China’s Magical City of Ice

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Ice sculptures are common in wedding parties and other occasions, but nothing you’ve seen before can compare to the ones displayed every year in the city of Harbin in China. While the place is cursed with terrible winters, the tough locals have managed to make the most of it.

A typical winter in Harbin, northern China, would see temperatures go as low as 2°F (that’s –19°C). Strong, cold winds blow in from Siberia, making almost everything freeze over. But the residents of the city keep themselves busy for several weeks during the winter season, hosting the Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival. The sculptures made as a part of this festival aren’t anything like your typical faries and unicorns. Artists and engineers get together to build massive structures out of ice – a small town if you will, consisting of churches, pyramids, pagodas and palaces. The structures are filled with modern amenities like elevators and escalators. Multicolored lights are installed inside the sculptures, making them look very beautiful in the dark, after sunset.

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Bavarian Villagers Build Church Entirely Out of Snow

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A church built entirely out of snow and ice – sounds magical, and looks pretty too. It was built this year in the Bavarian forest by the villagers of Mitterfirmiansreut, Germany. Located close to the Czech border, the church is bathed in a beautiful blue light. It was opened to public on Wednesday evening, blessed by Dean Kajetan Steinbeisser. Although the villagers had hoped to have it open before Christmas, the lack of sufficient snow caused a delay in their project.

The snow church was constructed in commemoration of a similar church built in 1911, exactly 100 years ago. The older one was actually a sign of protest. In those days, the nearest church was in Mauth, a 90-minute hike away, which wasn’t always easy to complete. The residents of the secluded Mitterfirmiansreut village then came up with the idea to build the snow church, in the hope that it would draw attention to their plight. The winter of 1910/1911 was rich in snow, and the construction of the church began in Feb, 1911. Both men and women worked hard to place blocks of solid snow bricks, building a strong and sturdy church. The final structure was 14m long , 7m wide and 4m high. The first worship was held on the 28th of March, 1911.

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Szopka Making – A Colorful Polish Tradition

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The beginning of December each year sees the transformation of Rynek Główny (Main Market Square)  in the Polish city of Krakow, into a beautiful Christmas market. Arts and crafts, ceramics, sweets and more are put up for sale. Excellent food in the form of grilled oscypek cheese and Polish wine are available too.The szopka, a crèche competition, is of course the major event.

On the first Thursday of December, crèche masters from around Poland and other parts of the world display their szopki at the history museum in the Krzysztofory Palace. The winning models are placed on display throughout the Christmas season. The szopka is a traditional Polish folk art that has its origins in the Middle Ages. The tradition is a rich and colorful one, having evolved over the ages. The szopki depict the Wawel Cathedral, which is a part of Krakow’s Wawel Castle with a Nativity scene set inside its doors. Some of the models are as small as 6 inches while others are around 6 feet high.

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Buffalo Body-Painting at Unique Traditional Festival

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What started as a means to ward off intruders, is now a full-blown festival. The people of Jiangcheng County, China’s Yunnan Province, have their bulls painted and decorated by artists for a major event every year. The bulls are displayed in a riot of colors, painted with a variety of themes.

Traditionally, the bulls were painted by the Hani people of China in the belief that the practice would protect their village, mainly by preventing tigers from wandering into their homes. Of course, the threat of tigers and other man-eaters has reduced drastically in modern times, but the festival continues to be celebrated with much enthusiasm. The China-Laos-Vietnam Bull Painting Festival, as it is called, had 48 participating teams this year. The paraded bulls were hardly recognizable, covered in colors like bright blue, gold, yellow and red. But the paintings were far from abstract. The bulls served as a canvas for some real artistic talent, landscapes, portraits, and intricate patterns adorned their otherwise brown or white skin. Even the horns were covered with paint.

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The Miniature World of the Holiday Train Show, in New York

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The New York Botanical Garden has put up a new  Holiday Train Show, which has been attracting several visitors. Held in the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, the show isn’t very far from the entrance to the garden. The display does feature some trains, but the real attractions are the models of famous buildings made entirely from plants.

