Worlds’ Strangest Festivals


We all love a good festival – especially when we travel. The chance to mingle with locals and be immersed into their culture, beliefs and traditions. The world is home to some pretty random festivals and we have dug up and compiled our list of the world’s quirkiest festivals to share with you. Warning: some of these are not for the faint hearted.

1. World Gurning Championships, Ergemont, England, UK

Each September the sleepy Cumbrian town of Egremont hosts both the World Greasy Pole Championships and the World Gurning Championships. For the latter, face contortionists from across the land converge on the town’s Crab Apple Fair to pull their worst with their head stuck through a horse’s collar, known as a ‘braffi n’.  If your gurn’s not up to it, there’s always that slippery pole to scale – the aim is to claim the leg of lamb waiting at the top. Wheelbarrow races, ferret shows and the ‘Parade of the Apple Cart’ complete the picture, celebrated annually in this little bit of Britain since the 13th century.

2. Konaki Sumo (Crying Sumo Festival), Tokyo, Japan 

Konaki (‘crying’) Sumo or Nakizumo (‘sumo of tears’) is a tradition that has been held in Sensoji Temple for over 400 years and includes almost 100 babies.

Two Sumo wrestlers, both holding a baby, face each other and wait to see whose baby cries first. There is also a priest who shouts and waves at the babies. If both babies start crying at the same time the winner is the one who cries louder.

3. Alpine Beard Contest (Chur Festival) – Chur, Switzerland 

This bizarre beauty contest is only a small part of the ‘Chur Festival’. Nowadays, participants come from all over Europe, and the Alpine Beard Festival has firmly established itself on the events calendar of international beard clubs. Unlike other beard contests, a prize is only awarded for the most attractive natural full beard.

The competition is open to full beard wearers who qualify at international beard competitions for the category “Natural Full Beard”. The beard should be completely natural and suit the wearer’s face. It should be clean and well groomed, but not styled. The use of hairspray or other styling products is not permitted. Some 40 to 60 beard wearers take part in the event.

4. Redneck Games, East Dublin, North Georgia, Alabama, USA

The Summer Redneck Games began in 1996 when Atlanta, Georgia, was home to the summer Olympics. Taking jokes about the Greek games being hosted “by a bunch of rednecks” to heart, a group of volunteers from the East Dublin area (about halfway between Atlanta and Savannah, where the Olympic sailing events were held) decided to show the world what being a redneck really entailed.

With events like redneck horseshoes (tossing toilet seat covers), watermelon seed spitting and an armpit serenade, the games celebrate all the stereotypes that have surrounded rural Southerners over the years. Unconcerned with being uncouth, participants usually dress in white tank tops, overalls, bikinis or no shirt at all, and often end the day covered in mud (the mud pit belly flop is another favourite event). Winners take home a beer can trophy, along with a year’s worth of bragging rights.

5. Testicle Festival, Clinton, Montana, USA

Booze and balls are the name of the game at the Montana Testicle Festival which revolves around the eating of bull’s testicles, a delicacy nicknamed ‘Rocky Mountain Oysters’. The festival is a strictly adults only affair, with people coming from all over the world to eat a few ‘Rocky Mountain Oysters’ and take part in the beer-soaked, anything goes, 4 day festival which includes a ball eating competition, the Undie 500 event and live music.

6. Baby Jumping Festival, Castillo De Murcia, Spain

Anyone who has a newborn addition to their family can bring their baby along to this festival known as the El Colacho which has taken place on an annual basis since way back in the 1620’s. The festival itself is part of the celebrations held all over Spain for the Catholic festival of Corpus Christi and whilst at this particular time many other cities and towns have spectacular processions and a variety of other popular means of revelling and enjoying themselves, there is only one Baby Jumping Festival.

The babies are laid on the ground in swaddling clothes and grown men, yes adult males, dressed as devils jump over the infants and this is supposed to cleanse them of all evil doings. The question of who is protecting the babies from the example being set by the adults begs to be asked but who are we to doubt this traditional combination of religion and Spanish folklore which proves to be great fun, if not a little scary, to watch.

Anyone who is not blessed with receiving this protection during their early childhood and has lived life looking over their shoulder waiting for bad things to happen or illness to strike can, in their adulthood, choose to take part in an exercise of jumping through fire on the 21st December in Granada, known as the Hogueras. This is intended to protect them from illness.

7. Jarramplas Festival, Piornal, Extremadura, Spain

The Spaniards already boast some of the weirdest festivals in the world, but this one definitely tops the list. The annual Jarramplas Festival in the streets of Piornal involves hundreds of villagers attacking a man dressed in a devils mask with thousands of turnips and the best part is that no-one really knows why.

The ‘Jarramplas’ is a devil-like character portrayed by a man from the village wearing a costume made from colourful strips of fabric, a frightening mask with a huge nose, horns and a horse’s mane, and body armour underneath. In a centuries-old tradition, the Jarramplas then enters the streets, banging his drum calling out to the villagers who then gather in their hundreds with armfuls of turnips.

They chase the Jarramplas around the village, continuously pelting him with the turnips at every possible chance they get to supposedly ward off unwanted evil spirits.

8. Yawar Fiesta (Blood Festival), Coyllurqui, Cotabambas Province, Peru

If you thought running of the bulls was not for the faint hearted, this festival is on another level! The first record of the Yawar Fiesta (Yawar means ‘blood’) was a celebration in the city of Cusco in the 18th century. The Yawar Festival is a striking spectacle, with a giant condor strapped to the back of an enraged bull in front of a roaring crowd.

To prepare for this annual event, residents in the small village of Coyllurqui climb into the surrounding cliffs to trap condors. The festival begins with a ceremony and then a parade leading to a bullring, where the condors are paraded around the arena.

When it’s time for the battle, the condor is lashed to the back of a half-ton bull in the arena. Once the two are lashed together, they are released into a bullring to do battle against each other and a group of bullfighters, while thousands of people watch. The beast then tries to shake off the condor, while the huge bird attempts to peck at any part of the bull it can latch onto.

The Andean people believe the condor is a symbol of the Inca nation, and the bull represents the might of the Spanish conquistadors.

Though they predominately identify themselves as Christians, villagers see the condor as an Andean god that has come down from the heavens to fight for their freedom.

There’s a lot at stake during the battle. If any harm should come to the condor, the villagers believe it’s a bad omen for the year — and the dwindling condor population suffers another setback.

Unsurprisingly, conservationists want to put an end to the Yawar Fiesta in order to help protect the species. Thankfully, the condors are released into the wild after the Yawar Fiesta.

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