Lithuanians Build Intricate Straw Sculpture Park Only to Burn It Down in Fiery Celebration

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Every year, the people of New Town, in Panevėžys, Lithuania, hold an annual festival where tall intricate sculptures made completely out of straws are displayed for the entire month of October in a temporary Straw Sculpture Park. At the end of the month, the straw sculptures are burned to the ground to mark the transition from the animated summer to the cold winter.

14 rolls of hay, each weighting half a ton and 10 km of rope have been used to build these imposing straw installations, this year. Everything is made out of straws including the fence, the very tall entrance and, of course, the sculptures themselves which have a different theme every year. Last year, the villagers decided on a musical theme and designed each sculpture after a musical instrument. Among other attractions, there was a very accurate replica of a piano, a straw saxophone and straw balalaika – a triangular shaped stringed instrument from Russia.

Straw-sculpture-park

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Revelers Throw Dead Rats at Each Other as Part of Bizarre Spanish Festival

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Having a dead rat thrown straight in the face might not be everyone’s idea of a good time, but for the people of El Puig, the yearly Battle of the Rats is an eagerly awaited event. During the bizarre celebration, people pick up frozen rat corpses and throw them at each other in the name of fun.

Every year, on the last Sunday of January, the town of El Puig, north of Valencia, hosts the Batalla de Ratas, or Battle of the Rats, one of the weirdest fiestas in Spain. Locals and tourists from all over the world gather in the main square to bash cucañas, a kind of local piñada. Sounds like a fun time, only there’s a catch – the goodies in half of these colorful cucañas include dead rats. Instead of running away in disgust at the sight of rodent corpses falling to the ground, festival goers rush to pick them up and throw them at the crowd. If you’ve been hit by a dead rat, it’s customary to grab it and throw it back at your attacker. It’s a good thing we’re not in the Middle Ages anymore, and the bubonic plague is nearly extinct, but still, I can’t help but think there’s something really unhygienic about throwing rats at people. In their defense, the people of El Puig only use frozen and previously-prepared corpses of humanely-killed rats.

Battle of the rats

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Gotmar Mela – India’s Centuries-Old Stone Pelting War

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For over three hundred years, the residents of Pandhurna and Sawargaon, two Indian villages located on the banks of the river Jaam, have been engaging in a bizarre stone-pelting ritual called Gotmar Mela that leaves hundreds critically injured and even dead.

The stone war of Gotmar Mela, as its sometimes referred to, takes place every year, on the second day to “Bhadrapad’ (the new moon day). A tree trunk is fixed in the middle of Jaam River, and a flag tied on top of it. On the day of the bloody event, people from Pandhurna and Sawargaon gather on each of the river banks and arm themselves with stones. The bravest of them run towards the tree and try to climb high enough to grab the flag, while the mob on the other side tries to prevent them from doing so by showering them with large stones. The village who manages to snag the flag is declared winner. The rules of Gotmar Mela are pretty simple, but who ever takes part in it knows full well it might be the last thing they do, as hundreds are critically injured and even killed, each year.

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New Yorkers Celebrate “Good Riddance Day”

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A giant paper shredder set up in Time Square was responsible with getting rid of all the bad bits of 2010.

This Tuesday, on the fourth annual “Good Riddance Day” held by the Times Square Alliance, people had the chance to free themselves from all the unpleasant memories of 2010, by writing them down and “feeding” them to the paper shredder. There to help were also a sledgehammer and a dumpster. Everything from ex-es, bills, eviction notices to political statements will be destroyed and recycled into toilet paper. And, even though weather conditions weren’t exactly ideal, there were plenty of participants and more are to be expected until Friday night. People who want to shred their bad memories of 2010, but cant make it to Time Square, can just send an online message and the staff will dump it into the shredder, for them.

Organizer Lori Raimondo says: “You can trust me: none of these memories will ever be seen again once they enter this truck.” Although their reasons to be there differs, one thing is certain – every one of the participants had something to get rid of before new year’s eve:

“I’m getting rid of my new job. I got rid of it in February, but I got a new one last month, so I can finally say ‘good riddance’ to it.”

