Strange and Unusual Happenings

The Ultimate Guide to Strange and Unusual Ceremonies and Traditions Around the World

Every country and culture have their own traditions. These are the rituals, ceremonies, and festivals we follow depending on our own beliefs. These can be about birth, marriage, the transition to adulthood, and even death. Some of these can be common for most of us, but there are also certain ceremonies and traditions around the world that are strange and unusual.

 

Sometimes, people might consider the traditions of other cultures and countries taboo or inhumane. But despite the strangeness of different ceremonies and traditions being practiced around the world, people who know how to look for the meaning behind these traditions might be able to appreciate them.

There are a lot of ceremonies and traditions around the world that are bizarre, and if you’re curious about them, here is an ultimate guide to strange and unusual ceremonies and traditions being observed around the world.

AFRICA

Strange Cultural Ceremonies and Traditions

Traditions and ceremonies

  • Lip Stretching Procedure

Lip stretching procedure
In South Sudan and in the southwestern Ethiopia, females in the Surma tribe undergo a lip stretching procedure during their teenage years. The procedure involves the removal of their lower teeth to accommodate a lip plate. This lip plate will be increased in size yearly until it becomes really big. For them, the elongated lip plate gives them a fierce and frightening look.

  • Spitting as a Form of Greeting

In the Massai tribe in Kenya and Tanzania, people have the tradition of spitting as their way of saying hello. And aside from that, when a baby is born, it is also a tradition for them to spit on the newborn and refer to him as bad. It’s because they believe that this will protect the baby from evil spirits. Massai warriors are also known to spit in their hands before shaking the hand of an elder.

  • Wearing Copper Rings Around the Neck

Neck copper rings

In Africa, married women are expected to look as beautiful as possible. To do this, they wear copper rings around their necks. These rings are believed to hold a lot of ritual power. These rings will be worn for years, therefore, their neck bones will get malformed. For them, it is considered as a sign of beauty and wealth, but for others, it is insane and very painful.

Strange Wedding Ceremonies and Traditions

  • Gaining Weight Before the Wedding

In most countries, brides-to-be do their best to lose weight by going on strict diets before their wedding day. However, it’s different in Mauritius because women are forced to gain weight before their weddings. For them, the chubbier the bride is, the better for the husband because he is thought to be wealthy with such a well-fed wife.

  • Massai Wedding Tradition

In a wedding in Kenya, it is common to see the Massai bride’s father bless his daughter by spitting on her head and breasts. This is usually done before the bride leaves the village with her new husband.

Strange Funeral Ceremonies and Traditions

  • Famadihana Dancing with the Dead

This is a traditional festival celebrated in the urban and rural areas of Madagascar. It is more popular among the tribal communities there. This is a funerary tradition that is known as the turning of the bones. People will bring forth the bodies of their ancestors and dress them in fresh clothes. After that, they will dance with the corpses around the tomb to live music.

This has become a regular tradition in Madagascar and is usually done once every seven years. For them, this custom brings together extended families in celebration of kinship. It is also their way of giving respect to the dead relative by transferring the bones to a permanent place of abode.

  • Festival of the Dead

This strange ceremony is being done in the Chewa community in the Bantu tribe of Malawi. It is their tradition to wash the body of the deceased during the burial ceremony of a tribe member. The corpse will be taken to a sacred place where the cleansing will be done. They will slit the throat and pour water through the insides of the dead. After that, the water is squeezed out of the body until it comes out clean. The water will then be collected and used to prepare a meal for their community.

ASIA

Strange Cultural Ceremonies and Traditions

  • Hindu Thaipusam Festival Piercings

This ceremony is observed in countries where there is a significant presence of Tamil community such as in India, Malaysia, Mauritius, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, and Thailand. It is done during the celebration of the religious holiday called Thaipusam. For Hindus to declare their devotion to Lord Murugan, they pierce different parts of their bodies, including the tongue.

As the years passed, this strange ceremony or ritual became more bloody, dramatic, and colorful because they have been using large spears and hooks through their chest and face. There are even some devotees who pull large wagons with ropes attached to their backs.

