People often say it’s a small world, but is it so? People from all across the world are unique in their way of life. And the question often arises if we really think about the different cultures and their strange traditions. What feels like an accustomed tradition or celebrated ritual may seem like a weird tradition to others.
Local practices are localized and specific to a place and are indigenous to that location. Cultural localization practices mean the local customs, societal codes and similar sensibilities of a specific place.
Several magnificent places in the world have for too long been known for their bizarre practices and customs. As a traveler who is merely passing through these places, the person might think of these customs as absurd or a taboo or even inhumane. You will probably find that these weird traditions make weird sense if you look for a deep meaning, regardless of their eccentricity.
Come, let’s take a look at some of the strangest and weird traditions and customs from around the world. And let’s also take an approach to remind ourselves that what may seem weird to you can feel typical to other traditions and vice versa!
Krampuslauf- Austria, Bavaria, and Switzerland
Have you heard of Krampuslauf? It is a scary, devil-like creature with horns called Krampus, famous in Alpine folklore. According to tradition, it is believed that Krampus carries cowbells, clank chains and rides through the streets of the Alpine regions to scare innocent children and adults. Traditionally, young men dress as the Krampus in some areas of Austria, Bavaria, and Switzerland and are accompanied by Santa or ‘Nikolaus’. The Krampuslauf occurs typically in the first two weeks of December. However, December 5 is the most favoured date.
The Krampus monsters are often considered nocturnal, sexually predatory demons linked mostly with legends of succubus and incubus. The modern costume used on Krampuslauf includes red wooden masks, horns and black sheep’s skin. The masks used are hand-carved. Further, many people enjoy Krampuslauf competitions and compete for titles like ‘most scary’, ‘best costume’. Weird tradition, anyone?
Baby Jumping Festival- Spain
In the Spanish village of Castrillo de Murcia, a yearly festival called El Colacho is conducted. In this festival, men are dressed as yellow devils that run and jump over babies. Strange, no? Babies born the year before are placed together in an arranged row of pillows spaced out down on a public street during this festival. Then, men dressed in weird masks and bright yellow costumes begin to run down the street. These men then start jumping like Olympic hurdlers over the rows of children. This particular baby jumping festival tradition began in Spain in the early 1600s. Villagers believe that it keeps the devil away from these children. After the ritual is completed, the babies are sprinkled with rose petals.
Nag Panchami festival- India
The Nag (translates to snake in Hindi) Panchami is a festival celebrated in India. The festival is all about worshipping snakes that are gathered specially for the said occasion. Celebrated primarily in the rural areas of Maharashtra and in certain temples, it is a joyous festival. People dance to music while carrying their snakes in pots during the festival. The snakes are often placed on their heads, and the people gather together to join the procession towards the temple. The snakes are dredged with a mixture of red powder and turmeric and offered a mix of honey and milk after the chants and prayers. After the ceremonial practice comes to an end, the snakes are released into the temple courtyard. Surprisingly, some of the most venomous snakes, such as cobras, are used in the ritual. Yet, it is unheard of for people suffering from snake bites. It is definitely a weird tradition!
Weird Traditions and Rituals
Burning of Witches- Czech Republic
Some people celebrate the end of winter with a clean spring. And some take to the streets in great carnival outfits for Mardi Gras. People in the Czech Republic celebrate the temperate season in a completely different way. They do so by burning a hag on a bonfire. Many Czechs gather around hillside bonfires on the last night of April to celebrate Paleni Carodejnic. The annual burning of witches is known as Palani Carodejnic. During this time of the year, the locals burn their broomsticks and vast effigies of witches and hags to keep the hags at bay.
Satire Mawe Tribe Initiation- Brazil
Calling the Brazilian Amazon their home, the Satire Mawe tribe has minimal or no contact with the outside world. The tribe has preserved many ancient weird traditions. One such is the coming-of-age initiation for the young boys belonging to the tribe. According to the tradition, the boys of the Satire Mawe Tribe, at the age of 13, become men. The young boys must prove their worth by performing the initiation ceremony. The coming-of-age boys must head off into the jungle and harvest the angry bullet ants. One sting from an inch-long ant is 30times more painful than a bee sting or is believed to be as painful as a gunshot or even worse. The chief elder, back in the village, intoxicates the ants with a herbal mixture. The mixture knocks the ants out for long enough to intertwine them into a particular pair of gloves. The ceremony begins after the ants wake up. The boys in the ceremony need to show courage by placing their hands for 10 minutes each in the gloves while performing a traditional dance at the same time. The ceremony repeats for 19 more rounds until the young boys are ready to call themselves men. The Satire Mawe traditions are based on the belief system that bullet ant initiation prepares young boys for adulthood and simultaneously helps them manage pain without showing weakness. Weird custom, isn’t it?
Avoiding Red Ink- South Korea
Avoid using red ink if you are in the calm countryside or in the bustling cities of South Korea. It is one of the creepiest and weird traditions coming from South Korea, where writing somebody’s name in red ink is not seen as acceptable. Now you can ask why that might be! Historically, the Korean culture used red ink to only note the names of the dead on the family register. It was believed as a sign that the person who wrote the name of a living person in red ink wished harm to them. Even now, using red ink, primarily to write down a name, is a huge ‘no’ throughout the country.
