It would be too ambitious to claim that the world is a smaller place today. With more and more corners discovered, travelling opportunities expanding and communication barriers fading away, it seems to be easier than ever to fall into a trap of thinking that we are heading towards a fairly homogeneous and predictable world. Yet technological advancement is not the only thing that it takes. A closer look at holiday traditions of different nations may be enough to realize how much fascinating and unique there still is around the globe. Need proof? While exchanging greeting cards seems quite a universal thing, there are customs from different parts of the world that are certainly far from becoming ordinary. Here is a bunch of those:
- Mari Lwyd in Wales. The county known for its rich historic heritage has a number of fascinating customs related to the Christmas season as well. Know as ‘Gray Mare’ in English, in simple terms it is going around the local area with a decorated horse sculp and singing carols for drinks and food in return. The person carrying the pole with the sculp attached is covered with a white sheet. The first record of this custom dates back to around 1800, and it is supposed to have its origin in ancient Celtic tradition. They go singing from door to door, and the house owner is challenged to sing in response partaking in sort of a rap battle. There is, of course, the winner, and the group with the sculp are traditionally invited into the house. After treating themselves to some delicious meals, they are off to another house where it starts all over again. Surprisingly this ritual is supposed to bring good luck.
- Drinking Straw Day is celebrated on January 3 in the USA as the date of M. C. Stone’s receiving the patent is considered the birthday of this helpful device. But the first traces of using it relates to 3000 BC. Scientists suggest that the purpose was to avoid solid byproducts that would be at the bottom of a vessel while drinking beer. So, feel free to sip your favorite drink through a colored straw and do honor to the hero of the day.
- Fête du Vodoun in Benin or Traditional Religious Day honors the national history of the West African Region called Vodoun. It is observed annually on January 10 and starts off with slaughtering of a goat to honor the spirits and goes on with lots of singing and gin. By the way, since 1996 voodoo has been an official religion in Benin with around 60% of the country’s population practicing it. In the evening people are offered free food and drink in the residence of voodoo chief. Sacrifices, horse rides, African rhymes, fancy costumes, masks and makeup – even sounds impressive.
- Setsubun in Japan is a day preceding the beginning of each season, yet it is usually related to spring. The bean-throwing festival is observed on February 3 each year as part of Haru Matsuri, or Sring Festival. This day is somehow similar to the New Year’s Eve and has a huge meaning as people believe that it’s time to get rid of evil spirits and all the misfortune of the former year. The ritual goes as follows: the people say ‘Demons out, luck in!’ while the male head of the household throw roasted soybeans either outdoors or at a family member wearing an Oni mask (depicting an orge or demon), and then the door is slammed shut. Through this custom of mamemaki the evil spirits nearby are believed to be scared off.
- No Pants Day is known in various countries and nowadays it occurs on January 13. As the name goes, it requires wearing no pants in public. No Pants Subway Rides are held annually turning the embarrassment into joy for one day when the world gets a chance to see your colorful underwear. If your city does not happen to have a metro, do not worry – simply travel pantless on busses instead. Believe it or not, the event has a huge following.
- The annual Night of the radishes in Mexico is the day when you certainly can’t do without radishes. The most impressive display of carved vegies is shown to the world on December 23 in the state of Oaxaca. Specially grown for this event, the carved vegetables are arranged into small exhibitions displaying scenes from national folklore and others. Moreover, there’s the formal competition in a number of categories. Unfortunately, radishes do not last long, so the festival now takes 3 days. It’s hardly possible to see more radishes than there in your entire life.
- La Tomatina in the east of Spain attracts thousands of tourists every year who come to have a great time throwing tomatoes at each other. It is held on the last Wednesday of August when people take part in food fights making use of over 40000 tons of tomatoes. What began as unintended street riots in 1945 has now become a major entertainment event. Every year the tomato debris are hosed down the town square, with many participants also using hoses to remove the tomatoes from their clothes and bodies. A nice and fun way to make the town practically spotless given that the citric acid tomatoes contain kills mold and bacteria.
- The birthday of Russian Vodka is celebrated on January 31. This year the famous beverage turns 154! In 1865, D. Mendeleev, a renowned chemist, defended his thesis titled ‘On Combining Water and Alcohol’ which led to the establishment of 40% standard proportion.
- On September 19, get ready with all those classic pirate phrases as it is International Talk Like a Pirate Day. Commemorating the Golden Age of Piracy and offering a lot of ways to enjoy and have a great time, this parodic holiday was literally invented by two guys, Mark Summers and John Baur in 1995. Dress up like a sea plunderer, watch good all pirate shows, host a themed party where everyone will be talking pirate slang – sounds like childhood is back again, right?
- On April 9 every year, the day of a popular and the cutest mythical creature is observed – Unicorn Day with all their charm, purity and magic. They are favorites among both kids and adults, and creating a holiday in their honor is a nice way to remind that there’s always room for miracle and it never hurts to keep our hearts open for magic. Take part in some fanciful activity and bake delicious rainbow cupcakes to enjoy while watching a lovely fantasy film. Let yourself be a kid again even if it’s just for one day.
It may be absolutely amazing to take a step beyond the way the things are in your culture and look at what the world around us has to offer. Seems like people can establish anything-you-wish day! When it comes to holidays, nothing is accidental and unimportant: we tend to celebrate and honor the aspects of life that are considered meaningful, and those occasions are more often than not rooted in the history and tradition, or just for fun. Many of them have been there since the dawn of man. Learning about these traditions is of great importance for understanding a nation better and experiencing a different culture and way of live. The world is still pretty capable of surprising us, you just need to know where to look.
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