Weird and wacky festivals around the world



If throwing tomatoes, tossing tuna or, erm, jumping over babies, all sound appealing, then cast your eyes on our gallery of the world's wackiest festivals - they make Glastonbury look positively hum-drum...

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Weird and wacky festivals
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Weird and wacky festivals around the world

Carnivores might not be thrilled at the prospect of a vegetarian festival, but this is no average event. The festival, which continues for nine days each October, celebrates Phuket's Chinese community's belief that abstinence from meat during this period will help them obtain good health. Aside from the usual parties and parades, many walk on hot charcoals and pierce themselves with spikes and spears. Yikes.

Every February, Moscow's locals celebrate the end of the bleak winter and the imminent warm rays of spring with a fist fight in the city's Red Square. This rather bizarre part of the week-long Maslenitsa festival is to commemorate Russian military history back when soldiers would fight in hand-to-hand combat. Alongside the fight, there is dancing and eating of Russian pancakes.

Here's a fact: almost seven million cans of Spam are eaten every year in Hawaii. The cans of gelatinous pork were relied upon as a vital source of protein after the Second World War and are still so popular today that the island's Burger King chain sells a special spam version of its burgers. So it is no surprise that a street festival celebrating the pink blubber is one of Honolulu's most popular events. Every April, over 20,000 people crowd Kalakaua Avenue, the capital city's main drag, to scoff Spam Won Ton, Spam fajiitas, and Spam ravioli, all made by local restaurants.

ustry which was just emerging in Port Lincoln, south Australia.

kaZantip, which starts on July 20, covers all bases. Like music? Its speakers blare everything from techno to dub for 24 hours a day over five whole weeks. Like water sports? kaZantip takes place on the edge of Portugal's artificial lake Grande Lago, allowing people to wakeboard in front of the crowds. Prefer dry land? There are regular BMX, skateboard and breakdancing shows. Like exercise? Step, yoga and dance instructors are on site - and there's even the option of parachuting over the whole damn thing.

The city of Rayne has a thing for frogs. This love affair began in the late nineteenth century when a Rayne chef started selling juicy bullfrogs to restaurants in nearby New Orleans. Today they show their affection through frog murals which line Main Street in downtown Rayne, and this festival that takes place every November over Labor Day weekend. Activities include frog racing and jumping contests, best-dressed frog contests (for humans) and, of course, the consumption of lots of lovely frog legs.

The Spanish are at it again. If they're not running from bulls or jumping over tots, they're throwing tomatoes at each other. On the last Wednesday in August, up to 40,000 people head to Bunol in Valencia, to throw one hundred tonnes of tomatoes at each other. This food fight is all part of a week-long party of music, parades and paella-cooking which is believed to have started in the 1940s on a much smaller scale, of course. Once the hour of tomato-throwing is over, the crowd head to Bunol river for a big communal wash.

This year Tunarama celebrated its fiftieth year of tuna tossing, a bizarre competition that was started in 1962 to promote the tuna industry which was just emerging in Port Lincoln, south Australia. Tunarama takes place over four days and always over January's Australia Day weekend. For ethical and mess reasons, real tuna has been replaced with fake in recent years. If watching grown men throw tuna in the air isn't for you, there's also a boat building competition, a keg rolling race and King Fish tossing for the smaller 11-15 year olds.

In 1958 a group of farmers decided to throw a sheep shearing competition. Today more than 450 competitors from up to 25 countries head to Masterton in Wairarapa, east of Wellington, to shear some of the area's 30 million sheep over four very long days in front of crowds of spectators. Much has changed since the festival's inception: the prize money is higher and many shearers opt for training programmes and fitness courses - they're even campaigning to make it an Olympic event.

This 400-year-old competition may appear cruel, but Japanese tradition says it's all for the good of the baby. Every April, in the Sensoji Temple in Tokyo, university club sumo wrestlers take turns to hold a baby and make it cry before the others. To do this, they growl, pull faces and, as a last resort, they even wear scary masks. The parents then pray for the good health of their child and for this ritual to ward off evil spirits.

The bizarre festival of Noche de rábanos dates back to colonial times, when missionaries taught natives how to cultivate radishes. Every December the residents of Oaxaca City pay homage to the humble radish by cultivating giant versions and carving animals, humans, saints and other characters out of them.

For the record, Pope Benedict doesn't approve of Spain's Baby-Jumping Festival, which takes place in Castrillo de Murcia, North West Spain each June. This bizarre festival dates back to 1620 and is the culmination of a 96 hour celebration of Corpus Christi. It ends with grown men, dressed as devils, leaping over young babies in order to cleanse their spirits. Once the jumping is done, the babies are sprinkled with petals and returned to their grateful mothers.

The annual Tinku festival starts with a shot of local alcohol and finishes in a brawl that only ends when blood is shed. Tinku, meaning ‘encounter’ in Quechuaa is a ritual folk ceremony held in Bolivia’s rural Potosí region in May where local people get together and punch each other. This pagan tradition is meant to appease Pachamama, the Inca earth goddess, who apparently can only be cheered up by the spilling of human blood. It may be violent and strange but it must be a great way to get rid of any old grudges you have against your neighbours!

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