In addition to the New Year, International Women’s Day and May Day, there are other holidays in the world – strange and unusual. Most of them are local, i.e. those that are noted only by individual peoples. What festive events and festivals can rightfully be called the most amazing of all, and on the basis of what traditions did they arise?
Coopershield Cheese Race
One of the most unusual holidays in the UK is held every year on Cooper’s Hill, which is located near the city of Gloucester in the Cotswolds. For 200 years, starting in the 1880s, on every last Monday in May, the Cheese Race has been held here as part of the Spring Festival and Spring Bank Holidays.
The strangeness lies in the very essence of this action – at 12:00 noon, adults climb to the top of a steep hill, the slope of which is 45-50 degrees, and after giving a signal, they begin to run down, trying to grab the head of Gloucester cheese that has been lowered down! In fact, many participants do not run, but roll and tumble, while receiving serious injuries – sprains, bruises, dislocations, fractures of arms, legs, ribs, etc. The danger is not only a steep slope, but also the main prize – rolling cheese, which accelerates to 110 km / h. It can injure people on the sides and watching the race.
Today, not only residents of the county and other regions of England, but also foreigners who come here from other countries participate in the Coopershield competition! However, this fact does not bribe the government of the country, which is making attempts to eradicate the dangerous tradition. First, it was decided to reduce the weight of the cheese used from 18 kg to the maximum possible 5 kg. Then the authorities repeatedly canceled the races and did not send ambulances and qualified medical personnel to the competition site. As a result, officials decided to establish an entry fee of £ 20 for participants, which only fueled the indignation of citizens.
Today it is officially forbidden to hold an event, but this still does not stop extreme lovers – even though they only manage with the help of volunteers, they continue to persistently follow the established tradition from year to year. For example, local cheese maker Mrs.Diana Smart, who is now making prize-winning Gloucester cheese, received repeated warnings that she could be held accountable for her involvement in organizing a risky activity. However, the woman decided not to give up her roots.
It is not known exactly why the British began to organize this unusual holiday. One version says that the event arose on the basis of pagan rituals, during which burning bundles of grass were lowered from the mountains – this symbolized the coming of the New Year. However, there is another theory according to which people could follow a similar custom as a sign of confirmation of their right to graze herds in communal lands.
Gradually, this unusual Indian holiday, also known as Phagwah, Bhojpuri or the Festival of Colors, begins to penetrate into other countries, incl. to Russia. Holi, which is celebrated by Hindus in late February or early March, can rightfully be considered the brightest and most colorful event that heralds the arrival of spring. On the first day of the celebration (always on the full moon), people make a fire and burn a huge scarecrow on it, which, as it were, repeats the burning of the demon Holika. Cattle are driven through the fire, and some daredevils even walk on coals.
According to the pagan views of the Hindus, Holika was the sister of the demon king Hiranyakashipu. He had a son, Prahlada, who did not want to worship his father, but proclaimed himself a servant of another Hindu god – Vishnu. According to legend, once Holika decided to kill her unfaithful nephew. Covering herself with a special magic cloak that protects from any danger, she sat down with the child right into the fire. However, it turned out that the cloak fell off and covered exactly Prahlada, while the demoness herself was burned in flames. It is believed that after that people came to the ashes and anointed themselves with the ashes of Holiki for ritual purposes. It is precisely the echoes of this story that can be observed today – the ashes are simply replaced by multi-colored paints.
On the second and third days of the celebration, people walk on the streets until dark, simultaneously showering each other with colored powders and pouring colored water. In addition, in India itself, the participants of the event are offered special food and drinks, for example, “tandai”, the obligatory ingredients of which are psychoactive substances of organic origin. The event is noisy, pompous, fun and accompanied by the playing of traditional Indian musical instruments, such as the dholi (a kind of double-sided drum).
For India, the unusual holiday of Holi is important, because on this day any, even the strictest, prohibitions are canceled, and caste differences between citizens, albeit temporarily, are still erased.
Translated from Japanese, the name of this unusual holiday means “Day of naked men.” It is held every year on Saturday 3 February in small towns in Japan, although it used to be widespread in the country. The essence of the event is that thousands of practically naked men take to the frosty streets to cleanse themselves and attract good luck. Their bodies are covered only by special white loincloths – “fundoshi”, reminiscent of the belts of sumo wrestlers, which are called “mawashi”. The whole crowd follows a completely naked person, and each participant in the procession strives to touch him.
A similar tradition has existed in Japan since ancient times. Back in the distant 767, the procedure “naoi shinji”, or “dissipation of failure” was first described. The ancient Japanese believed that influential people, for example, those who kept temples, had the right to attack a person they met, beat him, curse him, call him, and undress him. This could not be done only with women, children, old people, rich men and priests. It was believed that the one who touches a naked person, as it were, will shift his sins and failures onto him, and he himself will become cleaner, happier and luckier.