The miniature trains weave around the lush plants and flowers, and replicas of the Empire State Building, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, TWA Terminal at JFK and a few other buildings that are made entirely of plant parts. What’s special about these models is that they aren’t exact replicas of the structures themselves. Rather, artists have tried to capture the defining characteristics of these buildings. Creator Paul Busse, along with his team of artists gathers the material from woodlands around their studio situated in Kentucky, making an effort not to disturb the natural environment. The 100% natural models are created from plant material, with acorn chimney tops and magnolia leaf roofs. The reproduction of Washington Irving’s home has pink orchids surrounding it, one of the branches wrapped like a vine around the entrance. Small plants and flowers are used to depict trees and bushes on a perfectly manicured front lawn.

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Finally, a Watching Paint Dry Championship

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Contests and competitions have been used for a very long time now as a marketing tool. Some of these competitions have been quite unusual. But it doesn’t get more unusual than this – a championship for paint-watchers!

The paint-watching championship is being organized by Localtraders.com, an online resource for finding reliable local tradespeople in the UK. Normally, the website works by having people submit details of a job they need done, and several tradespeople bid over the project. Now, they’ve come up with this innovative idea to attract new customers. The “Watching Paint Dry Championships”  is truly a test of patience, mental strength and physical endurance. The way it works is that interested participants should send in a photograph of themselves watching paint dry, along with the longest time they’ve stared at the wall of paint without looking away. They’re also asking for a short write-up about your favorite paint color and why you like it.

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La Pourcailhade – Becoming a Pig in France

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La Pourcailhade is a festival dedicated to one of the most popularly eaten animal around the world, the pig. I’d like to mention that the Festival isn’t dedicated to pork as much as it is to the pig. There’s the usual “eat the most… to win” contest and a few barbecues go on but they’re far from being the main attractions at La Pourcailhade.

These would be the Best Pig Outfit competition, the “Cri do Cochon” and even the piglet race. The latter is self explanatory and it is made even more fun by betting on the side. It’s basically what the Koreans feel when going to the dog tracks.Where things during La Pourcailhade get even more interesting is in the Best Pig Outfit competition. It is also rather self explanatory but could you seriously imagine anything funnier than grown people walking around and showcasing their pig-like appearance? Especially French people, perceived as some of the coolest and snottiest people in the world.

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Japan’s Pig Rodeo – Animal Cruelty or Just Plain Fun?

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Although pigs aren’t exactly known for their speed and stamina, the people of Mikame, in Japan’s Ehime Prefecture seem to think they’re the perfect animals to ride.

Ehime Prefecture has been known as Japan’s pork production capital for a long time, and 25 years ago someone thought it would be a great idea to celebrate by riding hogs in a unique event known as Pig Rodeo. Part of the annual Seiyo City Mikame Summer Festival, the crazy event has been a popular tourist attraction, but to most of the western world it remained a mystery until 2009, when a YouTube video was picked up by a number of media outlets. There was a lot of controversy surrounding pig rodeo, at the time, and someone even started an online petition to get it banned, but in the last two years there were hardly any stories written on the subject.

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World’s Biggest Carved Pumpkin Is a Tribute to Zombies

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Life-size zombies crawling out of a 1,800-pound giant pumpkin? You have to face it, Halloween carved pumpkins don’t get a lot cooler than that.

A crowd of Halloween fans gathered at the New York Botanical Garden, the other day, to see pumpkin-carving master Ray Villafane work his magic on the world’s biggest pumpkin. Ray, an established artist known also for his incredible toy and sand sculptor, had something special in mind for this year’s event, and it’s safe to say zombie fans were pleased with his idea. He used two of the largest pumpkins from this year’s harvest, one of them a record-holder, to create a creepy scene featuring zombies covered in pumpkin guts crawling out of a giant squash. Ray spent hours painstakingly carving his undead work of art, but his efforts were generously rewarded with cheering and clapping.

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Canadian Globetrotter Completes 11-Year Walk around the World

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After walking an amazing 75,000 kilometers across the globe, 56-year-old Jean Beliveau completed his 11-year global trek and returned to his native Montreal, where he was greeted by family and friends.

With a crowd cheering him on as he crossed a bridge into Montreal last Sunday, Jean Beliveau hurried to meet the mother he hadn’t seen for 11 years, his loving and supporting girlfriend and two children. It was an emotional reunion that Beliveau could only describe as “amazing”. More than 100 locals showed their support for his effort by walking the last kilometers with him, through the streets of Montreal. The former neon-sign business owner has recently completed the world’s longest walk around the world, a journey that took him through 64 different countries and offered unforgetable experiences.

