This Christmas, chances are you’re not planning on punching your neighbor (although you may fantasize about it), throwing soybeans at your sister, or fighting over sacred sticks while wearing nothing but a loincloth.
However, in some parts of the world this is precisely how people celebrate holidays. We know; life isn’t fair.
While you may not be able to partake in these festivities, you can learn more about them and who knows, maybe incorporate some of these traditions into your future holiday gatherings.
Without further ado, here are five of the most bizarre holidays in the world.
- Tinku Festival, Bolivia
- Hadaka Matsuri, Japan
- Nyepi, Bali
- Setsubun, Japan
- Monkey Buffet Festival, Thailand
If you plan to go to the Bolivian Andes in May, you might want to reconsider. Or pack a helmet and some boxing gloves.
Every year at this time, violence descends upon the hills and towns: men punch or throw rocks at other men, people shoot each other with slingshots. But these aren’t random, uncontrolled incidents, this is tinku.
Tinku is a Bolivian Aymara tradition which began as a form of ritualistic combat. During the ritual, men and women from different communities come together. The festivities begin with dancing. Then, the women form circles and chant while the men fight each other. Women will occasionally join the fighting too.
Due to their crouched stance and the rhythmic way the men circle and throw punches at each other, a dance called the Festive Tinku was created. This dance simulates the traditional tinku combat. The Festive Tinku is now performed all over Bolivia.
Hadaka Matsuri, which translates to “naked festival,” is a festival in Japan in which participants wear little clothing—often just a Japanese loincloth—and fight thousands of other men for symbolic batons, putting all non-naked, non-baton-collecting festivals to shame.
According to Shinto legend, the first Hadaka Matsuri dates back over 1000 years. At that time it was thought that nudity could absorb evil and bad luck. One man from each village was designated the Shin-Otoko, or godly man. This unlucky guy had to shave off all his body hair and walk into a crowd of villagers, who believed that touching him would make all their troubles go away. If that wasn’t bad enough, the Shin-Otoko was banished from the village (along with the town’s bad luck).
These days, the most famous of these festivals is the Saidai-ji Eyo Hadaka Matsuri in the city of Okayama. Over 10,000 participants donning loincloths gather at the Saidai-ji temple to compete for the title of “the lucky man,” which he achieves by catching the shingi or sacred lucky sticks. The lucky man must not only capture the symbolic batons, but also successfully defend himself against 10,000 other men before thrusting the sticks into a container filled with rice. The winner receives a cash prize and, of course, mad bragging rights.
If you want some peace and quiet—a lot of it—consider going to Bali during Nyepi.
Nyepi is a Balinese holiday which celebrates the Saka New Year (Bali’s Lunar New Year). It’s known as the “Day of Silence” and is a day for silence, fasting, and meditation.
From 6am until 6am the next morning, anything that might interfere with self-reflection is prohibited. There is no lighting fires and lights must be kept low. No one can work. Entertainment and pleasure are forbidden. There is no traveling. And for some, there is no talking or eating. The island is truly eerie: Bali’s roads are devoid of cars and there is little noise coming from homes.
The rules of Nyepi are not limited to the Balinese or Bali’s residents: non-residents and tourists must also adhere to the restrictions, but they can do what they want in their hotels. However, beaches and streets are off-limits and even the airport is closed for the day.
Quirky Japan is on our list again with Setsubun, which could also be called “bean throwing day.” This holiday takes place on the day before the beginning of spring in Japan. Because of its association with Lunar New Year, Setsubun is considered a kind of New Year’s Eve, and as such it includes a special ritual to cleanse away the evil of the previous year and drive away evil, disease-bringing spirits for the year to come. This ritual is called mamemaki, which translates to “bean scattering.”
In the ritual of mamemaki, roasted soybeans are thrown out the door of the home or at a family member wearing an Oni (ogre or demon) mask. Meanwhile, the people gathered shout “Demons out! Luck in!” and slam the door shut. People also visit the Spring festival at a temple or shrine, where this ritual is performed.
If you’re a monkey born near Lopburi, Thailand, you’ve hit the life jackpot.
Every year on the last weekend of November, locals lay out a gigantic feast for the monkeys at Pa Prang Sam Yot temple in Lopburi. What did the monkeys do to deserve such an honor? Be gluttonous little thieves, in fact. (This is NOT how to get ahead in real life, kids.) The local monkeys were out of control, harassing people for their food, so in 1989 the event was started as a way to collectively give in, at least once a year (and, of course, to bring in monkey-loving tourists).
The buffet includes 4,000 kilograms of fruits, vegetables, cakes, and candies, which are laid out in front of temples or stacked into little pyramids. Just keep an eye on your belongings if you go, the monkeys can be a little aggressive.