Unusual Holidays From Around the World

by Aleka Allen
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 Whether it’s an excuse to take the day off from work or an actual observance of a religious nature, we human beings love our holidays! Most people celebrate statutory holidays such as Christmas, Thanksgiving, and the Easter Weekend. Holidays such as these are put in place to celebrate a significant event, religious observance, or giving honour to certain historical figures. However, there are some holidays out there in the world that are so unique and/or funny that it leaves us wondering why these days even exist. Even if the holiday seems weird to us, it would be unfortunate not to learn about their origins. After all, we’ve recently celebrated a day of pulling stupid pranks on each other. Here is a list of five different unusual holidays from around the world.

1.       Thaipusam

Thaipusam is a Hindu festival celebrated by mostly Tamils on the full moon of Thai in the Tamil calendar (i.e., January or February.) This festival is observed in countries that have a large Tamil community, such as Thailand, Indonesia, Myanmar, India, and Sri Lanka. The festival is meant to commemorate the occasion where the Hindu goddess Parvati gave Murugun, the Tamil god of war, a spear so he could vanquish the evil army of Tarakasura. During the festival, participants shave their heads and take a pilgrimage. The journey of the pilgrimages varies from nation to nation. For example, the participants in Malaysia make the trek to the Batu Caves. Following the pilgrimage, the participants would shove skewers into their faces and cheeks, even going as far as putting hooks into their backs and pulling heavy objects. The aim of this flesh mortification is to cause as much pain as possible for the participant. To them, the more pain and suffering endured, the more blessings they will receive from the gods.

2.       Bean Throwing Day

Unusual Holidays - Bean Throwing Day

Bean Throwing Day in Japan. Image: www.jnto.go.jp

Also known as Setsubun, Bean Throwing Day is a national holiday celebrated yearly on February 3, the day before Spring. It is often considered a variation of New Year’s Eve in that the day and its rituals represent the transition into a brand new year while casting away the evils of the previous year. On the day of Setsubun, participants throw roasted soybeans out of the door or at a family member wearing an ogre mask while chanting ‘In with fortune! Out with evil!’ This custom, called mamemaki, drives out the evil ogre demons and prevents them from entering one’s house while ushering good fortune. To bring in more good luck for the year, the participants will eat the same number of roasted soybeans as their age.

3.       Limerick Day

May 12 is the birthday of Edward Lear, the English man who popularized this humourous poetic form. For those who are unaware, a limerick is a five-line poem in which the first, second and fifth line rhyme, and the third and fourth lines rhyme as well. Below is an example of a limerick.

May 12 is the day of Limerick

A concise five line gimmick

To honour Edward Lear

A fun time of the year

For all poems, short and comic

4.       Goat Tossing Festival

This festival takes place in Spain, the home of La Tomatina and the Running with the Bulls festival. Celebrated on the fourth Sunday of January, locals from the town Manganeses de la Polvorosa would hurl a goat from the top of a church tower in honour of their patron saint, St. Vincent de Paul. It falls fifty feet where locals would be standing at the bottom of the tower with a large sheet, ready to catch the free-falling goat. Once it’s caught, the goat is then paraded through the town. Many animal rights activist groups have launched complaints against the festival and village officials even went as far as banning the festival. However, the event continues despite the complaints.

5.       Cheese Rolling Day

This ‘world famous event’ takes place in May Cooper’s Hill near Gloucestershire, UK. Held annually on the last Monday of May, this holiday and its accompanying competition can be traced back to the 1800s. An official tosses down a large wheel of cheese down the extremely steep Cooper’s Hill, after which hundreds of people would run down the hill and chase after it. Due to the increasing number of casualties and injuries, the competition was banned in 2010 but that didn’t stop villagers from continuing the tradition anyways. This event is so popular that even Canadian Food Network personality, Bob Blumer, took part in the festivities for an episode of Glutton for Punishment. As you can see in the video clip below, he lived to tell the tale of how he nearly broke his neck chasing after cheese down a hill.


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