7 Strange Festivals Around the World

by  Maryrose Mullen | Apr 26, 2013
Man's and woman's hands holding Earth
Man's and woman's hands holding Earth / efetova/iStock

Spring and summer seem to be festival seasons, and this time of the year, there’s plenty to celebrate. Warm weather, blossoming flowers, the ability to carry your wife long distances – wait, what? Across the globe, there are tons of strange and spectacular festivals commemorating everything from macaque monkeys to body painting. We've selected seven we find a little bit odd, but entirely awesome.

Wife Carrying World Championships, Finland

No one is quite sure how wife carrying became a sport, but Finland’s Wife Carrying World Championships, now in its 18th year, have proven to be so popular that similar competitions have popped up in the U.K. and the U.S. The concept seems straight-forward: The male competitor must carry his female teammate from one point to another. Sound easy? It’s not: the course is riddled with obstacles, from fences to water hazards. According to the official rules, the wife may be, “your own, the neighbor’s, or you may have found her further afield,” but most importantly, each contestant “must enjoy themselves.” There’s also plenty of music, brews, and activities to be enjoyed. If you and your partner feel like you need a stiff drink afterwards, you’re in luck. The grand prize is the winning wife’s weight in beer. July 5-6

The Boryeong Mud Festival, South Korea

What originally began as a means to promote the small South Korean town’s mud cosmetics has evolved into a filthy, fun festival. Set along the mineral-rich Daecheon beach, the Boryeong Mud Festival lets guests swim, relax, and let loose. Now in its 16th year, the nine-day celebration draws as many as two million visitors, all of whom are eager to lather up in grey goop. Visitors have plenty of dirty activities to choose from, such as mud races, mud wrestling, mud facials, and the always-popular Mr. Mud competition. Those to wish to keep clean (or as clean as possible) can enjoy pop and hip-hop musical acts, pottery and soap making demonstrations, firework displays, and more. But don’t try too hard to stay spotless – you might get thrown into “mud prison.” July 19-28

World Bodypainting Festival, Austria

This isn't your typical animal face and butterfly bodypainting you see at kid’s birthday parties. The World Bodypainting Festival gathers the best of the best. Artists from over 40 countries will compete for awards in body and face painting, special effects make-up, UV effects, and more. The competitors use faces and torsos as canvases to create their works of art. Art-lovers can get their fill at the various exhibitions, plus purchase pieces at the market, take part in over 50 workshops and demos, or attend the Body Circus – a party where guests dress in surreal costumes that combine body paint, masks, extreme make-up, and fantasy fashion. July 1-7

Haro Wine Festival, Spain

Unless you’re a Real Housewife, throwing wine at friends and family members is generally discouraged. But, not at the Haro Wine Festival, also known as the Wine Fight, where visitors follow a procession to the Cliffs of Bilibio, carrying jugs, bottles, water guns, and all types of containers filled with red wine – then proceed to douse each other. Tourists and locals wear white shirts, and return to town soaked purple. Though the actual fight lasts only a few hours, the Wine Festival is a three-day affair. Festivities begin as early as 7am and lasts through the night, when drenched visitors return to town to dance, celebrate, and watch bull fights in the local bullring. June 27-29

The Twins Day Festival, Twinsburg, Ohio

This festival has a specific requirement – attendees must be a twin, or a multiple. The largest gathering of twins and multiples in the world, The Twins Day Festival hosts twin contests, golf outings, a 5K and fun run, a talent show, and more. While most events are open to the public, certain ones are only open to twins, multiples, and their families, like the Welcome Wiener Roast. This year’s theme is "Twice Upon a Time." While no promises are made, the festival has given some of its visitors their happy endings: A pair of identical brothers met a pair of identical sisters at the event, got married, and had twins of their own. August 2-4

The Monkey Buffet Festival, Thailand

Over 3,000 macaque monkeys call the small village of Lopburi – which translates to "monkey town" – home, and once a year they are treated to a feast fit for King Kong. Locals fill the streets with huge platters of food, such as cakes, fruit, and candies, and the primates are given free reign to gorge themselves. The celebration began as a way to honor the animals, which are seen as blessed descendants of a great warrior monkey according to Hindu tradition. Today, the event lures plenty of tourists, but be warned: The macaques are not shy, and have been known to get a bit grabby when they see something they want. November 15.

Bay to Breakers, San Francisco

The first Bay to Breakers – a 12K footrace from the San Francisco Bay to the Great Highway along the Pacific coast – was created to boost city morale after a devastating earthquake. Today, the race embodies the city’s unique spirit. Runners dress in wacky, eye-catching costumes, such as pink gorillas, TV and movie characters, or nothing at all (some bold runners participate in the buff). Prizes are awarded to the most creative. If you’re not a runner, feel free to walk the length of the course, or cheer on those who do. May 19.

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