This is a guest post by freelance travel writer Cheryl Brown.
The beauty of world travel is that you get to experience different cultures and their traditions and customs. Taking yourself away from your own familiar world and seeing something completely alien to you is always an enriching experience and the world is full of unique customs. Here are five of the most unusual cultural customs that you might come across.
This Spanish custom has been around since 1620, and involves the unusual activity of ‘baby jumping’. Originally, the festival was intended to keep the devil at bay, where jumpers wearing devil costumes run down the street, leaping over babies laid down on mattresses.
As you might expect, injuries occur from time to time, but the festival remains a popular one and is unlikely to be disbanded any time soon.
Monkey Buffet Festival
This particular festival is fairly young – only starting in 1989 – but has since proved to be a great money-maker to the local economy in Lop Buri, Thailand, attracting thousands of interested onlookers each year.
In this particular town, Macaque monkeys have free reign all over the town, often stealing food, clothes, and generally being pests. Rather than trying to stamp out this annoyance, however, the locals honour the monkeys each November by putting on an enormous buffet spread for them, consisting of cakes, candy, and fruits.
The monkeys converge on the tables and cause quite a stir, with thousands of tourists and locals attracted to watch. It is certainly an interesting way of celebrating these mischievous monkeys, and an entertaining one at that.
Blackening of the Bride
Most brides like to look as pristine as possible before, during, and after their wedding, and that is what makes this particular custom so interesting. The blackening of the bride is a Scottish tradition that involves friends and family covering her in mud, fish sauces, syrup, spoiled milk, feathers, and all sorts of other nasty things before the wedding. In the Orkneys it’s the groom who’s the victim and occasionally its both bride and groom.
One idea behind is that if the couple can take such humiliation, then all other issues they might face in their marriage will feel insignificant by comparison. Consequently, it is said to lead to a happy marriage for them, allowing them to overcome any and all problems with ease. [Editor note: Another theory is that it helps keep the faeries at bay :o)]
Bullet Ants Coming of Age Ritual
There are a host of different coming of age rituals from around the world, none more unusual than that endured by young men of the Satere-Mawe tribe in Brazil.
This ritual isn’t complicated, but it’s certainly both painful and a real test of character. For 11 hours, the youngsters put their hands in gloves filled with bullet ants – critters with the highest rating on the Schmidt Sting Pain Index as you can get. These ants get their name because their stings feel like you are literally being shot with a bullet, so you can only imagine what it’s like having to endure relentless stings like this for eleven hours.
If you endure this, you can truly call yourself a man.
Tibetan Sky Burial
Different cultures bury their dead in various different ways. In Tibet, the sky burial is common. With this ritual, the deceased body will be marked with a series of cuts and then positioned on a high mountaintop where it is exposed to the local animals and elements. The ritual is known to show generosity and a way of giving back to nature, just as we, take advantage of nature’s bounty ourselves.
[Editor Note: No way was I going to add a picture of this!!]
If you are thinking about going travelling, or planning your round the world flights, why not consider including some of these great destinations in your itinerary and take the chance to see some of these unusual customs.