Did you know that there is festival which involves rolling cheese off a cliff? Or one which has its participants slather tomatoes all over one another? Well, neither did I. So presenting now, the crazy and weird, strange and bizarre, extravagant and flamboyant festivals humankind has ever thought of.
Scotland is known for, and is proud of its Viking ancestry. So, every year, during mid-winter, thousands of Scots gather in Lerwick, on the Scottish Shetland Islands to commemorate this very fact – and how! Well, they dress up as Vikings – Vikings with silver plates and helmets, carrying axes and wearing kilts. Then, they parade all around town carrying lit torches, singing, marching and acting out parts from a local saga. And then, comes the final, culminating climax! The ‘Vikings’ then fling their torches at a life-size replica of a Viking Galley. And then, they sing and dance and party the night away, long after the final sparks have died. This is the Up Helly Aa Fire Festival of Scotland, quite something, isn’t it?
Spain is a country known for its crazy and bizarre traditions and festivals – especially those relating to all things bovine (bull racing, matador fights- ring a bell?). Another one of Spain’s colorful festivals is La Tomatina. This festival, which is celebrated on the last Wednesday of August, every year in the Spanish town of Bunol, is basically a ginormous tomato fight. The origins of this festival are not entirely clear. There are, of course, several theories – everything ranging from a juvenile class fight to aggravated people attacking the town council – have been proposed. Whatever the reason may be, the townspeople enjoyed it so much that they made it an official festival. Today, La Tomatina attracts thousands of people all around the world who want to be a part of this Tomato Madness.
Las Fallas, another one of Spain’s lively and vivid festivals, is held over five days from 15 to 19 March, every year in Valencia. The festival mainly involves the creation and destruction of ninots (Spanish for puppets), which are huge statues made from cardboard, plaster and paper mache. These ninots are shown around until 19 March, which is the day of La Cremá (the Burning). And then, the people begin to chant and the street lights are turned off. At exactly 12 midnight, the ninots are set fire to. The beginnings to Las Fallas are also veiled in time, but it is popular belief that it originated from the Pagan rituals used to rejoice the start of Spring. Fire and mystery, puppets and pyrotechnics, await you here.
Every year, on Spring Bank Holiday (last Monday in May), thousands of participants along with spectators flock to Cooper’s Hill near Gloucester, in England. And what do they do there? Cheese rolling, of course! A round of Gloucester Cheese is rolled from the top of the Hill, and then, off go the competitors – trying to catch the cheese. The first to reach the bottom of the Hill receives the coveted Cheese as the prize. Also, the winner, traditionally, is supposed to run a celebratory ascent to the top of Cooper’s Hill to replace the Cheese – shirtless. Cheese rolling is considered pretty dangerous and numerous people get injured on countless occasions. But this does not seem to deter the ever-increasing crowd that gathers on top of the Hill every year. In fact, this event is getting more popular over the years…
Eccentric and wacky, these festivals around the world have certainly caught the imagination of the masses, and every year, thousands throng to be a part of this craziness. There are plenty others, some dangerous, some musical, some neither – but all are worth a visit. So don’t wait. Join in the madness!