  • Tooth Filling

This is one of the biggest Hindu religious ceremonies and it is very important in the Balinese culture because of its significance in the passage from puberty to adulthood. This ceremony is for both males and females and it should be completed before marriage. In fact, it is also sometimes incorporated into the marriage ceremony.

This ceremony is done by smoothing down the tooth and eye-tooth. For the Hindu Balinese belief system, this celebration is done to help people free themselves from all invisible evil forces. It’s because for them, the teeth are the symbol of anger, confusion, lust, greed, and jealousy.

  • Baby Throwing

In India, there’s a bizarre tradition of throwing newborn babies off a temple that is 50 feet high and catching them in a cloth. This has been celebrated in India since the last 500 years. Couples who are blessed with a child after taking a vow at the Sri Santeswar temple are the ones who practice this tradition, and it usually done in the first week of December.

Indians believe that this tradition brings health, prosperity, and as well as luck to new arrivals. Every year, there are around 200 babies, mostly under two years old, being dropped by their parents while the crowds sing and dance.

  • Monkey Buffet Festival

Monkey buffet festiva

In Thailand, there is an annual festivity where monkeys that dwell in Lopburi, Bangkok are fed over three thousand kilograms of fruits and vegetables. It is indeed surprising to see monkeys atop a buffet table, enjoying sumptuous dishes.

  • Bayanihan

Bayanihan

In the Philippines, there is a tradition where villagers gather up to lift up a home and move it to a new location, mostly over quite a long distance. This tradition is similar to snails carrying their houses on their backs. Most of the time, this tradition occurs before predicted floods and landslides happen.

Strange Wedding Ceremonies and Traditions

  • Bride Kidnapping

In Kyrgyzstan, bride kidnapping is a common tradition and a lot of young men dream of one day stealing their wife to be just like how their father and grandfather did. Women are taken from the streets and are forcefully put into a getaway car going to the family home of the hopeful groom-to-be. Today, this tradition is for a playful nature. However, there are some reports that states these can result in abuse, murder, and even suicide in some cases.

  • Pinning Money on the Bride and Groom

This ritual is practiced in the Philippines during the wedding reception. The bride and groom will dance on the dancefloor while their family, friends, and other guests pin money all over their clothes, hair, and shoes. It’s also a way of giving monetary gifts to the couple.

  • Wedding Bladder Test

In Malaysia, specifically, the member of the Tidong tribe, practice a wedding ritual of not using the toilet for three straight days before they get married. This is really insane but the people of their tribe believe that this can drive away misfortune from the marriage.

Strange Funeral Ceremonies and Traditions

  • Taiwanese Funeral Strippers

Taiwan’s funerals are known to have lavish and loud affairs because they involve drum troupes and all-female marching bands. But there are some funerals that go a step further to attract bigger crowds. There are Electric Flower Cars with neon lit mobile stages where strippers perform pole dances and stripteases. They even dance exotically at the gravesides of the deceased.

  • Sky Burials

Sky burials

In Tibet and Mongolia, the Vajrayana Buddhists practice a ritual called jhator or sky burial. It is a tradition where the bodies of the deceased are dissected and the pieces are placed on a mountaintop. They are left there for the vultures to consume.  They do this because they believe that the soul leaves the body immediately after death and feeding the remains to vultures is considered as the last token of charity to the earth.

This ritual has been practiced for thousands of years and today, about 80 percent of Tibetans still opt for a sky burial.

AMERICA

Strange Cultural Ceremonies and Traditions

  • Bullet Ant Gloves

This is a very painful ceremony being done in the Satere-Mawe tribe of the Amazon. They believe that you cannot become a man if you will not take part in this ritual. Once a young boy becomes sexually mature, he will go out into the jungle with the Medicine man to find and gather bullet ants. These are the insect with the most painful sting in the world.

After gathering the ants, these will then be drugged by some herbs from the Medicine man. Then, while the ants are sleeping, they will be placed into a woven mesh glove with their stinger on the inside. Once the bullet ants wake up and find themselves trapped, they will become angry and aggressive. The boys will then put on the gloves and keep them on for about 10 minutes while they dance. They must endure the pain 20 times before they can be considered as real men.

