region. It was a success and continues to this day.

International Hair Freezing Contest — Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada

Up in the Great White North, residents of the frigidly cold Yukon region made the most of their frequently freezing temperatures and made us laugh in the process. Every February, participants in the contest visit Takhini Hot Pools and take a dip under water. It’s what happens after they resurface that gets everyone excited.

Temperatures at the time are typically -22° Fahrenheit, creating the perfect opportunity to end up with a frosty head. Participants are up for a cash prize and continually shape thir locks of hair into unique shapes. Thre’s nothing they can’t freeze at temperatures like that.

Purim Zombie Walk — Tel Aviv, Israel

Purim is a major holiday in the Jewish faith. Based on a tale read annually around February or March (based on the Jewish calendar), Jews across the world dress up in costume, give gift baskets of food, and engage in many days worth of parties.

This is a huge holiday in Israel, and cities like Tel Aviv take it upon themselves to totally up their costume game. One way they do this is through giant costumed events like the annual zombie walk, where residents crawl through streets in a zombie parade.

Mohácsi Busójárás AKA Winter Scareaway Festival — Mohács, Hungary

Every February in Mohács, Hungary, locals gather to quite literally “scare away” the hardships that come with the winter months. It is culminated over six days of folk music, dancing, and all-around excitement. All of this happens while wearing traditional masks called busós.

During Ottoman rule, locals fled to the swamps but were guided home from someone who came to them in the night. “Don’t be afraid, your lives will soon turn to good and you’ll return to your homes. Until that time, prepare for the battle, carve various weapons and scary masks for yourselves, and wait for a stormy night when a masked knight will come to you,” they said. Turns out, this would be a tradition that lived on for ages.

Kanamara Matsuri: The Penis Festival — Kawasaki, Japan

That’s right, you’re looking at Japan’s annual Festival of the Steel Phallus. According to a historical tale, ages ago a sharp-toothed demon lived inside the vagina of a young woman the demon fell in love with. The demon was jealous of her lovers and bit off the penises of the woman’s romantic interests. In order to fix her issue, she looked for help from a local blacksmith who created an iron phallus to pull a trick on the demon and break his teeth. 

The iron status became a place for sex workers to pray for safety and security, both in health and everything else. What was initially founded in 1969 as a tourist attraction now serves as fundraiser for HIV research. No need for a bachelorette party, just check out this festival instead.

Noche de los Rabanos: Night of the Radishes — Oaxaca City, Mexico

Around Christmastime in late December, the city of Oaxaca, Mexico lights up in shades of white and magenta as almost anything you can think of is carved into radishes. These little veggies play a huge role in this historical festival in one adorable city.

The radish carving competition was started in 1897 when Oaxaca City’s mayor, Francisco Vasconcelos, wanted to promote local agriculture. Since radishes were already a big part of the local flavor, it only made sense to have radishes carved into different shapes at the local Christmas market.

Golden Retriever Festival — Scotland

Drop everything. This is something we truly cannot make up and it would just be cruel to do so. For over 150 years, large masses of golden retrievers have congregated in the Scottish Highlands for a day of hanging out in a field together.

The festival began as an anniversary celebration for the creation of the golden retriever breed. The meeting of goldens annually takes place at the estate of the father of the breed, a landowner named Dudley Marjoribanks, known to most as Lord Tweedmouth. This seems like heaven on earth.

Frozen Dead Guy Days — Nederland, Colorado

This annual celebration in the mountain town of Nederland, Colorado has some interesting roots and a back story for the ages. The celebration was created in 2002 in honor of the cryopreservation of Bredo Morstøl- aka the preservation of his corpse via low temperature storage of remains.

In 1989, Norweigan citizen Trygve Bauge brought the frozen, preserved corpse of his recently deceased grandfather on his move to the United States. He was preserved in a facility in California for a couple of years, and even after Bauge was deported for overstaying his visa, his mother kept taking care of the frozen corpse in a freezing shed in the backyard. Now, the town of Nederland preserves Bredo’s memory through a day of coffin races and so on in the snow.

Festival of the Exploding Hammer — San Juan de la Vega

The town of San Juan de la Vega, Mexico has been inhabited since at least the 16th century. This historic town is now known not for their historical roots, but for their entertaining annual Festival of the Exploding Hammer. This festival dates back to the 17th century, after “Juanito,” the town’s local Robin Hood-figure, battled wealthy landowners for the fate of the common people.

Locals affix homemade explosives to heads of hammers, which are then smashed into roads and concrete. Though this festival is widely contested by proponents of safety (can you say “duh”?) and several groups have called for an end to the 300-year tradition, but still it persists. In 2020, the celebration led to the festival led to 43 injuries… maybe it’s time to call it quits.

Race of the Dressed Up Beds —Sitges, Spain

While this tradition might not be unique to Spain, it is an integral part of their annual carnival celebration. In teams of 5, racers dressed in costumes and decorated beds run through a course as part of “la Cursa de Llits.” People run through the streets carrying one of their teammates on a bed.

This Mediterranean town hosts this annual competition to add a unique twist to typical Carnival activities. This type of game can be seen throughout the world, including communities in the USA. People put beds on wheels, decorate them, and dress up in costume as if they were in a very fast parade.