“I said ‘good riddance’ to all negative energies in my life. All negative friends, all negative exes, all vices, anything that was negative in 2010. Out with that, in with the new.”

“It’s about turning your back on those bad things that you want to get rid of from the last year, either personally or in terms of the world, because the world is always a little bit crazy. Life is always a little bit crazy.”

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Noche de Rábanos – Spanish Festival Celebrating Radishes

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Noche de Rabanos (Night of the Radishes) takes place every year, on the 23rd of December, in Oaxaca,Spain and is one of the most impressive vegetable festivals around the world.

The radish was brought to the Americas in the 16th century, and back then the vendors used to carve them and use them on their market stalls to attract customers. Although the origins of the festival cannot be traced to an exact period, it is considered that it all began in the year 1897, when the mayor of Oaxaca organized the first radish-art exposition. Everever since that first celebration, every year, this humble vegetable is meticulously carved into animals, warriors, kings, dancers and pretty much any shape you can imagine. The artists sometimes make use of other vegetables, like onion or lettuce to complete their work. There’s also a prize for the most beautiful piece displayed.

The carver’s work begins about three days in advance and on the 23rd of December, the day of the festival, the results of all their hard work is presented to the public. On that same day, especially in the morning, children have the chance to learn this incredible art of radish-carving, or at least some of its secrets.

The celebrations don’t end that day. They continue on Christmas Eve and Christmas  Day with other joyful “fiestas”, parades of floats, fireworks music and dancing.

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Cascamorras – The Dirty Festival of Granada

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Every September 8th, the Spanish towns of Baza and Guadix host the Festival of Cascamorras, an event unique to the Granada region of Spain.

According to legend, the origin of “La Fiesta del Cascamorras” can be traced back to 1490, when Don Luis de Acuña Herrera decided to built the Church of Mercy in the town of Baza, where a Moazarabic mosque had previously been erected. While chiseling a block of plaster, Juan Pedernal, a worker from the nearby town of Guadix, heard a soft, soothing voice coming from inside a cavern, which said “Have mercy!”. Upon examining the cavity he stumbled upon a statue of the Virgin Mary, that came to be known as “Our Lady of Mercy”.

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Redheads Celebrate Red Head Day in Holland

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Yesterday, thousands of redheads gathered in the Dutch city of Breda, for the fifth edition of the Red Head Festival. Participants were asked to come dressed in white, a color that really compliments their hair color, and were able to take part in all kinds of fun activities, workshops and even a fashion show.

The main criteria for attending the Red Hair Festival is that participants have natural red hair, but the event itself is not all about the hair, but the color read, in general. This unique event can be traced back to 2005, when Dutch painter Bart Rouwenhorst advertised for 15 red-haired models he wanted to paint. 150 people answered his ad and the painting session turned into an annual event for redheads. Last year , 4,000 redheads attended the Red Head Festival, and their number surpassed 5,000 in 2010.

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Panjat Pinang – A Slippery Tradition of Indonesia

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Dating back to the Dutch colonial days, Panjat Pinang is one of the oldest, most popular traditions in Indonesia.

Panjat Pinang is a very unique way of celebrating Indonesia’s Independence Day. Every year, in towns and villages around the country, tall nut-trees are chopped down and their trunks placed vertically, in the center of each settlement. A wheel full of prizes is placed on top, before the trunk is covered with oil or other lubricants, and young men are invited to try and reach the prizes.

This type of pole climbing was introduced to the Indonesians, by Dutch colonists, who came up with it as a form of entertainment. Every time an important event took place (like a wedding, or national holiday) they would install a Panjat Pinang pole and watch the natives attempt to reach the prizes.

Since the nut-tree poles are fairly high and very slippery, a single climber would have almost no chance of reaching the top, so contestants usually work together and split the rewards, if they succeed. Prizes consist of foods, like cheese, sugar, flour, and clothes. You might not think them worth the trouble, but for poor Indonesians, these are luxury items.