  • Groundhog Day

Groundhog day

There is a tradition of going out to watch the groundhog which has been around since the early eighteenth century. The biggest celebration of this tradition is in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, where the tradition originated. This was even made famous by the film Groundhog Day in 1993.

This tradition is celebrated on February 2 every year. It is the time when groundhog burrows across America are put under intense examination for their powers to predict seasonal change. Based on folklore, if it’s cloudy, the groundhog will arise from its burrow, meaning, spring will come early. And if it’s sunny, the groundhog will return to its burrow which means, winter will continue for six more weeks.

  • Presidential Turkey Pardon

Presidential turkey pardon

Thanksgiving is a well-known all-American holiday. But there is one strange tradition during Thanksgiving and that is the presidential turkey pardon. It is when the president saves one lucky turkey from a place at the Thanksgiving table and sends it to a farm instead. This tradition was unofficially started by the Kennedy administration and it has been practiced regularly since 1989.

Strange Funeral Ceremonies and Traditions

  • Burial Ritual

In Brazil and Venezuela, when a person who belongs in the Tanomani tribe dies, his or her body will be burned. Then, the bone and ash powder are mixed into a plantain soup and the people attending will drink it. They believe that this ritual pleases the dead sound because it finds a resting place in their bodies.

  • Memorial Reef

In the United States, there’s a company called Eternal Reefs. It compresses the remains of the deceased into a sphere or reef ball which is then attached to a reef in the ocean. It provides a habitat for sea life.

  • Jazz Burials

In New Orleans, the funeral procession is commonly led by a big horn band. At first, they will play sad tunes but it will be followed by upbeat jazz and blues. These are even accompanied by furious dancing.

EUROPE

Strange Cultural Ceremonies and Traditions

  • La Tomatina

La Tomatina

This is an annual festival held in the Valencian town of Buñol, Spain on the last Wednesday of August. In this festival, the participants throw tomatoes and they get involve in tomato fight purely for fun. This festival is known to be the biggest tomato fight in the world.

There are lots of theories about how La Tomatina started but the most famous one was that in 1945. It was during a parade of gigantes y cabezudos when young adults who wanted to be in the event staged a brawl in the town’s main square. They picked up tomatoes on a nearby vegetable stand and used them as weapons.

  • Greeting Magpies

In the United Kingdom, people believe that seeing a lone magpie is bad luck. And for them, to be able to get rid of the bad luck, they need to greet the bird with the salutation: “Good morning Mr. Magpie, and how is your wife today?”

  • Cleaning Doorknobs on Your 30th Birthday

In Germany, people have a birthday tradition of cleaning doorknobs. It applies to those who are unmarried on their 30th birthday. For women, they are expected to clean the doorknobs of their best friends. Men on the other hand will get other cleaning chores. If they want a way out of this strange tradition, they have to secure a kiss from the opposite sex.

  • Talismans and Amulets

In Greece, they have these talismans or amulets called Flilaxta. They are usually pinned to the clothes of babies and children, but can also be carried in pockets and purses of older people. These talismans and amulets are believed to ward off the evil eye. Anything that is blessed by the priest or anything from the holy ground can be used to fill these Flilaxta.

  • Stepping on Feet

In Russia, it has been their tradition to step on another person’s foot. It’s because they believe that by doing this, they will be able to avoid future conflicts. Therefore, if you’re in Russia and you happen to step on someone’s foot even during rush hour, don’t be surprised if that someone will also step lightly on your foot.

Strange Wedding Ceremonies and Traditions

  • Blackening the Bride

In Scotland, the friends and relatives of the bride show their affection by putting every nasty thing you can imagine into a bucket and throwing it over her. This may include curdled milk, sauces, mud, fish, and even spoiled foods. In this tradition, they believe that if you can handle this, it means you can handle anything, including marriage. This is their way of preparing the bride for any humiliation or problems that she will face during her marriage.

  • Drinking from the Toilet

In France, newlyweds were forced to drink leftovers from their wedding out of a toilet bowl. Today, drink leftovers are replaced by chocolate and champagne but they are still served out of a toilet. This tradition is practiced to give the bride and groom strength before their wedding night.

