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Whiteout at the Xinzo Festival Flour Battle

One of the many Ourense festivals, the Spanish village of Xinzo de Limia host one of the most unique food fights in the world, the “flour battle”.

Every year, Galicians from  Xinzo de Limia celebrate their very own Ourense festival. The entire festivities are centered around a number of mythical characters (peliqueiros) whose significance and stories have been forgotten in time. Still the are part of local tradition, so the people dress in colorful clothes, put-on intricate masks and run through the streets of the city, making as much noise as possible.

People all over Galicia come to see the “peliqueiros”, but also to take part in the Flour Battle, where people through tons of flour at each other. Glasses are recommended as the fine ingredient can get pretty much anywhere.

Take a look at some photos taken at this year’s edition of the Flour Battle, Xinzo de Limia.

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The Skiing Witches of Belalp Hexe

I remember a time when witches flew on brooms. Nowadays they’re flying on the ski-slopes, using their brooms as sticks. What’s the occult world coming to?

Every year, between January 10-16, over 1,500 people from Switzerland and other European countries gather at Belalp, for one of the wackiest downhill skiing races in the world. The Witches Downhill challenge has contestants dress up as witches and race down a snowy mountain.

Races are organized for children and adults alike and between challenges there are fun parties to go to. Witches Night is the biggest, with over 3,000 participants indulging in singing, dancing, drinking and all around partying.

The Belalp Hexe Ski Race began in 1983, inspired by a real witch that apparently lived nearby and terrorized locals. she actually flew around and everything.

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St. Anthony’s Feast – A Fiery Celebration

Every year on January 17,the people of San Bartolome de Pinares celebrate St. Anthony by riding their horses, donkeys and mules through piles of burning tree branches.

The unique tradition of leaping over and through flames dates back 500 years, but the men and women of San Bartolome de Pinares still celebrate it religiously. They gather all the branches they find in the days leading up to the festivities, and when dusk falls on the eve of Saint Anthony’s, they light them ablaze. Riders lead their mounts through the burning piles of the village, accompanied by sounds of drums and Spanish bagpipes.

Jumping through the flames is said to bring the animals the protection of St. Anthony Abad, acknowledged as the patron of domestic animals, ever since the Middle-Ages. Locals believe the fire purifies their animals and protects them against illnesses, all year long.

Animal rights activists don’t buy the whole purification deal, but in a country like Spain, where traditions like bullfighting, Shearing of the Beasts or Day of the Geese, they don’t have too many hopes of putting an end to it. Plus, the owners say their animals remain unharmed…

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Tibetan Sky Burials Are Super-Creepy

All funerals are sad and creepy, but they’re way better than feeding the corpse to a bunch of hungry eagles.

Sky burials are often practiced in the mountains of Tibet, both for religious and practical reasons. Basically, the corpse is placed on a mountain top and sliced open in various places, to attract the birds of prey circling above. They’d probably feast on it anyway, but an invitation like that doesn’t hurt.

Most Tibetans are Buddhists and believe in rebirth. Once a person dies, their body is considered nothing more than an empty vessels that needs to disposed of. Since the ground is often as hard as rock and wood and fire are precious resources, feeding nature’s creatures is a practical choice. I know it looks grotesque, but to Buddhists this is a last sign of generosity by the deceased, offering his body as nourishment for other living creatures.

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The Wishing Spheres of Singapore

Every year, the people of Singapore celebrate the coming of the New Year by launching wishing spheres in the Singapore River.

The tradition of the wishing spheres was launched years ago by Singapore’s authorities as a way to bring people together and now it’s become an international event. People travel from all over the world to write their wishes for the new year on a giant white sphere and throw it in the Singapore River.

This year, a record 10,000 wishing spheres were available for inking, but they still weren’t enough to cover demand. The wishing-sphere-covered Singapore River is quite a sight to behold this time of year, especially at night, when the spheres are lit.

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Santa Speedo Run 2009

A bunch of people running in the streets in speedos, or how a small holiday stunt turned into a national phenomenon.

The Boston tradition known as the Santa Speedo Run began on a Saturday, in December of 2000, when 5 friends decided to do something completely crazy to spice up their weekly routine. The best they could come up with was running through Boston wearing nothing but speedos, Santa hats and fake beards. They tried to get another 20 runners involved, but one week later, at race time, it was still just the five of them.

But they kept their courage and went through with what the plan. People shopping on Newburry Street started screaming and cheering while the five naked Santas ran by. And that, in short, is how the Santa Speedo Run was born.

It has come a long way since then, turning into an annual charity event that raises money for various charities, and inspiring similar displays in other American cities. Anyone can enter the Santa Speedo Run as long as they raise the minimum $250 for charity and aren’t afraid to strip down to their speedos at race time.

Photos via Boston.com

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Pantomime Horse Grand National Race

One of Britain’s most bizarre racing events, the annual Pantomime Horse Grand National Race is also one of the most fun.

Designed as a parody of the Grand National horse race held in Antree, the Pantomime Horse Grand National draws in thousands of people to the city center of Birmingham, all eager to watch the competitors and bet on the winner.

Contestants pay a 50 pounds fee to enter the competition and slip into their plush horse costumes for a chance to win the grand prize, a bottle of champagne. I know it’s not much, but it really isn’t about the winnings at all. All the money raised from entrance fees, sponsorships and betting on the sidelines go to the Lord Mayor’s charity funds.

