10 Apr Unique Holidays Around The World
Holidays are often unique to a country’s culture, a simple way to promote a sense of nationhood and community. The concept of holidays originated when nations’ rulers would promote religious observances, which is still true for some countries and provinces today.
Most people look forward to holidays for a variety of reasons. Not only is there often an extra day off of work, but holidays also serve as reminders of meaningful tradition and cultural history.
Of course, there’s so many other types of holidays than those we’re used to here in the States. Start packing, because you’ll want to check out these one-of-a-kind celebrations in countries all across the world:
1. Mud Festival – South Korea
This festival takes place during the summer in Boryeong, a city just south of Seoul in South Korea. It began in 1998 to promote the city’s cosmetic industry and its age-fighting mud. For two weeks each July there are mud pools, mud slides and mud skiing competitions. But that’s just the beginning… colored mud is used for things like body paint, there’s live music and lots of other competitions, all next to a small market that sells products made by the local mud. If you like to get your hands dirty, this is something you can’t miss.
2. Holi – India and Nepal
This popular ancient Hindu tradition is also known as the “festival of colors” or the “festival of love”. It signifies the end of winter and the beginning of spring, and is a day to forget and forgive, play and laugh and repair broken relationships. It’s believed that Holi’s roots lie in a Hindu legend where good triumphs over evil. Holi takes place during one night and one day, and starts on the evening of the Purnima (Full Moon day) of the Hindu Calendar. Taking part in the festival involves being covered in gulal, a fine powder that comes in a variety of colors, while also being drenched in water. The colors of the rainbow are all symbolic in Hinduism, and makes this event quite beautiful.
3. La Tomatina – Spain
On the last Wednesday of August each year, thousands of people make their way to the town of Buñol in Spain for what some call the “World’s Biggest Food Fight”. At approximately 11 am, a ham is placed on top of a large and greasy poll. As soon as someone has climbed the poll and grabbed the ham can, chaos ensues and crowds launch tomatoes at each other until there’s nothing left but pulp. Over 120 tons of red tomatoes are thrown each year at La Tomatina, but the fiesta is now limited to 20,000 ticketed entries after it got very popular in the 2000s. Though there is no one definitive version of how La Tomatina started, this tradition has been taking place since 1944 and really took off in the 1970s.
4. Straw Bear Day – United Kingdom
The Whittlesea Straw Bear Festival is a custom that dates back to 1859. Following Plough Monday (the traditional start to the English agricultural year), someone in the confraternity of the plough dresses as a straw bear and travels around town entertaining the community. Today, the event runs for three days and features over 250 dancers, musicians and performers from all over the British Isles. If taking part in the event, you are expected to dress in an array of traditional colorful costumes. Though it does take place over three days, the only day that the bear makes an appearance is Saturday, right before the costume is burned in order to pave the way for a new bear for the next year’s harvest.
5. Night Of The Radishes – Mexico
Near the Mexican city of Oaxaca, artisans and amateurs alike compete to carve the most interesting radish on December 23rd. Night of the Radishes, or Noche de Rabanos, was declared an official holiday in 1897 and was originally started by merchants who wished to attract potential shoppers to the town plaza before and after Christmas church services. Even though radishes are an integral part of Oaxaca’s cuisine around the holidays, don’t try and eat these – some are as heavy as six pounds and are a foot and a half long. They’re harvested a few days before so that the artists have enough time to create their masterpieces before displaying them. The most popular designs include nativity scenes, Mayan imagery, and local wildlife. Whoever creates the best carved radish wins 12,000 pesos (and bragging rights)!
6. Melon Day – Turkey
In a country that grows over 500 varieties of melon, it only makes sense that there’s an entire day dedicated to celebrating it. Known as Turkmenistan, this is a national holiday every second Sunday in August. There are fairs and market venues that tempt guests to taste melons grown in various regions. There are also awards presented for different melon-related competitions. Established in 1994, it recognizes the importance of muskmelons in the country’s history and culture. It takes place in August because it’s the month that the sweet and delicious melon variety Vaharman is at its ripest.
7. Monkey Buffet – Thailand
More than 3,000 monkeys live side-by-side with humans in Lopburi, Thailand. This festival has residents offer more than four and a half tons of vegetables, fruits and candies to the monkeys living around the ancient temple of Phra Prang Sam Yot. Legend has it that once a heroic monkey saved a bride-to-be from a ten-headed demon, and that monkey then founded the town. The festival itself is rooted from an idea to help tourism in the city, as well as an appreciation for monkeys that symbolize good luck and prosperity. On the last Sunday of November, chefs prepare an exclusively vegetarian menu, that includes fruit salad, sticky rice and a traditional Thai dessert called Thong yod.
8. Inti Raymi – Peru
Meaning “Festival of the Sun”, this remarkable event is celebrated on the 24th of June as homage to the sun god, who is the highest symbol of Inca culture. During Inca times, about 25,000 people would come to Cusco to celebrate this festival taking place from dawn to dusk. Today, the modern day re-enactment of Inti Raymi is as majestic as it once was, but without ancient mummies and only one llama is sacrificed as opposed to 200. The llama is sacrificed to appease the sun and ensure that the days will begin to get longer again. Downtown Cusco is shut down and actors, dancers, singers and other performers gather from all four provinces of the former Inca Empire.