  • Proving Your Love

In Moscow, Russia, they have a wedding ritual where the groom will tie a knot using a kitchen towel that is as strong as his love for his bride. After that, he must remove the tie as easily as he could because this symbolizes how fast he will be able to solve future family problems.

Strange Funeral Ceremonies and Traditions

  • Feeding the Dead

This tradition is being practiced in Rome. It is done occasionally but was quite popular years ago. The Roman citizens would place a series of tubes leading through graveyards. These tubes will be used to send honey and other liquids into the tombs of their loved ones. It is their way of feeding the dead.

  • Pominki

In Russia, after the funeral, the family and friends of the deceased share together a meal and they call it Pominki. It is their time to reminisce and mourn together over foods and drinks. During this meal, they serve their traditional funeral food which is a pancake called Blini. They also have special cakes made of fruit and wheat called Kolyva. It is usually blessed and then served to guests.

MIDDLE EAST

Strange Cultural Ceremonies and Traditions

  • Mourning of Muharram

Mourning of Muharram

This ceremony is observed by the people of Pakistan and Lebanon. It is a vital period of mourning in Shia Islam. It takes place in Muharram which is the first month of the Islamic calendar, and it is also known as the Remembrance of Muharram.

In this ceremony, groups of Shia Muslims join in a strenuous practice involving body whipping using special chains that have razors and knives attached to them. It is practiced by all age groups. In fact, children in some regions are even forced by their parents to join the ceremony.  

  • Camel Wrestling

Camel wrestling

In Turkey, there is an event where two male camels fight. There are no injuries that afflict the animals in this fight but people are still asked to stay away from the camels throughout the match. It’s because stressed camels tend to discharge sticky saliva with a disgusting smell.

Strange Wedding Ceremonies and Traditions

  • Pinch the Bride

In Egypt, there is a tradition that after the bride is dressed up, single women will surround her and each of them would pinch her knee. They believe that by doing this, their chances of finding a partner at the wedding party will improve.

  • Crack an Egg on the Wedding Night

In Morocco, it is a tradition of a Moroccan bride to break an egg that is painted with henna on the wall of her new home. They believe that this tradition helps in expelling evil and it is also to mark the beginning of a new chapter. It is done on the wedding night.

OCEANIA and AUSTRALIA

Strange Cultural Ceremonies and Traditions

  • The Haka

The Haka

In New Zealand, the Maori practices a way of dancing which involves menacing facial expressions, grunting, stomping, loud chanting, chest thumping, tongue wagging and guttural howling. They do these to strike fear and awe into the opponents.

  • Crocodile Men

In the Kaningara tribe in Papua New Guinea, men show their strength in a very special way. It is by scarifying their bodies just like crocodiles to show their courage and valor. They believe that humans have evolved from crocodiles, and through making marks on their bodies, they will become close to nature.

Strange Wedding Ceremonies and Traditions

  • Whale Tooth Gift

Whale tooth

In Fiji, before men can ask their future father in law for the bride’s hand in marriage, they are expected to bring him a whale’s tooth, or what is called a Tabua, as a gift first. This is very challenging because there are only two places where they can get one, which is either in the black market or straight from the whale’s mouth. This tradition can certainly show how much the man loves his future wife.

Strange Funeral Ceremonies and Traditions

  • Finger Cutting of Dani Tribe

The Dani Tribe is the indigenous people living in the fertile lands of Baliem Valley in West Papua New Guinea. In this tradition, members of their tribe cut off their fingers as a way of showing their grief at funeral ceremonies. Together with cutting off their fingers, they also smear their faces with clay and ashes to express sorrow.

Cutting off their fingers is their way of expressing love to someone very dear to them. When a person in their tribe passes away, his relative will cut off his hand finger and bury it together with the dead body. For them, finger represents body and soul which will live together with their relative. The number of fingers that will be cut off depends on how many people they love.

These ceremonies and traditions being practiced in different parts of the world are indeed strange and unusual. Some of them may seem absurd, but we all have our own reasons why we practice them. Therefore, when you travel to different places and you happen to observe a strange tradition, don’t jump to the conclusion that they are mad or crazy, because it’s certain that those people have very good reasons for their actions.

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