In the vast and diverse tapestry of global cultures, traditions often serve as the colourful threads that weave communities together. From the solemn to the celebratory, these customs offer a glimpse into the rich histories and unique practices that make each corner of the world distinct.
Amidst the familiar rituals, however, lie some truly peculiar and unexpected traditions that may leave you raising an eyebrow or even chuckling in amazement.
Join us on a journey as we explore 20 weird customs and traditions around the world, unearthing the extraordinary practices that add a touch of eccentricity to the human experience. From cake-smashing celebrations to mountainous burials, each tradition carries its own story, reflecting the fascinating diversity of our global heritage.
So, fasten your seatbelts and get ready to embark on a journey of discovery into the whimsical and sometimes perplexing world of unique customs around the globe.
20 Weird Customs and Traditions Around the World
1. Living with the Dead
Ever thought about living with the departed?
Well, in Indonesia, some communities have a unique tradition. They dress up their deceased loved ones in special clothes and keep them at home until the burial. They believe this preserves the soul of their loved ones until the final farewell.
2. Cinnamon Celebration for Singles in Denmark
In Denmark, when someone turns 25 and is still single, they face a unique tradition. On top of spending Valentine’s Day solo, they also endure a playful celebration where friends and family shower them with water and cover them in cinnamon. This quirky custom, dating back centuries, is not a punishment but a lighthearted way for loved ones to have fun and share in the celebration.
3. The Resurrecting Ritual of the Toraja People
The Toraja people in Indonesia follow a unique tradition where they place a body in a temporary coffin before bringing it back to life. In the mountainous villages of South Sulawesi, shamans have been practicing this unusual custom for centuries.
According to the Toraja religious beliefs, to ensure a person reaches the afterlife called “Puya” or “The Land of Souls,” their body must return to their birthplace for burial. In a fascinating twist, the corpse is resurrected and walks to its final resting place.
4. Suspended Coffins Along the Yangtze River
Experience an eerie sight along the steep cliffs of the Yangtze River in China, where numerous suspended coffins and mysterious occurrences can be witnessed.
Certain Chinese cultures have a unique burial practice where they place the coffins of their deceased family members on cliffs. These coffins are typically hung at heights ranging from 33 to 164 feet, with some reaching as high as 328 feet above the ground. The method of placing the coffins at such great heights remains a mystery. Records of this tradition date back nearly 2000 years.
5. Traditional Baby Tossing in Solapur, India
In the village of Solapur, Maharashtra, India, a unique practice involves tossing newborn babies from a 50-foot tower terrace. The people at the base of the tower use sheets to catch the babies safely. This tradition is believed to bring good luck and ensure a long and healthy life for the children.
6. Fiery Tradition for Newlyweds in Chinese Culture
In Chinese tradition, it’s customary for a husband to carry his bride over a pan of burning coals before entering their home for the first time.
According to the myth, this peculiar custom is believed to ensure the bride will experience an easy and successful labor in the future.
7. El Colacho: Baby Jumping Tradition in Castrillo de Murcia, Spain
Originating from pagan rituals, the baby jumping tradition in Castrillo de Murcia, northern Spain, has been a local custom since the 17th century. Commonly known as ‘El Colacho,’ this ritual is performed to cleanse a new baby’s soul.
Each year, on the Sunday after the Feast of Corpus Christi, a procession through town marks the beginning of the event, blending both pagan and Catholic traditions. At the end of the procession, babies born in the previous year are laid on a mat.
Men dressed as devils then run between and jump over the babies, followed by the leaders of the Catholic Church in the Burgos Region who cleanse them with holy water.
8. La Tomatina Festival in Buñol, Spain
Annually, in the quaint town of Buñol, Spain, a colossal event called La Tomatina unfolds, drawing thousands of people. This festival involves participants joyfully throwing overripe tomatoes at each other, transforming the streets into a vibrant sea of red. Originating in the 1940s, this peculiar tradition has grown to become one of Spain’s most renowned and iconic events.
9. Finger Cutting Tradition in the Dani Tribe, Papua, Indonesia
In Papua, Indonesia, the Dani tribe observes a distinctive and poignant form of mourning. Following the death of a loved one, female family members undergo a painful ritual of cutting off a portion of their own fingers.
This act serves as both a gesture of mourning and an offering to the spirits of the departed. The extreme body modification reflects the profound connection between the living and the dead within the Dani culture.
10. Cooper’s Hill Cheese-Rolling Event in Gloucestershire, England
Annually in Gloucestershire, England, adventure enthusiasts worldwide come together for the Cooper’s Hill Cheese-Rolling event.
In this peculiar tradition, participants chase a rolling wheel of cheese down a steep hill, with the first person to reach the bottom claiming victory and, of course, the cheese. Despite the potential for injury, this eccentric event continues to draw bold competitors year after year.
11. Bullet Ant Initiation in the Brazilian Amazon
In the Brazilian Amazon, the Satere-Mawe tribe conducts a distinctive coming-of-age ceremony for young men. As part of this ritual, the boys must endure intense pain by wearing gloves filled with bullet ants, known for delivering one of the most painful stings in the insect world.
