Depending on where you live in the world the sort of festivals you’re exposed to will differ drastically. You’ve got religious festivals, historical festivals, music and arts festivals, and festivals that are just plain strange, at least to us onlookers from afar. After doing some research about some of the world’s strangest, and certainly most dangerous festivals, I’ve composed a list of the top five festivals that I’d really like to see. As some of these sound downright dangerous, I doubt very much I’d be a competitor.
5. Cooper’s Hill Cheese Rolling & Wake
If you should find yourself near Gloucester, England during the spring, you’ll want to see this spectacle first hand. From the top of Cooper’s Hill, a wheel of Double Gloucester cheese is rolled down the hill, which is then chased by a hoard of people. The only time in the 200 year history of the event that real cheese wasn’t used was during the Second World War when rationing was in place. During those years a wooden “cheese” was used. The winner of the competition wins, you guessed it, the wheel of cheese. It should be stated that the hill is no gentle slope. A team of ambulances and a volunteer rescue group is on hand in order to deal with the large numbers of injuries. In 2005 one of the races had to be postponed because all of the ambulances were preoccupied with injured racers.
Held in Port Lincoln, Australia, this annual event draws a crowd of 25,000 people, and has been going on since 1961. In its early days, the event was organized to bring about awareness of the Tuna Industry in the region, but has since grown to be a huge tourist attraction. Of all the festivities at Tunarama, the crowd favorite is undoubtedly the Tuna Tossing. Similar in style to the better known Hammer Toss, competitors will throw 9kg frozen tuna as far as they can. How far can a tuna fly? The record to date is 37.23 meters, and was set by Olympian Sean Carlin in 1998.
3. Takeuchi Matsuri
If you’re going to be in and around Rokugo, Japan on February 15th, I would highly recommend bringing hockey pads. No, there isn’t a giant hockey game organized for the day, although that would be quite something to see. The event makes hockey fights look downright civilized. About 100 participants divide themselves into two teams, the North team and the South team. Each participant is armed with a 20 to 40 foot bamboo pole and for two rounds of three minutes, beat each other until everyone is covered in bruises, welts and cuts. The third round is when the real violence starts though. First, everyone lights their bamboo poles on fire and continues with the beatings. The poles are usually neglected fairly early on into the final round and are replaced with fists. The street brawl continues in a winner takes all match. If you think you’re down and out and decide to sit on the sidelines, think again. You may end up getting dragged back into the mix for more. The legend has it that if the North team wins there will be a good rice harvest in the coming year.
2. El Colacho
During the Catholic feast of Corpus Christi in the village of Castrillo de Murcia, Spain, the event of “Baby Jumping” has been very popular since 1620. The origins aren’t known, but it has to be one of the stranger events in the world. Men, dressed as the Devil will jump over babies lying on mattresses in the street. It’s not as if they’re jumping over only one baby, either. A whole row of babies, born within the past 12 months, are lined up to be cleansed of their original sin. As “the Devil” jumps over, he absorbs the sin, thus cleansing the infants. The event has been described as one of the world’s most dangerous festivals.
1. Goat-Tossing Festival
On the fourth Sunday of January, in the village of Manganeses de la Polvorosa a group of local teenagers will tie up a local goat. Once the animal is restrained, they will take the goat to the top of the church belfry, all the while with a large crowd watching the event. Upon reaching the top, the hog-tied goat is then thrown from the window. The goat is, hopefully, caught in a large sheet by the many onlookers below. The origins of this event can be traced back to a legend of a Priest who lived in the village. He wandered the land with his goat, feeding the poor with his goat’s milk. His goat wandered into the belfry one day, and when the bell was rung, leapt from the window. Thankfully, the goat was caught in a blanket, and each year since the event is reenacted. The town tried to ban the event in 1992, which proved unsuccessful. Another attempt was made in 2000 to ban the event, which the town upheld, though the town councilors remarked that they “could not be responsible for the behaviors of the participants”.