Over time, this cruel rite was reborn into the more humane Hadaka Matsuri. Men between the ages of 23 and 42 have the right to take part in the strange festival – the Japanese are sure that this very unstable and insane period brings with it many dangers. Women are allowed to the event only as drummers. A similar restriction was introduced, among other things, for safety reasons: men have to be in the cold all night, along the way pouring in liters of free strong sake, plunging into icy bodies of water and trying to warm up in fights, races and competitions. According to tradition, all this strengthens the body and spirit, and also contributes to a more intense cleansing.
One of the main figures of Hadaka Matsuri is Shinotoko – the very naked man that every participant in the event will crave to touch. In Japanese prefectures, the procedures for the selection of this important person differ from each other: somewhere he is appointed by lot right on the night of the actual action, and somewhere he is elected by comparison with other applicants with subsequent lengthy training. Only a healthy person with a strong body and without tattoos on the body can become a Shinotoko (such drawings are not welcomed by Shinto beliefs). This role is considered extremely honorable. If Shinotoko was chosen in advance, he will most likely need to participate in various sacred rituals – for example, to live a certain period of time on water and rice, shave off all hair except eyebrows, and also temporarily go to a monastery.
During the festival, shinotoko is protected by guards who make sure that the naked person does not get hurt by the huge crowd of men. At 12 o’clock at night, the priests of the temple throw several sticks-amulets to people – whoever catches the treasured item will gain luck and good fortune for at least the entire next year!
In summer, the streets of the Spanish city of Buñol are filled with “red rivers”. The reason for this is the annual La Tomatina festival held here, during which people arrange a real battle with shells in the form of tomatoes. An unusual event takes place in the last week of August and attracts up to 40,000 participants (in total, about 9,000 people live in Buñol). The festival lasts 7 days. Quite civilized fairs, parades, musical performances, dances and fireworks coexist with the chaos of tomato battles.
The beginning of the tomato battle is timed at 10 o’clock in the morning – it is at this moment that stocks of tomatoes (about 145 tons) are delivered to the city from neighboring Extremadura, where it is cheaper and more profitable to buy these vegetables. Loaded vehicles stop in the main square, Plaza del Pueblo. However, before the start of the battle, it is necessary to fulfill the traditional condition – one of the daredevils must climb onto a high wooden post, previously greased with soapy water, and get an appetizing ham (ham) from its top. As soon as this happens, the water cannons will fire a volley, and the battle will be considered to have officially begun. After exactly 1 hour of tomato anarchy, the cannons will fire again, and this will mean that the battle is over.
There can be no allies and enemies in La Tomatina – each participant speaks for himself. Before throwing a tomato at a friend or stranger, a projectile, i.e. tomato, you will need to crush to avoid injury and dangerous situations. Police also ensure that people do not carry or use sharp or piercing objects that could seriously injure others, such as glass bottles.
As soon as the fight is over, fire brigades leave for the streets. They have to carry out a rather impressive amount of work – to get rid of red spots on the walls and windows, as well as to wash off tomato slurry from squares and pavements. The participants themselves go to the river or turn to the local residents so that they doused them with water from the hoses and helped to get rid of the tomato residues.
La Tomatina is arranged in honor of Our Lady and patron saint of the city, Saint Louis Bertrand. The festival was first held in 1945, and it is believed that the tradition of “fighting with tomatoes” appeared after two comrades fought against each other in a similar way. Beginning in 1880, the authorities committed themselves to supplying tomatoes for the entertainment of the population, and in 2000 the local Bunyola festival even received the status of “international” due to its importance.
Many people know that in Spain there is a tradition of running from angry bulls through narrow streets, but few know where this custom comes from. It turns out that the insane action takes place in one of the most unusual holidays in the world, which is called “San Fermin”. It takes place in the Spanish city of Pamplona, the capital of the autonomous region of Navarra.
San Fermin has been held every year from 6 to 14 July for 800 years! It is dedicated to the patron saint of the city and the entire province – Saint Fermin, who saved Pamplona from a deadly plague epidemic in 1300-1400. Despite the fact that the Spaniards always paid tribute to this man, the celebration became especially popular only after the publication of Ernest Hemingway’s novel “The Sun Also Rises” (“Fiesta”) in 1926. It was this writer who spoke about the amazing traditions of Pamplona in such a bewitching and exciting way that the whole world began to be interested in them.
The city is immersed in the atmosphere of fireworks, endless concerts, performances and processions. And every morning at exactly 6:30 the orchestras begin to play, notifying all the sleeping people that it is time for the “run of the 12 Encierro bulls.” The race itself starts at 8 o’clock after the flare is fired. The total length of the route is about 1 km (from the paddocks in Santo Domingo to the arena in Plaza de Torros). The whole event takes less than 25 minutes. The custom originates from the traditional amusements of the Spaniards living in the countryside, where driving bulls or running away from cows is considered common and rather fun.