Festivities That Weren’t Necessities


It’s always strange what kinds of rabbit holes you end up inadvertently traveling down when doing a little mindless web surfing.

You start off with a purpose, but soon the brain unwittingly switches to autopilot and you start following the bouncing ball from point to point, page to page, before snapping back to consciousness and thinking, “How the heck did I end up reading about the history of Early Netherlandish painting? Wasn’t I looking for a recipe for a chicken marinade?”

Such was the mental state I found myself in when I realized I was neck-deep in an article about the Night of the Radishes.

While Night of the Radishes sounds like the awesome title of a low-budget horror film from 1982, it’s actually a Christmastime festival celebrated Dec. 23 in Oaxaca, Mexico. Every year since 1897, the festival is dedicated to the carving of radishes. As the legend goes, following an overabundant radish crop, radishes from unharvested fields were pulled up, carved and eventually used as Christmas dinner centerpieces.

The thought of the Night of the Radishes made me think of that quote from former U.S. Attorney General and Sen. Robert Kennedy: “Some men see things as they are, and ask why. I dream of things that never were, and ask why not.” However, it also got me thinking: What are some other odd and utterly unnecessary festivals celebrated around the world?

So without further ado, back down that rabbit hole, Alice.

La Tomatina

On the last Wednesday of August since the mid-20th century, residents of Bunol in eastern Spain have solemnly gathered with their dear and beloved neighbors in the town square – and proceeded to fling more than 300,000 pounds of tomatoes at one another. This event began, innocently enough, in 1945 when some youthful exuberance during a parade started a ruckus that quickly devolved into a food fight. On the plus side, it’s said that the citric acid from the tomatoes actually makes the town square quite clean once the mess is removed.

Monkey Buffet Festival

Before you start to write that angry letter, please note: No monkeys were harmed in this festival. You’re reading it wrong. It’s not a buffet of monkeys. It’s a buffet for monkeys. Held each year in Lopburi, Thailand, this festival involves providing fruits and vegetables to the estimated 2,000 members of the local monkey population. No word yet on how this gesture compares to what develops in Bunol, Spain, but it’s safe to assume that hilarity ensues.

Cheese Rolling Festival

Every year at Cooper’s Hill near Gloucester, England, this wonderful event features people running down a steep hill in pursuit of a large, rolling, runaway wheel of cheese. That’s it. If that sounds ridiculous to you, it’s because it is. However, if you Google the festival, you’ll come across endless compilation videos exhibiting some of the most spectacular faceplants ever captured on film.

Moose Dropping Festival

I have no insider knowledge on the origins of the phrase “Hold my beer,” but I’m assuming it was first said by someone right before this festival began in Talkeetna, Alaska. Held for many years in July, it seems that the primary focus of this event centered on tossing moose droppings at targets. I’m guessing there is not much else going on in Alaska. Unfortunately, it appears the festival came to an abrupt end in 2009, presumably when the town of Talkeetna ran out of alcoholic beverages.

Wife Carrying World Championships

Speaking of alcoholic beverages, let’s visit Sonkajarvi, Finland, home to the Wife Carrying World Championships since 1992. This competition involves men attempting to carry their spouses through an obstacle course in the fastest time. Shockingly, wife-carrying contests are held in countries around the globe, and the “sport” is even mentioned in Guinness World Records. Unshockingly, the winner at the world championships is presented with his wife’s weight in beer.

You knew there was going to be beer involved somewhere.

Tags: good read, humor

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