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French Chocolatier Organizes Chocolate Boat Regatta

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Thousands of people gathered on the banks of the Odet River, in Quimper, western France, to see seven chocolate boats competing in the sweetest regatta ever.

Georges Larnicol first made headlines last year, when he managed to sail in a 1.2-tonne-heavy chocolate boat, in Concarneau port. Now the 56-year-old master chocolatier, who owns a dozen shops throughout western France, has taken his passion to a whole new level by creating seven functional chocolate boats and showing them off to the world during a race. All of the boats were made of melted unsold chocolate, measured two-meters-long and weighed around 450 kilograms, each. The boats only had room for one sailor, who had to use chocolate oars to steer it to the finish line.

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The Tipat War of Bali Is What I Call a Real Food Fight

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Every year the men of Kapal Village, in Bali, celebrate the rice harvest by throwing rice cakes at each other in one of the largest traditional food fights in the world.

Also known as the Aci Rah Pengangon ritual, the Tipat War is preceded by a collective prayer in the inner court of Kapal Village’s Pura Desa (the village temple). Here local men give thanks for the bountiful rice harvest and relax before the upcoming food massacre. After praying, dozens of bare-chested men start the first rice cake fight right in the middle of the temple courtyard. They are divided into two groups and throw tipat (cooked rice wrapped in a square shaped woven coconut leaf) at each other. This fight lasts for only five minutes and is a preliminary event to the full-scale war that is about to take place in the village street outside the temple.

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World Egg Throwing Championships – An Egg-centric Competition

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One of the wackiest competitions in the world, the annual World Egg Throwing Championships held in Swaton, England feature a variety of events, all having to do with smashed eggs.

According to the World Egg Throwing Federation website, egg throwing is a local tradition inspired by historic events that occurred in the 14th century. It’s believed the ancient village of Swaton has stood on theses very grounds since before Roman times, but it wasn’t until 1322 that it became forever linked to egg throwing. The newly appointed Abbot was assigned to the Parish of Swaton  by royal decree, and found a rather ingenious way of increasing church attendance. As the only person in the settlement to own chickens, he provided one egg for each attendee to his sermons. But when the waters of the River Eau flooded, cutting off the church from the village, monks started throwing the eggs to the waiting locals. Legend has it when the gap became even wider, the monks used small trebuchets to make sure the eggs traveled the required distance.

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Latvia’s Wacky Milk Carton Boat Race

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Every year, at the end of August, Latvians celebrate Milk, Bread and Honey Festival with a special race between boats made from thousands of empty milk cartons.

The milk carton boat regatta has become a very popular tradition since it first took place nine years ago. The wacky event always take place on the Lielupe River, in the Latvian town of Jelgava, and means to offer local audience a good time and popularize a healthy lifestyle through the consumption of organic dairy foods made in Latvia. Teams of locals eager of a good time, as well as some representing dairy processors and food producers enter the competition every year and fight for various titles, including the fastest boat, funniest crew and most original boat.

This year a record number of participants registered milk carton boat race – 36 teams showed up on the Lielupe River, on August 27, to prove their seafaring skills. There were only a few rules teams had to obey for this event: boats had to be made excursively of empty milk cartons and had to be guided to the finish line by human power alone. The size of the boat and number of rowers was not limited, provided the carton vessel remained afloat. The course was only 50 meters long, the shortest so far, but teams struggled to finish as they had to paddle against a strong wind. Some team members even jumped into the river to push their boats across the finish.

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Snapperfest – Yet Another Another Animal Cruelty Fest

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Snapperfest is an obscure Indiana festival where participants have to yank a snapping turtle’s head out of its shell until they can wrap their hands around its neck.

It has been taking place in Ohio County, Indiana, for over a decade, despite PETA’s numerous attempts to shut it down, and sadly, it was organized this year as well, on August 20th. As always a big crowd gathered at Campshore Campgrounds to see the “brave” competitors tormenting a bunch of frightened snapping turtles. Now that right there sounds like a great way to spend your weekend.

Every Snapperfest contestant has to run up to a tank full of snapping turtles, grab one by its tail, slam it onto a piece of tarp and yank its head out of the shell. Apparently, each participant has his own techniques to get the wild-caught turtles to reveal their heads, but most popular are the repeated slamming against the ground, and pounding on the shell. While the crowd cheers them on, they grab the snapper turtle’s head and yank it out enough to wrap their hands around its neck. The one who manages to yank the turtle’s head fastest, wins.

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