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March 6, 2015

Top 7 strange festivals

Adelaide is suffering from a serious case of Festival fever. But as festival-saturated as this time of year is, there's still a few world festivals that we’d be absolutely delighted to see a local version of in Adelaide – if only to weird ourselves out.

  • Words and Illustrations: Owen Lindsay


Every December in Oaxaca, Mexico, locals gather to celebrate the Night of the Radishes. Although it sounds like a vegetarian version of a Romero movie, the festival is basically a sand sculpture contest that uses root vegetables instead of sand to make the sculptures. Lest you think that this sounds like a horrendous idea, the Night of the Radishes is actually wildly popular  – it has been an annual event for more than a hundred years, with eager spectators lining up for as long as five hours just to gaze for a few precious instants upon radish recreations of Mexican folklore and history. They must be on to something.  


Although we fleetingly became excited that Thailand’s Monkey Buffet Festival would be a yearly, monkey-based tribute to American business magnate Warren Buffett, a brief Google Image search revealed that – alas – that was not to be. Instead, the festival appears to be some sort of smorgasbord put on for 2000 monkeys every November in Lopburi, north of Bangkok. The picture documentation suggests that the buffet event consists mainly of the monkey horde scuttling about manically grasping cans of Coke and tubes of Pringles, with an occasional impulsive leap to land atop the head of a quietly panicking tourist. In other words, basically the same as a human buffet.



Worm charming (also known by the less mystical sounding term ‘worm fiddling’) is the art of luring worms to rise to the surface of the soil. There are apparently enough people interested in this pastime to support an International Festival of Wormcharming, held annually in Devon, England. (It is unclear how many pastimes you have to discover you are bad at before you settle for becoming a worm charmer.) The Wiki for the festival stresses that the event is “aimed at primarily attracting youngsters to get close up and personal with the creatures” – and about bloody time, too, say we. 


Although the Underwater Music Festival of the Florida Keys may initially strike you as a gloriously redundant idea, it is actually not as weird as it sounds. The festival consists of music being broadcast through underwater speakers, where apparently the density of the water distorts the sounds and it all gets  quite surreal. We’re assuming there are also lobsters playing clams like bongos down there. 



Sure, The Festival of the Cats in Belgium sounds like it should be a blast. And then you learn that it’s held to commemorate a Middle Ages tradition in which the residents of a particularly villainous Belgian town would gather together regularly to chuck a pack of cats out the window of the local belfry. Although today the cats flung out the belfry window are stuffed toy replicas, it raises the question: how bored does a population have to be before they resort to the mass defenestration of felines? Obviously the Middle Ages were a bit dull – but come on. At least try carving a few radishes first. 


There’s no logical reason that this should be a good idea, but even so the Japanese tradition of naki zumo – a festival in which sumo wrestlers attempt to make a baby cry – sounds like quite a hoot. The event, which is held at various locations in Japan throughout the year, sees two sumo square off, each grasping a howling infant. The sumo then make weird faces; the babies continue to make piercing screeching noises; a good time is had by all. If neither toddler cries, a man in a devil mask emerges to traumatise them further.  


If worm charming struck you as an odd pastime, then it may shock you to read about goose-pulling – a 17th century “sport” (note use of inverted commas) which involves a man galloping on horseback attempting to pull the head off of a greased-up, live goose. Today goose-pulling festivals continue to be held all around the goose-hating world (also known as Europe), though in the modern festivals the greased-up live goose has been humanely substituted for a greased-up goose corpse. Whether this makes the event less or more ghoulish we’re yet to decide.

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