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The world's wackiest festivals


This week saw the Watering of the Girls festival take place with merry abandonment over in Holloko, Hungary. The annual Easter tradition sees men chase after local girls and drench them with water. A little offbeat you might think, but this is far from the only wacky celebration to grab headlines in the course of the year.

From baby-jumping in Spain to camel wrestling in Turkey and nakedness in Japan, the world offers a dizzying array of eccentric festivals held in the name of tradition, courage - or just plain ridiculousness. Forget bunting and soggy sausage rolls at your home town's festival: these are the local celebrations that are really worth a visit...

Picture credit: Rex Features

Watering of the Girls festival, Hungary

If you happen to be in the World Heritage village of Holloko in Hungary this week, you'll be swept up in the annual Watering of the Girls tradition, which sees girls running by as guys drench them in buckets of water. The ancient fertility ritual is rooted in the area's pre-Christian past - and is obligingly played out by the local female population every year.

Day of the Goose Festival, Spain

Picture this: a plastic goose is suspended from a rope above a harbour in the Basque town of Lekeitio in Spain, where a series of locals attempt to hold it while jumping into the ocean. The aim? To decapitate the bird, of course.

Fun times...

Wife-Carrying Championships, Finland

Grab your wife, lug her round a 253.5 metre obstacle course and you could win her body weight in beer if you win. A genius plan, no? So think the partipants in Finland's annual wife-carrying championships, where wives - or any willing females over 49 kilograms - are called upon to be carried around the c0urse, with a 15-second time lag penalty incurred every time they are dropped (plus a few bruises, presumably).

Cheese-Rolling Festival, Gloucestershire, UK

Talking of bruises, more than a few are sustained at the annual cheese-rolling content at Cooper's Hill near Gloucester. This basically consists of one 8lb chunk of Double Gloucester being hurled down a (very steep) hill, with hundreds of brave (stupid?) participants throwing themselves after it. Several broken ribs and twisted ankles later and someone usually comes out as the proud new owner of the Double Gloucester. Crack open the biscuits...

Monkey Buffet Festival, Thailand

Every November, dozens of macaque monkeys gather at the Pra Prang Sam Yot temple in Lopburi, Thailand, where locals offer up a range of tasty treats, including bananas, peanuts and even Diet Coke. The goal of the festival is to promote good relations between city residents and their long-tailed friends, who waste no time in lapping up the luxurious feast laid on for them.

Baby-Crying Contest, Japan

On the face of it this doesn't sound like much of a competition, but the Naki Sumo (crying baby contest) in Tokyo nevertheless tempts in thousands of eager parents each year. Here, they hand over their beloved infants to an assembly of high priests and half-naked sumo wrestlers, who do their best to make the little ones cry as long and loud as possible.

It is believed the Sumo-induced wails are good for the babies' health - if not exactly music to the ears.

Night Of The Radishes, Mexico

The humble radish becomes the hero in this yearly competition, which sees locals in Oaxaca, Mexico, plant the vegetables up to three months beforehand. On the night of December 23, the intricately carved radishes - featuring a colourful array of historical, cultural and religious themes - go on display, with the best sculpture crowned the winner.

Camel Wrestling Championships, Turkey

Camels are pitted against one another in this January fiesta in Selcuk, Turkey, that has more to do with the camels' elaborate decorage than their ability to fight.

The contestants - some of which are bred specially for the events - are dressed up in colourful, layered cloths and are paraded through the streets beforehand to the sound of drums. During the actual match, the camels may do nothing more than butt heads a little, but the loser is determined by looking still and "humiliated."

Baby-Jumping Festival, Spain

Nervous mums, look away now: as this annual fiesta - known as El Colacho and held in the village of Castillo de Murcia - involves parents bringing their newborn babies covered in swaddling, and lying them out on a pavement. Grown men dressed as a character representing the devil then jump over the infants to cleanse them of evil spirits. The combination of folklore and religious mythology surrounding the ceremony makes it an exciting - if not slightly scary - occasion to watch.

Naked Festival, Japan

Pop by the city of Saidaiji-naka in Japan's Okayama Prefecture around February time, and there's a good chance you will come across the alarming spectacle of nine thousand men wearing only loincloths.

Not only that, they will all be struggling with each other to catch "lucky" willow sticks thrown by a priest from a window four metres up. And to top it off, the event takes place at midnight in the dark, with the men chanting rousing cries of "Wasshoi! Wasshoi!" as they parade to the meeting point beforehand.

All very surreal, but the Hadaka Matsuri festival dates back 500 years and is widely embraced by locals and tourists alike.

Picture credits: Rex Features and Getty Images



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