This challenging initiation serves as a test of the boys’ strength and resilience as they make the transition into adulthood.
12. Čimburijada: Unique Spring Celebration in Bosnia
While in the UK, Spring might be welcomed with daffodils or spring cleaning, Zenica, Bosnia, has its own distinctive way of marking the season – the Festival of Scrambled Eggs, or Čimburijada.
The day kicks off with a hearty breakfast featuring eggs cooked in a large pan at a city park near the river. Following this, the celebration continues throughout the day with festivities, barbecues, and even river jumps to embrace the lively spirit of the season.
13. Nagoro Doll Village in Japan
Nestled in the remote village of Nagoro, Japan, artist Ayano Tsukimi has given life to a peculiar and somewhat eerie sight. The village is now populated by life-sized dolls, each intricately crafted to resemble former residents who have either passed away or moved away.
These dolls now outnumber the living, creating a haunting yet strangely captivating atmosphere in Nagoro.
14. Blackening the Bride in Scotland
In certain regions of Scotland, a pre-wedding custom called “blackening the bride” unfolds, where the bride-to-be is playfully covered in a concoction of flour, eggs, molasses, and other messy ingredients. Friends and family then lead a lively parade around town, creating a joyful ruckus.
This peculiar and messy ritual is believed to symbolically prepare the bride for the unpredictable challenges of married life.
15. Sky Burials in Tibet’s High Altitudes
In the elevated regions of Tibet, burial traditions take a unique turn from the norm. Sky burials involve placing the deceased on a mountaintop, allowing the body to be exposed to the elements and scavenging birds, particularly vultures. This practice stems from the belief that the body is a vessel, and offering it to nature and wildlife symbolizes a return to the natural cycle of life.
16. Famadihana in Madagascar
In Madagascar, the Malagasy people have a distinctive and heartwarming tradition known as Famadihana, or the “turning of the bones.” Periodically, families come together to unearth the remains of their ancestors, rewrap them in new shrouds, and engage in lively dances accompanied by live music. This spirited celebration serves as a means for the living to sustain a connection with their departed loved ones and pay homage to their memory.
17. Lopburi’s Monkey Buffet Festival in Thailand
Each year in Lopburi, Thailand, a unique festival unfolds to pay tribute to the local monkey community. The Monkey Buffet Festival features intricate setups of fruits, vegetables, and sweets for the town’s monkeys to indulge in. This quirky celebration draws thousands of tourists and is thought to bring good luck and prosperity to the community.
18. The Battle of Oranges in Ivrea, Italy
In the days leading up to Mardi Gras, the town of Ivrea, Italy, becomes the stage for a peculiar tradition known as the Battle of Oranges. Residents form nine squads, don battle attire, and engage in a multi-day orange-slinging skirmish with the goal of “defeating” other teams.
While the origins of this unusual game remain unclear, it has evolved into Italy’s largest food fight, although not quite reaching the scale of La Tomatina yet.
19. La Mordida Tradition in Mexican Birthdays
A delightful Mexican birthday tradition, ‘La Mordida,’ adds a playful twist to the cake-cutting ceremony. The birthday celebrant, with hands tied behind their back, takes the first bite of cake, but here’s the catch – their face is gently pushed into the creamy delight. As party guests cheer with “Mordida! Mordida! Mordida!” (Spanish for ‘take a bite’), the celebration becomes a lighthearted and memorable moment.
20. Polterabend Tradition in Germany
In Germany, the tradition of Polterabend, meaning ‘wedding shower,’ is a distinctive pre-wedding event held the day before the nuptials. Friends and family gather at the front of the house for a lively party where they intentionally smash items like plates, flowerpots, and tiles – anything that creates a loud noise – to bring good luck. The only exceptions are glass and mirrors. After the celebratory chaos, the bride and groom work together to clean up the broken pieces, symbolizing their readiness for the challenges of married life.
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As we conclude our journey through the 20 weird customs and traditions around the world, we find ourselves marveling at the intricacies that make each culture truly one-of-a-kind. From the picturesque landscapes of Tibet where sky burials connect life and death, to the lively streets of Lopburi, Thailand, where monkeys are treated to a feast, these peculiar practices showcase the fascinating diversity that exists within our global community.
While some traditions may initially appear bizarre, they all share a common thread – a deep-rooted significance to the communities that practice them. Whether it’s smashing plates for good luck in Germany or turning the bones in Madagascar to honor ancestors, these customs serve as a testament to the human spirit’s boundless creativity and the cultural richness that unites us all.
So, as we step back from this kaleidoscopic exploration of weird customs and traditions around the world, let’s celebrate the vibrancy and uniqueness that each tradition brings to the global mosaic. In a world that often emphasizes our differences, these quirky customs remind us of the shared experiences that connect us all – a shared laughter, a shared sense of wonder, and the collective beauty of our diverse global heritage.