You’ve gotta admit, Christmas has some pretty strange rituals. You bring a tree into your house? Hanging giant socks on a chimney to wait for a stranger to break in and fill with gifts?
But that’s nothing compared to some of the other holidays celebrated around the world. These celebrations are totally real and happen in some big and outlandish ways.
Up Helly Aa
Up Helly Aa marks the end of the yule season in Shetland, Scotland, and is celebrated with a ton of fire festivals that honestly make it seem like you are in literal hell, which isn’t surprising as the word “hell” is right there in the title. An honorary Guizer Jarl is elected as the festival’s leader, and he leads his Jarl Squad of supporters around, as along with many other additional squads (guizers). The festival involves a lot of marching with torches which are eventually thrown into a gigantic replica Viking ship, which then of course goes up in flames.
Bean Throwing Day
Bean Throwing Day is a holiday in Japan where everybody throws beans everywhere in their houses and temples to scare away evil spirits on the first day of spring. Beans are, apparently, frightening to ghosts. Now you know.
Melon Day is celebrated in Turkmenistan on Aug. 12 and honors Turkmenbashi melons. There are a bunch of melon-themed festivities, because apparently the best melons in the world come from Turkmenistan and everyone loves melons there.
The Battle of the Oranges
This Italian holiday takes place at a carnival where a bunch of people dress in peculiar outfits and throw oranges at each other — presumably because Spain already claimed tomatoes. So, the answer, of course, is to stuff oranges down their shirts (seriously), then throw them at each other (possibly injuring everyone involved), as well as, of course, wasting the heck out of a ton of oranges. It honors an event that happened in Iverea is 1194, when villagers got real mad at a villainous Italian Count and threw rocks at him.
The Radish Festival in Oaxaca, Mexico. Credit: Baggis, Flickr
Night of the Radishes
An annual radish-carving festival is held in Oaxaca, Mexico on Dec. 23, when everyone carves a bunch of radishes into little radish people to create scenes reenacting the birth of Jesus. This began as a way that farmers just tried to get people to buy their produce at farmers markets because they’d be more eye-catching to customers, who’d be like, “Oh my, that vegetable looks just like Jesus, I should buy that one and not a regular radish,” but now it’s just a big event where money is awarded to whoever can carve the best biblical radish people.
Tinku “Punch Your Neighbor” Festival
On this Bolivian holiday, a festival is held where everyone just beats the stuffing out of each other all day. The Tinku Festival is held in the city of Macha each May, and is based on an old religious belief that in order to have a good harvest, blood must be shed to the earth goddess Pachamama. People have actually died during this thing, however, so now it is (slightly) policed so that fights are stopped after first blood is shed. So, to recap, at least one person has to get the living crap kicked out of them to the point of actual bleeding, and then everyone’s like, “Cool, great job guys, let’s have a great harvest.”
Indonesia’s Nyepi Day (Silent Day) happens around mid-March in Bali to celebrate the new year. Everybody has to stay completely quiet all day — you are not allowed to speak for any reason. Also, you’re not allowed to eat or work or do much of anything at all, really. You’re just supposed to sit around and do a 12-hour self-reflection. And don’t even think about cheating — they’ve got guards patrolling the streets to make sure you are super quiet and super hungry! Happy New Year and please shut up, thanks.
World Toilet Day
Created by the World Toilet Association, World Toilet Day (Nov. 19) honors (get ready for this one): toilets. Which seems a bit odd, but we basically have toilets to thank for ending widespread diseases spread by human waste. The day is meant to raise awareness about improving sanitation facilities worldwide.