This year, the 7th edition of the Thomas Vale Pantomime Horse Grand National had contestants competing in a grueling 12-jump course. In the men’s race James Bamber and his “horse” Hoof Hearted claimed the no. 1 spot, while in the girl’s challenge Nicki Mills and her Spank The Donkey came first. The funny event raised around 4,000 pounds.

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The Eton Wall Game

From the country that brought us rugby and soccer comes one of the oldest, hardest and weirdest ball games in the world, the Eton Wall Game.

It’s not clear when the Eton Wall Game was invented, but the first recording of a game dates back to 1766. Its rules were changed several times up to 1849, but have remained unchanged ever since. The game originated at Eton college, along a slightly crooked brick wall, built in 1717. The most important game is played on St. Andrew’s Day, between a team of Collegers and Oppidants.

People kicking a ball along a brick wall sounds a little like soccer, but the 5-meters wide, 110-meters-long pitch makes the Eton Wall Game special. Each ten-player team tries to get the ball to the far end of the opposite side and score a goal, without handling the ball, hold or hit their opponents or get caught offside. As you can imagine, scoring a goal under these conditions can be rather difficult. In fact, the last one was scored 100 years ago, in 1909.

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The Buffalo Fighting Festival of Do Son

The Buffalo Fighting Festival is held annually, on the northern coast of Vietnam and draws huge crowds, eager to see a display of violence.

Buffalo owners train the peaceful creatures and even pray on the night before the festival, to ensure their beast is victorious. To the crowd’s disappointment the animals often do nothing more than look at each other and go about their business. On rare  occasions they cros their scythe like horns and push each other like sumo wrestlers.

The victorious buffalo is cheered by thousands of people, while its owner displays it for all to see and collects a prize of 40 million dong. But the winner has little time to enjoy his success, as both buffalos are sacrificed and their meat offered to the spectators. The owners are allowed to take a keepsake, like the animal’s head. Read More »

The Chicken Madness of Yom Kippur

On Yom Kippur, The Day of Atonement, ultra-Orthodox Jews use white chickens to perform the Kaparot ritual and get rid of all their sins.

The holiest of Jewish days, celebrated with 25 hours of fasting and intense prayer, offers ultra-Orthodox Jews the chance to make a year’s worth of sins vanish. All they need is a chicken, preferably white, and a simple blessing. The live chicken is waved above the sinner’s head as the blessing is recited and it is believed all his of the previous year are transferred into the chicken.

The new host of the sins is then quickly beheaded and its blood drained as young ultra-Orthodox boys watch. Pretty cool isn’t it? Just sin a way for an entire year and let a brainless chicken take the fall. These are the times that make me wish I was a Jew.

via Telegraph.co.uk

Yom-Kippur

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Pulling the Head Off A Goose Is A Fiesta in Spain

The “Day of the Geese” is a Spanish Fiesta in which “brave” contestants have to wrench the head off a goose while being plunged into the water.

In the Basque fishing-town of Lekeitio, near Bilbao, people have a rather unusual way of keeping themselves entertained. Every year, during the Day of the Geese, young men try to prove their skill at tearing the head off a goose.

Geese are strung up on a wire, above the town’s harbor, as young men approach in boats and try to grab them. They are then lifted up into the air and plunged into the water repeatedly, until they pull the head off the goose or fall into the water.

Quite a challenge but at least the winner gets a worthy price: he gets to keep the goose…I can’t say I’m surprised to see this kind of display in a country fascinated by archaic traditions like Corrida or the Shearing of the Beasts, but at least here they kill the goose beforehand (if that can be considered a positive aspect). The Day of the Geese used to be celebrated with live geese. Read More »

India’s Two-Year-Old Snake Charmers

While other two-year-olds are just learning to walk and talk, the children of the nomad Vadi Tribe are introduced to the centuries-old art of snake charming.

All the children of the Vadi Tribe come face to face with a poisonous cobra at age two, and go through a ten-year ritual, in which they learn all the secrets of snake charming. Both boys and girls must learn to handle snakes. While men must be able to manipulate cobras by playing the flute, the women must know how to take care of the reptiles when their husbands or brothers are away.

The Vadi treat snakes like their own children, never keeping them away from their natural habitat for more than seven months. Any longer than that would be disrespectful to the snakes, according to Babanath Mithunath Madari, the 60-year-old Vadi chief-charmer. In fact, the only time a snake actually bit his charmer, was when he kept it for more than seven months.

Vadi snake-charmers don’t cut the fangs of their snakes, instead they feed them an herbal mixture which, they say,  makes their deadly poison harmless.

Unfortunately, in 1991, the thousand-year-old tradition of snake-charming was banned in India, and the Vadi tribe are stripped of their snakes whenever they are confronted by the police. They never spend more than six months in the same place.

Photos by BARCROFT MEDIA

via Telegraph.co.uk

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KaraTEA

As you all know, Chinese are very serious when it comes to their historical legacy, their centuries old customs and traditions, so it comes as no surprise that even though it’s rapidly becoming one of the most industrialized nations in the world they still honor their forefathers by performing ancient ceremonies.

Avery good example is this Cin dynasty traditional ceremony, performed in the city of Hangzhou. Progress is great but history is fascinating.

Japanese mud festival

Hundreds of Japanese grown-men wrestle each other in the mud water of Mimusubi shrine in Yotsukaido, a settlement near Tokyo. Every year on February 25 these men take part in this strange yet fun looking rite, believed to bring good harvest for the whole year and good health for babies.