The Amish Church is considered one of the unique and most exciting aspects of the traditional coming of age “Rumspringa.” As a religious community, the Amish are primarily based in Pennsylvania, Indiana, Ohio, Indiana, and some smaller groups in other states. They live simple lives without using modern technology or fashion. However, at the age of 16, Amish children, for the first time, are allowed to experience life outside the community. Rumspringa is supposed to be a time for the kids to fully explore their faith and see the real world. This is believed to make them decide on their own whether or not they wish to return to the Amish Church. Whether they decide to return home or not after Rumspringa, the time spent by the teens in the outside world is worthwhile. The teens can live on their own or live with their families, and they can buy cars, go to wild parties, even try alcohol for the first time, get an education.
Weird Traditions and Rituals
La Tomatina festival- Spain
Spain is full of life, and the country has many exciting traditions, like the siestas and the Pamplona Bull Run, etc. However, one of the more restless traditions in Spain comes in the form of La Tomatina. The people of Valencia, in the La Tomatina festival, participate in a mass tomato throwing fight. Only a few sights from all across the world can match the anarchistic setting of tomato juice covering the faces and bodies of people and buildings. La Tomatina visually imitates a blood-filled scene from a Tarantino movie.
Monkey Buffet Festival- Thailand
On the last Sunday of November, something strange happened in Thailand’s Phra Prang Sam Yot temple in Lopburi. For macaques, a big celebration is held, and a lavish banquet is laid out. Does it sound a weird tradition to you? Well, hear us out. As already mentioned, this feast is held in honour of Lopburi’s thousands of macaques. It is believed that the masques bring good luck and fortune to the area’s inhabitants, so a particular party is conducted for them every year. Additionally, the monkey buffet festival also includes performances by dancers in monkey costumes, towers of fruits and vegetables for the monkeys to climb and jump on.
Cinnamon Birthday Party Celebration- Denmark
It is customary for your family and friends to throw you a birthday celebration if you are single in Denmark by covering you in cinnamon soon after you reach 25. Most people believe that this tradition dates back to when spice sales associates travelled around and remained bachelors. However, the Danish people decided to keep the tradition because it offers them a fun way to celebrate a significant birthday.
Carrying Wives over Burning Coal- China
Did you just think the listicle of weird tradition cannot get any weirder? Well, some tribes in China follow a peculiar tradition. In this tradition, the husband carries his wife and walks over burning coals. The tribes who practice this custom believe that this would help the wife do painless labour. Some others believe that walking over burning coals can help prevent natural disasters. Some couples choose to do this soon after becoming husband and wife and taking their first step into their new home. Others choose to do it when they come to the knowledge of the wife being pregnant.
Weird Traditions and Rituals
Camel wrestling- Turkey
Camel wrestling is a widely celebrated festival in some parts of Turkey. Spectators are thrilled to watch two male camels fight on the occasion. There are no gauges that afflict the animals, but still, people are asked to stay aloof from the camels during the wrestling match.
Antar Eguna- Spain
Antzar Eguna is a widely famous but bizarre little festival celebrated in some parts of rural Spain. The well-known nut weird tradition translates to “The Day of the Geese.” During this occasion, a goose is covered with grease. After that, it is tied to a body of water. Men try to get hold of the goose during the occasion as they jump from their boat. The primary purpose for the gentlemen is to rip off the goose’s head as soon as they grab it. This competition is held to test the strength, endurance, and agility of the men. Upon qualifying for the test, they would become eligible to wed the woman they adore. Thankfully, because of animal rights concerns, the custom is no longer practised in modern times using a live goose.
Polterabend custom- Germany
We saved the weirdest of the lot for the last. Have you heard of the polterabend custom in Germany? So, right before couples are wed, the families and close friends of the couples meet for an informal affair. After a meeting, all the guests are requested to break things like dinner wares, showpieces, flower vases, anything except glasses. Couples should clean the broken things as soon as the place gets in disarray. This tradition displays the couple the importance of being unified and of hard work. Both of the qualities are necessary to make their marriage work.
Thumb Pointing- Thailand
There are selected countries that find pointing out anything with the index finger as a rude gesture. Though there are several cultures that believe that pointing with a finger is not good, countries like Indonesia and Malaysia think this gesture as terribly offensive. They believe that it is more polite to gesture anything with the thumb. Also, several African countries reserve pointing with fingers specifically to point out inanimate objects and never for humans. Weird tradition, is it?
Slurping at the Table- Japan
Often we hear its table etiquette to not make sounds while eating at the table. Specifically, in western societies, being noisy at the table is considered extremely rude. However, Japan accepts slurping sounds on the table while eating. It has more to do with the way people eat the noodles. While in the west, people twirl the noodles on a big spoon or fork and then eat them. In Japan, one simply slurps the noodles without even winding them at all around any utensil. This makes eating a noisier affair.
So, these were some of the bizarre practices in some of the most magnificent places in the world. They may seem absurd to you and me, but the natives believe (or believed at some point in time) that their practices permitted them to learn some invaluable life lessons. So, the next time you come across people acting strangely, try to keep an open mind and don’t come up with conclusions. They may be practicing or performing a custom that may seem a weird tradition to you but has historical significance.