Bay to Breakers — San Francisco, CA

On the third Sunday in May, the California city of San Francisco hosts an annual foot race where people dress up in all different kinds of unique costumes. Running 12 kilometers (7.46 miles) from the Embarcadero, adjacent to the San Francisco Bay, all the way to the Great Highway, adjacent to the Pacific Coastline where breaking waves crash onto Ocean Beach.

This race first came to life on January 1st, 1912. The 1986 race set a Guinness Word Record for being world’s largest footrace with 110,000 participants, though that was later surpassed by Sydney, Australia’s annual City2Surf race. Now, people come from far and wide to run this race in costume.

La Tomatina — Buñol, Valencia, Spain

Back in 1945, some rowdy customers at a local farm stall in Buñol, Spain took tomatoes and started a massive food fight. It seems like these locals had a really fun time causing a ruckus, because it became an annual event that draws thousands.

The tradition consists of an hour-long tomato fight in which 140,000 kg of tomatoes are used. Before it became an official ticketed event in 2013, limiting the event to 20,000 spectators, up to 50,000 people were recorded in attendance per year. After the streets are hosed down, participants bathe themselves in pools of “los peñones.”

Alpine Finger Pulling Competitions — German, Swiss, and Austrian Alps

What started as a regional method of conflict resolution became an important regional tradition. It was initially used to solve disputes between two parties but it soon became something to marvel at as spectators came to watch. What a unique tradition.

Men decked out in traditional Bavarian garb, specifically lederhosen, would gather annually to settle disputes over just who was the best at finger wrestling. More than 150 men would pull each other’s fingers in a tug-of-war manner in the hopes of being named the best ever finger-puller (not the official title, we’re just going with it).

World Toe Wrestling Championships — Wetton, Staffordshire, UK

Starting in the 1970’s, the UK wanted to have bragging rights to hosting a unique “world championship” of sorts. So in the mix of trying to have something they’re known for, this traveling toe-wrestling championship offers somthing to the world we just don’t really see.

The criteria for this toe tournament requires an actual toe exam by a qualified nurse to ensure all toe safety necessary. We’re not entirely sure what the criteria is to pass this toe test but it must be rigorous. The competition is based on the best two out of three rounds of toe wrestling.

Up Helly Aa — Lerwick, Scotland

Up Helly Aa means “Up Holy Day.” This annual festival takes place somewhere between January and April in th Shetland region of Scotland. This historical Viking festival began in Lerwick, Shetland’s main town, in 1881. Though the main event is in Lerwick, others take place over 12 Shetland islands.

This festival is ultimately a showcase of skills from the islanders. This event relies on the local community to happen and is a showcase of Shetland’s Viking history. The day consists of marches through the town, and ends in a torch-lit procession and the burning of a Viking longship.

Songkran Water Festival — Chiang Mai, Thailand

In the northern city of Chiang Mai, festival spectators come out to get into giant water fights. Throughout the city, kids and adults alike take to the streets to play games with water guns, hoses, and so on. There are even elephants painted and brought to the city to celebrate.

Just before the Thai new year, the festival is supposed to signify a new astrological beginning. It coincides with the astrological Aries rising. In order to wash away the old and ring in the new year, the whole city gathers for days to splash water at one another.

Running of the Bulls — Pamplona, Spain

Every year between July 7th and 14th, the city of Pamplona, Spain releases 12 bulls on a course heading to a central bullfighting ring. Over eight days, thousands of runners join in running with these animals as they run rampantly through the city as part of the the San Fermín Festival.

This festival draws over 1 million spectators annually. It began in the 13th century and initially began as a realistic way to transport cattle and other livestock from point A to point B. They would be transported to the Plaza del Toros in the most creative way possible.

Boryeong Mud Festival — Boryeong, South Korea

Located in the village of Boryeong, South Korea, this relatively-new tradition started in 1998. It began as a marketing event for mud cosmetics coming from the region and just really took off. It quickly became a token of the region that was not to be missed.

This July festival is not too far from Seoul and features all different kinds of mud products and activities. There are mud pools, mud skis, mud slides, and even mud prisons. They really get into everything related to watery dirt and have as much fun as possible with it.

Cheung Chau Bun Festival — Cheung Chau, Hong Kong

This isn’t your typical Chinese bun festival. It is so much more than that. Dating back to the 18th century, participants in Hong Kong would climb up a tower of buns in honor of Buddha’s birthday. The retrieved buns were said to bring good fortune.

Centuries later, this festival is still in effect. The official bun supplier of the event, Kwok Kam Kee, makes more than 60,000 buns for this event annually. Pictured above are three bamboo towers covered in layers of buns going to the tippy top.

World Bodypainting Festival — Klagenfurt, Austria

Nestled in Pörtschach am Wörthersee in the Klagenfurt region of Austria, participants come from all ends of the earth to show what their body can look like while covered entirely in paint. These body paint enthusiasts compete for various titles.

50 nations across the globe attend this three-day festival. People would use body paint to transform into completely diferent shapes, patterns, themes, you name it. They really would paint their bodies to appear like chameleons, so on and so forth.