10 strange traditions (3)

(1) The Maonan people live in mountains of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region located in the south of China. They call themselves Anan or "local people". On the 15th day of the first lunar month local people organize the Bird Flying Festival. In 2013 the festival will be held on the 24th of February.

People prepare Sweet Flag (Calamus) leaves. On the New Year Eve these leaves are used to "knit" different birds like swallows, partridges or cormorants. Inside the stomach of each bird people put sticky rice, beans, and sesame. The birds are then steamed.

After steaming they are fastened to a sugar cane and left hanged in front of a burning incense. These birds are kind of delicacy for children. The women who recently gave birth to a child traditionally visit their mothers who give them birds for their children.

(2) Marostica is a small town located northeast of Vicenza, Italy. Our story about this unusual tradition starts in 1451. Taddeo Parisio the Lord of the Marostica castle had a daughter Lionora. Two local knights Rinaldo D'Angarano and Vieri da Vallonara were in love with her. In order to decide who is going to marry his daughter, Taddeo Parision organized a duel.

He did not want to have a classic duel to avoid the bloodshed. So, he invited two knights to play a game of chess in the town square. But this was not an ordinary game. All the figures in this game were human beings. The winner of game would get the hand of Lionora and the looser the hand of Leonora's younger sister Oldrada.

Chess game in Marostica, Italy (photo by Patrick Keogh)
Chess game in Marostica, Italy

Both knights were very passionate to win the game. Lionora secretly had an affair with one of knights so she watched the game with great interest. Her wish come true. Her lover Vieri da Vallonara won the game.

In memory of this romantic game of chess people of Marostica organize a special game of chess with human figures. The game is played on the second weekend in September. The event includes more than 500 people and lasts two hours.

(3) Bog Snorkeling is a strange competition held each year near Llanwrtyd Wells in mid Wales. The tradition was started in 1976. World championship has been held in the same town since 1985. More than 200 people competes in the event. It is held on the August Bank Holiday Weekend. In 2013 it will be on the 26th of August.

Bog snorkeling (photo by Rud-GR)
Bog snorkeling

Few details about the competition. The competitor wearing snorkels and flippers has to pass two consecutive lengths of a 50 meters (60 yards) water filled trench cut through a peat bog. Classic swimming moves are not allowed. Just move your flippers as fast as possible.

(4) People of town Cieza (Murcia) in the southeast of Spain organize the Olive pit spitting competition. Each year, on the 28th of August, there are two competitions - one for children and one for the adults. The only so to say "tool" during competition is one's mouth. No additional tools are allowed.

olive pits (photo by KristyKay22)
Olive pits

Ten best competitors after first round will progress in the second round. There they will have two more spittings. Three best competitors will be declared winners. Only “Oliva Chafá” variety of olives grown in Cieza can be used in the competition.

The best result, recognized by the Guinness Book of Records, is 21.32 metres. The competitor who manages to break the record will be declared “caballero predilecto de la Orden de los Lanzadores de Huesos” (Venerated Knight of the Fellowship of the Olive Spitting Knights).

(5) Manganeses de la Polvorosa is a small village of 812 (2004) people located in Spanish province of Zamora, Castile and León. It is famous for its rather bizarre event called Goat Tossing Festival. It is organized every year on the fourth Sunday in January. The event honours St. Vincent de Paul who is local patron saint.

goat tossing
Goat Tossing Festival

The main event of the festival starts when a young man finds a goat. He ties it up and takes it on the top of the church tower. He then throws the goat down where the villagers are trying to catch it with a sheet of tarpaulin. Despite numerous protests of local authorities and animal rights organizations the event was never prohibited.

(6) Fiesta de Santa Marta de Ribarteme is organized each year on the 29th July in town of Las Nieves located in Galicia, north west of Spain. This festivity unites all those who experienced the near death experience.

Fiesta de Santa Marta de Ribarteme
Fiesta de Santa Marta de Ribarteme

Thousands of people walk towards local church dedicated to Saint Marta de Ribarteme, the Patron Saint of resurrection. They carry coffins with their loved ones inside. The coffin can also be carried by those who experienced the near death phenomenon. After the mass held at noon there is a procession towards the local cemetery. From there the procession with big statue of Saint Marta is returning back to the church.

(7) Markopoulo is a small village on the Greek island of Kefalonia. Between the 5th and the 15th of August there are festivities of the Falling Asleep of the Virgin (the Dormition of the Theotokos). In this period the village church of Panagia of Langouvarda becomes a place of rather strange event. People gathered at the religious service see snakes arriving from the area around bell tower towards the church itself. Each snake has black cross on its head and tongue. Local people call them "Our Lady's Snakes". Snakes are moving to the icon of Virgin Mary.

According to legend the origin of this tradition lays in 1705 when the local monastery was attacked by pirates. Nuns prayed to the Virgin Mary. It is believed that they were saved because they were transformed into snakes. Snakes appear in other parts of year but then they are not visible. For the local people seeing these snakes is a good sign. The mentioned snakes are actually well known European cat snakes (Telescopus fallax).

(8) The Armenians often visit the the Mother Cathedral of the Armenian Apostolic Church in Etchmiadzin (Ejmiatsin). One reason for the visit is the cathedral oak door. Person first prays to God. He or she then rubs the pebble once along the door. If the pebble sticks the wish will be fulfilled.

The Mother Cathedral in Etchmiadzin, Armenia
The Mother Cathedral in Etchmiadzin, Armenia

(9) São João Festival (Saint John Festival) is the most popular festivity held each year on the 23rd June in the city of Porto, Portugal. For the Portuguese Saint John is the patron of lovers. Apart from huge number of dishes and sweet Port wine the festival is know for quite strange custom.

São João Festival in Porto
São João Festival in Porto

Locals hit each other on the head with big plastic hammers and wild garlic stalks. Nobody really knows what is the origin of this head banging. Oh yes, at midnight there is a huge fireworks. The festival ends on the beaches of the Douro estuary in the early hours of the 24th June.

(10) Thaipusam (Thaipooyam, Thaippooyam) is the Hindu festival especially popular among the Tamils. It is held on the full moon in the Tamil month of Thai (January/February). In 2013 it will be on the 27th of January. The largest Thaipusam festivals are those in Singapore, Mauritius and Malaysia.

Murugan (photo by Tajai)
Murugan (Subramaniam)

The festival represents a commemoration of the birthday of Murugan (Subramaniam) who is the youngest son of god Shiva and his wife Parvati. The festival also remembers the day when Parvati gave Murugan a "vel" (spear). Murugan used the vel to defeat the evil demon Soorapadman.

People often worship Murgan by performing the ceremonial dance Kavadi Attam. Before the dance people pray and fast. On the day of festival people participating in the festival shave their heads. They show their devotion to Murugan by carrying different burdens or "kavadi".

Thaipusam (photo by Tajai)
Thaipusam festival

Many carry simple pots of milk, but there are those who have numerous hooks on different parts of their body. Hooks are pulled by other person, bullock cart or a tractor. Some put sharp pieces of metal through their cheeks or tongue. Everything is extremely painful but participants believe that more pain means more blessings from gods.