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What are the strange and unusual cultural customs from around the world?

The world's cultures and customs are vastly different. They are a part of what makes our world such a fascinating and diverse place to live. Some of us get confused between traditions and customs. So, let me clear this first _ A tradition is not the same as a custom. The distinction between customs and traditions is that the former applies to a group activity that has not been replicated for a long enough period of time to be considered a tradition (though it could well become one if a sufficient number of people repeat it for a long enough duration of time).

collage of various customs
Unique Customs

Let's look at several instances of cultural custom differences around the world:

The Straw Bear Festival, Whittlesea United Kingdom

A straw bear, also known as a Strohbär in German, is a traditional character associated with Shrovetide (the pre-Lenten season that is the time for Christians to prepare for the Lent). A man or a boy who has been unfortunate enough to be selected has tightly woven straw bands rolled up on his arms, legs, and body. Above the "Bear's" head is a straw wound in the shape of a cone with a mask that is blurred to the point where the person inside can scarcely see.

The Straw Bear festival in uk
Straw Bear- Wikimedia Commons

Wheat, oats, rye, or twigs may all be used as a straw.

Since the 1800s, this occurrence has become a tradition. Local farmworkers in this part of England would go around town dressed in a straw suit that resembled dancing bears, hence the name straw bear.

With the last sighting of a Straw Bear in 1909, the practice died out at the end of the early 1900s. This was partially due to overzealous cops who mistook the act for caging or begging, effectively outlawing Straw Bears. The new straw bear parade now comprises over 250 dancers and musicians from all over the United Kingdom. Common Molly, Morris, Clog, and Sword dance are performed by these artists. Aside from traditional shows, there is also Appalachian dancing and street performances in the American style.

Every year on the second weekend in January, the Straw Bear Festival takes place in Whittlesey, Cambridgeshire, East Anglia. This small market town in the Fenland district used to be surrounded by low-lying muddy, marshy areas known locally as fens until artificial drainage began to be used. The Whittlesea Straw Bear Festival is held every year in this town, which is about 6 miles from Peterborough.

You will be able to witness Whittlesey's tradition and be amused by the Straw Bears while also being able to send gifts to the local ploughmen in exchange.

Christmas Defecation, Catalonia

"Caganer" is a Catalan word. This is a miniature porcelain "nativity" figure of a man squatting and setting one out in the nativity scene. The caganer is a small figurine of a man caught in the act of defecating with his pants around his ankles. With the caganer fertilizing the planet, this rare addition to the nativity symbolizes good luck.

Christmas Defecation caganer, Catalonia
Caganer - Wikipedia

Caganer is a favorite of the children, who enjoy looking through the Christmas nativity scene to see where he is "pooping." Caganer is usually concealed among the more conventional nativity scene characters, and my students told me that "pooping" in the baby's manger is their favorite place to find him.

I've been informed that the idea of "Caganer" is not meant to be disrespectful to any religious groups, Caganer is a sign of good luck, his poo fertilizes the land and provides a good harvest for the year to come. _ Ben Holbrook

In today's world, it's just a little bit of fun and something new for the kids to enjoy. Caganer has been popular since the 18th/19th century and continues to be so today. Caganer, on the other hand, has been barred from official Christmas displays by the Catalan government in recent years.

La Tomatina, Spain

The vision of slipping and sliding down a street covered in tomatoes is one that foodies who have a special fondness for the fruit will happily make a reality. La Tomatina is a world-famous annual Spanish festival. As the name indicates, tomatoes play a major role in this day-long celebration, with thousands of people taking part in a huge tomato-fueled food war. And, thanks to the tradition of the La Tomatina food festival, it is a yearly event for thousands of people in a town in eastern Spain. We can find it in the film 'Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara' especially in the song 'Ik Junoon'.

The origins of La Tomatina can be traced back to the mid-1940s when the first public tomato food war occurred by chance in Bunol. A group of young people allegedly caused one of the parade's participants' big heads to fall off, causing the costumed person to become enraged.  The unfortunate person started wreaking havoc along the parade path, colliding with a tomato market stall.  As a result of this series of events, spectators began picking up tomatoes and tossing them at one another, giving birth to La Tomatina.

La Tomatina festival in bunol Spain
La Tomatina festival

The Tomatina takes place in the Valencian town of Bunol, which is located in eastern Spain.  The Mediterranean Sea is about 30 kilometers away from Bunol. The city, which is surrounded by mountain ranges, has a population of about 600 people.  Thousands of visitors, on the other hand, flock to the area specifically to take part in the La Tomatina celebrations.

The festival is held annually on the last Wednesday of August. This year's La Tomatina is taking place on Wednesday 28 August.

