Across the globe, themes and types of festivals are as varied as the people who attend them. Some celebrate holidays, some raise awareness, some feed monkeys and some are just plain weird. Here are some you've got to see to believe.
Wife Carrying World Championships
The Wife Carrying World Championships in Sonkajärvi, Finland, wasn’t supposed to be this big, said spokeswoman Kaisa Hynynen.
“The wife carrying originated in Sonkajarvi in 1992 because the organizers wanted to arrange something entertaining, fun and engaging for the visitors at the market event; thus, to keep up with the ‘local’ theme,” she said.
In addition to the city's festival and marketplace already held annually, they thought a competition based on local legend would be fun. Legend has it that in the 19th century, Rosvo "the Robber" Ronkainen trained his gang of thieves by making them carry something heavy on their backs and run through the woods, in order to prepare them for robbing and a quick escape.
“Another side to this is that allegedly these guys would sometimes also snatch village women away for marrying purposes. I do not believe there is any actual proof of this though," Hynynen said.
Couples do not have to be married. The only requirement is that the woman be at least 17 years old and weigh at least 49 kilos (about 108 pounds). The winning couple receives product prizes, a trophy and the wife's weight in beer.
Underwater Music Festival
On the Saturday after Independence Day, the mermaids come out to play at Looe Key Reef, Florida. Costumed characters grab instruments created by local artist August Powers and go under the sea to "play" water-themed music, which is actually piped in by a radio station. It's filmed by videographers and watched by more than 100 boaters on a typical, clear day.
Snorkelers and scuba divers are encouraged to go under to watch the performance.
Festival-goers and performers must be careful not to touch the coral or the sea grass, though. "The primary purpose is to raise awareness about the reef and conserve it," said Susan Miller, executive director of Lower Keys Chamber of Commerce.
Click here to read about Weird Festivals in America.
In Alpine lore, St. Nick has an evil sidekick. Where the Jolly Old Elf brings presents and treats to the nice little boys and girls of the world, Krampus, a demonic figure with fangs and fur, threatens to beat naughty children with bundles of switches or snatch them away. Parts of Germany and Bavaria celebrate this terrifying mythical creature with a festival, called Krampusnacht. The festival includes a parade of people dressed as the evil elf trolling the streets.
Monkey Buffet Festival
Humans aren’t the only creatures who love a good party. Monkeys that live around Lopburi, Thailand, are treated every November to their own festival, with thousands of pounds of fruits, cakes, vegetables and candy on colorful display. The monkeys aren’t shy about interacting with the people who come to watch them, either. Just be sure to secure your snacks and sunglasses so they aren’t “borrowed” by a furry little friend. Activities for humans include music and dances in which people dress in monkey costumes and masks, and viewing the monkey sculptures on display.
Boryeong Mud Festival
Things get down and dirty in Boryeong, Korea, in July. The mud in Boryeong is said to be great for your skin, so in the 1990s the Boryeong Mud Festival was organized to promote it. Truckloads of mud are brought to the festival site on Daecheon Beach, and revelers swim, wrestle, slide, box and otherwise get covered in it from head to toe. When revelers had enough of being muddy, they can walk across the beach and rinse off in the ocean. The festival ends with a big outdoor concert.
World BodyPainting Festival
Some of the best body art in the world is on display every year at the World BodyPainting Festival in Carinthia, Austria. The festival features five stages with different styles of music, fashion shows, art exhibitions, workshops and an after-show party. Artists from more than 50 countries compete for world championship titles, which are bestowed in Bodypainting, Airbrush and Special Effects for artists, makeup artists, photographers and videographers. A Lifestyle Market offers booths that offer food, fashion, jewelry, accessories, tattoos and piercings.
Noche de Rábanos (Night of the Radishes)
Radishes aren’t just for salad in Oaxaca, Mexico.
Just before Christmas, artists begin carving the red vegetables into sculptures of animals, kings and even the Virgin Mary. Some are larger than usual, not meant to be eaten. The sculptures are displayed during Noche de Rábanos, or Night of the Radishes, annually on Dec. 23. The century-old festival started as merchants carved radishes and other vegetables for customers leaving midnight mass. The tradition became so popular that it became its own holiday. Christmas festivities continue with a non-radish-themed parade on Christmas Eve and a traditional Christmas dinner and fireworks on Christmas Day.
Battle of the Oranges
Ivrea, Italy, holds a three-day historical carnival in February to commemorate its rebellion and subsequent independence from a tyrannical baron.
The highlight of the carnival is a melee of nine teams who throw oranges at horse-drawn carts to re-enact the rebellion. Oranges have only been used since about the mid-19th century, when it’s said that girls threw oranges, along with confetti, sugared almonds and flowers at boys they were smitten by, who eventually began throwing them back. Though the event has taken place since medieval times, the Battle of Oranges in its current form became an official event in 1947, when formal orange-throwing teams were set up. Prizes are given for best foot teams and best horse-drawn carriages.
Residents in Port Lincoln, Australia, get together each January to celebrate the town's fishing industry. Namely, tuna fishing. There's a wide range of events during the five-day festival, including a parade, pageants, live music and fireworks. But the real draw is the "Tuna Toss." Contestants from around the world come to throw a 22-pound tuna to see who can make the fish fly the farthest. The winner gets a hefty catch, too—a trophy and a big cash reward.
El Colacho Festival
Once a year in Castrillo de Murcia, Spain, men dressed as devils jump over babies lying on pillows in the streets. The El Colacho festival takes place on the Feast of Corpus Christi, a Catholic holiday celebrating the institution of the Eucharist. El Colacho is an ancient festival that began in the 1600s. It is believed that the ritual absolves the babies—who were born within the last year—of man's original sin.