There is some controversy surrounding Panjat Pinang. While most Indonesia believe it is an educational challenge that teaches people to work together and work hard in reaching their goals, there are those who say Panjat Pinang is a degrading display that sends the wrong kind of message to Indonesia’s youth. There’s also the environmental issue of cutting down a significant number of nut-trees for such a hedonistic celebration.

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The Shocking Fireball Festival of Nejapa

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The Fireball Festival is an old tradition celebrated each year, on August 31st, in the town of Nejapa, El Salvador.

“Las Bolas de Fuego”, as the locals refer to this bizarre event, is actually a reenactment of the fight between San Jeronimo and the devil. In 1922, the people of Nejapa and the surrounding area were forced to evacuate, by the eruption of a nearby volcano. As they were leaving, locals saw great balls of fire spewing out of the volcano, and believed their patron saint was actually fighting the devil with them.

Ever since they witnessed the fight between good and evil, the people of Nejapa have celebrated it each year, by organizing their very own fireball fight. If you didn’t know this was an organized celebration, you’d be tempted to think you’ve been dropped in the middle of a war-zone. Two teams of young men, with their faces covered by war paint, throw flaming fireballs at each other, surrounded by hundreds of bystanders who watch their every move.

Equipped with gloves and clothes soaked in water, the brave combatants throw and at the same time, evade the flaming fireballs made from rags and dipped in fuel. Some of their clothes do catch on fire, and some of the participants are often hit right in the face, at point blank, but despite all the health hazards, few injuries have been reported during the Fireball Festival.

It’s definitely a shocking display, but un a country like El Salvador, where gangs and violence are everywhere, getting hit by a flaming fireball, during “Las Bolas de Fuego” is the least dangerous thing that can happen.

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The Suzdal Cucumber Festival

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Cucumbers may be just every day vegetables to you, but in the Russian town of Suzdal they are of such importance that they have their own yearly festival.

The first cucumbers were cultivated in the Suzdal area, around 500 years ago, and some locals even consider the popular vegetable inherently Russian. The people here consider cucumbers the most nutritious vegetable in the world, and they use them in thousands of different dishes, from cucumber soups, to cucumber cakes and rolls, and even cucumber drinks. This being of the biggest cucumber producing centers of Russia, you’ll have a hard time finding a household that doesn’t make a living growing cucumbers.

The Suzdal Cucumber Festival takes place every year, in the month of July, during the vegetable harvest. During this event tourists will learn everything there is to know about cucumbers, from hot to grow them to the many different varieties. The region’s most famous entertainers perform different plays relating to cucumbers, and tourists can try the various cucumber delicacies of Suzdal, as well as buy cucumber souvenirs made of clay, wood and other materials.

One of the most important events of the Suzdal Cucumber Festival is the cucumber eating contest, where competitors try to beat the competition by eating as many cucumbers in the set time limit. Judging by the whole atmosphere of the festival, the winner probably receives some cucumbers as the prize.

This year, the Suzdal Cucumber Festival took place on July 24.

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The Mysterious Scissors Dancers of Peru

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Performed in the central and southern highlands of Peru, the Scissors Dance is a traditional event that tests the physical and spiritual strength of the participants.

Westerners usually regard “La Danza de las Tijeras” as a physical test where two men have to prove their dexterity and resistance to pain, but to the people of the Andes, this dance is a sacred ritual. The dancers, called danzaq, perform difficult stunts and leaps, called atipanakuy, accompanied by the music of a violin, a harp and the sound of the scissors they each hold in their hands. So much about not playing with scissors, right?

The origin of the danzaq and their Scissors Dance is shrouded in mystery, but some anthropologists believe they appeared in 1524, during the rebellion against Spanish colonial rule. According to old Spanish chronicles, Huancas (pre-Hispanic deities) possessed the bodies of indigenous young men, allowing them to perform an impossible-looking dance signaling the return of the Old Gods to vanquish the Christian God of the Spanish. As we all know, that didn’t happen, but the tradition of the Scissors Dance was kept alive by the Andean people.