Lath Mar Holi festival, India

Lath Mar Holi is a well-known festival in India's diverse community, in which women beat up men with sticks as part of the ritual. Lath Mar Holi, a century-old Hindu festival, is a Holi celebration in which local women use sticks to beat up men. The festival takes place in the small towns of Barsana and Nandgaon in the state of Uttar Pradesh, just before the actual celebration of Holi.

Lathmar Holi India
What is Lathmar Holi? - Lifestyle News

On the first day of the festival, villagers sing folk songs and dance while women smear color on the men. The next day's preparations begin with shopkeepers holding a cold drink (thandai) on hand. The men return to the village, only to be thrashed by the sticks this time. Some poor men are unable to stop the thrashing and are forced to sing and dance in front of the whole audience. Much of this is done in the spirit of fun and confidence.

The Legend Behind the Tradition: Lord Krishna paid a visit to his beloved Radha's village on this day and teased her, prompting the women of Barsana to chase him away. Every year, the men from Nandgaon visit Barsana and are chased away by the women waiting with the sticks, perpetuating the tale.

Battaglia delle Arance Ivrea, Italy

If you don’t fancy throwing tomatoes, how about oranges? The northern town of Ivrea, in the province of Turin, Piedmont, turns orange for three days as part of the Battaglia delle Arance celebrations (Battle of the Oranges). This is only one of the many festivals held throughout Italy during Carnevale, which marks the start of the Lenten season.

Battaglia delle Arance, Ivrea Italy
Battle of the Oranges: Inside Italy's Festivals

Ivrea turns itself into a battlefield to celebrate Violetta's and the townspeople's bravery. The weapon of choice is oranges. Nine tribes (representing the villagers) are given allocated areas to wait for the horse-drawn carts with guards (representing the Napoleonic troops) wearing protective headgear and armed with sufficient ammunition (oranges). The war starts once the cart is within sight. Oranges are flung through the air, striking the guards, who in turn strike the villagers in the face. This is not an occurrence for the faint of heart, but it is a badge of honor worn proudly by those who serve their tribe. This combat lasts three days, and at the end, judges choose one of the nine tribes as the victor based on their success, sense of fair play, and how they decorated their territory.

According to tradition, this three-day festival commemorates the townspeople's rebellion against the tyrant Raineri di Biandrate in the 12th century. The evil Marquis Raineri planned to use his droit du seigneur on the eve of Violetta's wedding, the miller's daughter. The droit du seigneur is a medieval privilege that allows the lord to sleep with the bride under his authority first. Violetta struck back by seizing the Marquis's sword and chopping off his head, much to the surprise of the Marquis. When the townspeople learned what had happened, they stormed the palace, releasing years of pent-up rage against the tyrant's rule and declaring the oppressive reign to be over.

The World Wife-Carrying Championship, Finland

Finland is no stranger to unconventional sports: it is home to competitions in boot throwing, air guitar, and cell phone throwing.

 Simplemost This Finnish Wife-Carrying Competition Is Real - Simplemost
Wife-Carrying Competition

The World Wife-Carrying Championship, now in its 23rd year, attracts thousands of tourists to the 4,200-person town and has a global following. In the small Finnish town of Sonkajarvi on Saturday, fifty-three men slung their wives or partners over their shoulders and hurtled off on an hour-long race, cheered on by thousands of spectators. Official qualifying competitions are held in the United States, the United Kingdom, Sweden, and Estonia, among other countries. The competition drew 53 couples from 13 countries on Saturday, according to the organizers.

The championship is said to have originated from an even earlier tradition of wife-stealing, which has led to many current contestants competing with the wives of others. The legend of Ronkainen the Robber, who put aspiring members of his gang to the test by forcing them to carry sacks of grain or live pigs along a similar course, inspired the concept of wife-carrying as a sport.

Vytautas Kirkliauskas and Neringa Kirkliauskiene, Lithuanian parents of two, won the race on Saturday, which included running, wading through a slick pool, and completing an obstacle course. Taisto Miettinen, a six-time world champion, was defeated by the two.

“It’s my wife,” “She’s the best” Kirkliauskas shouted happily after the race.

In 2005, the pair played for the first time in Sonkajarvi.

Finland, which sits just north of the Arctic Circle and experiences long, dark winters, is no stranger to unusual sports.

“I think because we have only three months of light we need to come up with nice stuff to do during the summertime, and we want to show everyone we have a great sense of humour,” said Sanna-Mari Nuutinen, a volunteer at Saturday’s event.

It has also offered world competitions in boot throwing, air guitar, and cell phone throwing, to name a few.

There are many more strange cultural customs around the world. That makes our planet more interesting. Have some patients for the next part till then stay tuned.

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