The beauty of differences in world cultures is that what is normal and commonplace for some will seem strange and different to others. Here are ten customs and traditions from around the world that may appear especially bizarre to outsiders.
Polterabend is a German pre-wedding tradition where friends and family come together for an informal party. While that may not seem odd, what they do at these parties certainly is. They break dishes, flowerpots, tiles, toilets, pretty much anything except glasses or mirrors. To symbolize working together through future difficulties, the bride and groom must clean everything up. Due to the need to replace all the broken goods, I suspect that German sellers of housewares are quite fond of this custom.
Monkey Buffet Festival
No, this isn’t a festival that offers a variety of all-you-can-eat monkey dishes. Rather, the monkeys are the ones doing the feasting at this annual event in Thailand. Over 3,000 kilograms of fruit and vegetables are offered to the monkey population of the Lopburi province in Bangkok.
A “gurn” is a distorted facial expression, and English rural tradition has celebrated making these humorous grimaces since 1267. At the World Gurning Championship in Egremont, England, competitors don a horse collar and attempt to make the most grotesque face possible. While this tradition sounds silly, some, like four-time world champion Peter Jackman, take it very seriously. He had his teeth removed in 2000 to make his facial maneuvers easier.
A kinder, gentler version of bullfighting? Perhaps. In Turkey, camel wrestling is a popular event where spectators watch in glee as two specially bred male camels wrestle each other. Serious injuries are rare, but spectators should be wary of being sprayed by the milky saliva of the agitated camels.
Blackening the Bride
To prepare for their marriage, Scottish brides-to-be must go through a very foul pre-wedding ritual. Friends of the bride take her by surprise and cover her with eggs, spoiled milk, feathers, pretty much anything disgusting. The blackened bride is then paraded around town. The purpose of this custom is to prepare the bride for marriage because after going through that, any marital problems will seem like nothing.
Day of the Geese
The Day of the Geese, or Antzar Eguna, is a Spanish tradition in which a greased goose is suspended over water and young men jump from boats and attempt to rip off the head of the goose. This competition serves as a way for young men to prove their strength and eligibility to females. In addition to winning the adoration of young women, the winners also gets to keep the goose. Although this tradition was once practiced all over Spain with live geese, this competition is now only held during the San Antolin festival in Lekeitio, with a dead goose to placate animal rights activists.
The people of Catalonia, Spain have quite the amusing Christmas tradition. They hide small statuettes of people defecating in their nativity scenes for friends and family to try to find. These figurines are called “caganers”, which is Catalan for “defecator” or “shitter”. This tradition has existed since the 17th century, and nowadays it is common for famous people to be immortalized in the form of a caganer figurine.
For about a thousand years, young Chinese girls had to undergo the painful and debilitating process of foot binding. To ensure small, desirable feet, girls between the ages of three and fourteen had their feet broken and bound with bandages, in order to prevent their feet from growing “too big”. Despite many attempts to ban this ritual, an effective prohibition of foot binding was not was not enacted until 1949, when the Communists took power of China.
While most cultures mourn the loss of family members, women of the Dani tribe in Indonesia must suffer great physical pain in addition to emotional pain. When a family member dies, female relatives must cut off a segment of one of their fingers. This practice is performed to satisfy ancestral ghosts. Luckily for the Dani women, this custom is rarely practiced anymore.
The Tidong are a group of people from northern Borneo with a particularly uncomfortable wedding custom. For the 3 days and 3 nights following the wedding, both the bride and groom are prohibited from using the bathroom. That means no urinating, no defecating, and no bathing. They believe that custom will lead to a long, happy, and fertile marriage. In order to achieve this, the newlyweds are allowed to eat and drink only very small amounts and are watched very closely by family members.