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The Most Unusual Festivals to Attend in 2024

There are certain global events that everyone knows. If you've never heard of St Patrick's Day, people will likely ask you what planet you are from. Globally, people grow up hearing tales of Carnival in Brazil, Oktoberfest in Germany, and several other festivals that are also celebrated in smaller numbers outside their home countries. But what of the world’s lesser-known celebrations? Have you ever heard of Spain’s baby jumping festival? Or the Monkey Buffet Festival in Thailand? (No, it doesn’t involve humans eating them.)

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Let’s take a look at some kooky and intriguing festivals that you can check out this year to liven up your travel schedule a bit.

Wife Carrying Festival

The Finns may be best known for their saunas and their vodka, but there’s also a tradition that developed relatively recently - back in the early 90s - which has rapidly gained popularity and even made its way to other countries. The Finnish call it eukonkanto , and it literally translates to “wife carrying.” As odd as this might sound, it has become a regular tradition in the country, and people have created different variations of it.

Participants are tasked with carrying their wives through an obstacle course over a 253.5 meter distance, and they can do so in different ways - on their backs, baby-style, or however else that they can think of. The grand prize is the weight of the winning wife’s worth of beer. So if you’ve got a wife with some weight on her, you will be rewarded for your efforts.

World Body Painting Festival

The Austrian’s also make a fair claim for the world’s most unusual festival. Every June, some of the world’s most creative artists gather together with over 30,000 spectators to witness the World Body Painting Festival, which has been a tradition in Austria since 1998. Participants go all out with their designs, which can include headdresses, accessories, and other paraphernalia.

Winners receive a trophy, plus cash prizes of 800, 400 and 200 euros for first, second, and third places. Plus, they gain recognition for their artistic skills, which go on to bring them accolades in their home countries.

Boryeong Mud Festival

Everyone knows that the Koreans are famous for their skin products. As a way to showcase their craftiness with mud, in 1998 the city of Boryeong started holding the Boryeong Mud Festival. In a relatively short period of time, this festival has grown to huge proportions, attracting 2.2 million participants, almost 400,000 of which come from abroad.

Participants in the festival can take part in all manner of mud-related activities, including mud pools, mud slides, and mud skiing competitions. They even have colored mud that you can use for body painting. If you consider yourself a neat freak, you might want to steer clear of this one.

The Night of the Radishes

Everyone associates Mexico with Dia de los Muertos, but few people know about The Night of the Radishes. That’s right, radishes. The tradition is native to the region of Oaxaca, and it has its origins in the early colonial period when radishes were introduced to the region by Spanish settlers. The region of Oaxaca is known for its wood carving tradition, and its people started incorporating radishes into their Christmas offerings in order to attract attention to particular craftsmen.

These days, people continue to celebrate the tradition on December 23 by creating large, ornate creations out of radishes. Although it mostly attracts participants from Oaxaca and its surrounding regions, the festival is gaining recognition and now includes participants and visitors with an eye for unusual art.

Cheese Rolling Festival

Gloucester cheese has gained deserved recognition over the years. What may be less known is that the people of Gloucester hold an annual contest in honor of its eponymous product every May. The challenge involves rolling a nine-pound wheel of cheese down a steep hill that has been swept through to provide maximum smoothness for participants.

Fun as it might sound, the tradition is actually quite dangerous and has resulted in a fair number of injuries over the years. Because of the steepness of the hill, both participants and spectators have become victims of cheese gone awry. Nonetheless, it remains a proud tradition among locals, and brave visitors continue to show up in increasingly large numbers.

La Tomatina

Are you a fan of tomatoes? Well, if you like eating them, you might not be happy to see several hundred thousand pounds of them being randomly thrown about. Nonetheless, the Spanish Tomato Festival has become a big thing in the region of Valencia since it first started in 1945. And yes, it involves large numbers of people - organizers estimate 20,000 - getting together to throw all these tomatoes at each other. So if you’re up for a good food fight, this might just be the festival for you.

There’s something for everyone

Regardless of how quirky your interest, there is a festival out there for you. Try doing a Google search on a subject of interest and see what comes up. You might be surprised at the number of people that share an usual interest with you. Or you could plan a festival tour and visit multiple different sites in succession if several of them strike your fancy. Poke around and see what comes up.

If you learn about a festival far enough in advance, you’ll be able to plan your trip and get tickets in time. Who knew that Oaxaca could be the place to go around Christmas Time??