It’s almost impossible to believe someone can accomplish this kind of acrobatic moves, while handling a pair of scissors made out of two individual sheets of metal, 25 cm each, but the danzaq do much more. To show spiritual superiority, they go through a series of challenges that include sticking sharp objects through their bodies, eating glass or walking on fire. The Scissors Dance is sometimes performed continuously for hours, until one of the competitors proves his superiority.

The best Scissors Dances can be witnessed in Ayacucho, Apurimac, Arequipa, Huancavelica and Lima.

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Incredible Flower Carpets at the Genzano Flower Festival 2010

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If you’re a flower enthusiast, and you happen to be in Rome, in the second week of June, you just have to visit the small town of Genzano, for its world famous Infiorata.

The Genzano Infiorata is a flower festival that can be traced back to 1778. Every year, local artists cover an entire street (Via Belardi) with intricate flower carpets, inspired by famous artworks, religious paintings or geometrical shapes. The flower carpets are made by talented local artists who have to stick to a previously agreed upon theme, like ‘The Colors of Michelangelo’ or ‘The Designs of Bernini’.

The Infiorata of Genzano begins with the harvesting of millions of flowers, 2-3 days before the event. They are stored fresh, in caves around Genzano, while the artists draw their masterpieces on the pavement of Via Belardi, for the Saturday parade.

Preceded by a ‘mini Infiorata’, where children from local schools create the flower carpets, the Infiorata ends on the Monday of the third week of June, when children are allowed to destroy the colorful artworks, by playing on them.

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Germany Hosts European Mud Olympics 2010

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Over 500 contestants, from all over Europe, gathered at the Brunsbüttel dike, near Hamburg, Germany, for the 7th edition of the Mud Olympics, on June 6.

The event is unique on the North Sea coast, and features different wacky games, like mud football, mud volleyball, tug of war, or the eel relay race, all of which involved getting covered in mud, of course. And since playing in mud is apparently one of the most fun activities known to man, the 2010 European Mud Olympics drew in contestants from Italy, Switzerland, Belgium or Denmark, all looking to have a good time.

Prizes were awarded for winning the wacky events, as well as for the best team name, best team fans, or the funniest competing team. The good thing is participants to the Mud Olympics weren’t only fighting for themselves, but also for a good cause: the proceedings, over 100,000 euro, will be donated to the Schleswig-Holstein Cancer Society.

via Spiegel.de

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Wave Gotik Treffen – The Goth Festival of Leipzig

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The festival-friendly city of Leipzig, in Germany, has hosted the 19th edition Wave Gotik Treffen, considered the world’s largest Goth event.

Around 25,000 Goth fans, from all over Europe, gathered in Leipzig, four a 3 day festival (22 – 24 May), that started back in 1992. Covered in tons of eyeliner and makeup, and sporting shiny jewelry and extreme piercings, attendees paraded their eccentric outfits, on the city streets, and turned Leipzig into a dark fantasy realm, if only for a few days.

During the Wave Gotik Treffen, Goth enthusiasts enjoy Goth rock concerts, theatrical performances, film premieres, exhibitions and discussions on various philosophical topics. Take a look at some of the coolest costumes from the recently ended Wave Gotik Treffen 2010:

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The Parade of the Lechon, in La Loma

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The La Loma district, of Quezon city, in the Philippines, is famous for having a pig roaster on every street corners, but on the third Sunday of May, roasted pigs take to the streets.

Lechon is the word Filipinos use for roasted pigs. It’s derived from the Spanish word “leche” which hints that the pig must be a suckling pig. For this monumental feast, pigs are stuffed with tamarind, pandan leaves and a concoction of spices, their skins bathed in soy sauce and vinegar. They are roasted over a charcoal pit, by an expert roaster, who knows just when to turn them, until they become crispy red.

Although everyone enjoys a nice helping of delicious Lechon, complemented with liver sauce, the highlight of this Asian fiesta is the Parade of the Lechon. Roasted pigs are dressed up in funny costumes and paraded through the city streets, on the shoulders of devotees. After 50 years of celebrating the Parade of the Lechon, Filipinos have turned dressing up roasted pigs into an art.

Photos via Daylife

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