Top 10 Weirdest Traditions Around The World

Our planet is full of traditions. In fact, every single culture on Earth has them.

But while our planet is home to a whole host of them, there are a few traditions that are little bit weirder and more wonderful than the others.

To highlight this fact, we have created a top 10 list of weird traditions you can find throughout the world. 

Some were created in the hopes of bringing good fortune to the local community. Others happened by accident or were designed as a way of having a bit of fun. 

However, bizarre as they seem, each has stood the test of time and is still practiced today.

1. The Mari Lwyd (Wales)

The Mari Lwyd is a Welsh Christmas tradition that can be traced all the way back to the early 1800s.

It involves decorating a horse’s skull then mounting it on a broomstick. The person that holds the stick is covered with a sheet, making the skull appear like the head of some terrifying animal. 

This “horse” is then carried throughout local villages, followed by a large group of people. At each home the horse and its followers will stop and knock. 

The Mari Lwyd - Welsh tradition
Image: Wikimedia Commons

When a door is answered the people that are gathered around the horse burst into song, asking for entry into the home.

The homeowners must refuse (also in song), creating a lyrical argument that continues until the group are sent away, or are invited to enter.

2. La Tomatina (Spain)

As a country built from many separate kingdoms, Spain has a lot of old, regional traditions. Among these is La Tomatina, an annual festival held in the Valencian town of Buñol. 

To put it simply, La Tomatina involves the whole town having an hour-long food fight with overly ripe tomatoes.

La Tomatina - Spain
Image: Twitter/AdaRealm

The tradition started because of a genuine fight in 1945, during which some tomatoes were thrown.

In the years that followed more and more people started to recreate the food fight until it became a yearly tradition.

La Tomatina was briefly banned by Spanish dictator Francisco Franco in the 1950s but fortunately, the tradition survived.

These days it’s so popular that you have to buy a ticket to participate. 

During the 2015 event it was estimated that over 320,000 pounds of tomatoes were thrown.

Of course, cleaning up this many tomatoes can be a lot of work, so after the food fight is over the town get fire trucks in to hose everything down.

As a happy coincidence the citric acid from the tomatoes leaves the town looking extremely bright after the cleaning is finished. 

3. Cheese Rolling (England)

Rolling a 7–9-pound cheese down a 200 yard hill with a group of people chasing it doesn’t instantly sound like the most exciting tradition.

But, when that hill has a gradient of nearly 50% and competitors are willing to risk serious injury for winning, it becomes a very thrilling event. 

The tradition of the annual cheese roll races at Cooper’s Hill near Gloucester, England is an old one, being over 600 years old. 

Today, the races attract competitors from around the world who fling themselves down the hill with the hopes of catching the cheese or crossing the finishing line first. 

Cheese rolling is known as being an extremely dangerous tradition, with serious injuries, including broken bones and concussions being reported nearly every year.

Despite these dangers, the races remain as popular as ever. 

4. Nenana Ice Classic (USA)

Advertised as Alaska’s greatest guessing game, the Nenana Ice Classic is an annual wager organized by the residents of Nenana.

The aim of the game is to predict exactly when the ice covering the Tanana River will break. 

The exact melting time of the river is measured by a wooden tripod that is placed on the ice, 300ft from the shore.

A line runs from the top of this tripod and is attached to a nearby clock tower. 

Nenana Ice Classic
Image: Flickr/James Brooks

When the ice melts and the tripod moves 100ft downstream, the line snaps and the clock stops, giving the competitors the exact winning time. 

The game began in 1917 when a group of engineers placed a bet.

Today, people all over Alaska buy tickets to bet on the ice breaking. In fact, the entry is so big that the jackpot for winning is usually over $200,000! 

As a non-profit organization the Nenana ice classic donates all excess money to charities. During the event’s 100+ year history over $10 million has been given away.

5. Polterabend (Germany)

The Friday evening before a wedding is the usual time for a German tradition, known as Polterabend, to take place.

The soon-to-be-married couple meet with family and friends outside the bride’s – or her parents’ – house. 

Once everyone has arrived an assortment of plates, bowls, and other pieces of porcelain and ceramics (sometimes even including toilet bowls) are thrown to the floor by everyone.

Image: Twitter/marcjeanson

Sometimes metal objects are thrown; however, you won’t see anyone throwing glass or mirrors. This is because glass represents happiness and breaking mirrors is thought to bring bad luck. 

Once everything has been smashed, only the couple are allowed to tidy the shards up.

This long process is thought to symbolize that, when married, the couple will have to survive difficult times by working together.

6. Presidential Turkey Pardon (USA)

The annual Presidential Turkey Pardon is a well-loved tradition that many Americans will be familiar with.

However, to those outside the United States, the sight of one of the World’s most powerful leaders pardoning an innocent turkey is a very strange one. 

The history of giving turkeys to Presidents is old, beginning in the 1870s. But it was only in 1947 that the poultry industry began to officially present the President with a turkey. 

Since the 1960s pardoning the gifted turkey has become common. The birds are often sent to petting zoos and wildlife sanctuaries. 

President George H. Bush formalized the pardoning process and since then it has been seen as an opportunity for the President to show their funny side, cracking a few jokes with family members and the media. 

However, not all turkeys that have been offered to Presidents have been pardoned.

In 1948, President Truman famously said that the two turkeys presented to him would “come in handy” for Christmas dinner. 

7. The Bathroom Ban (Borneo)

The time before, during and after a wedding is full of traditions in all cultures.

And it’s easy to understand why, as everyone wants to set the lucky couple up for a marriage that’s as long and happy as possible. 

However, in Borneo the urge to bless a marriage has resulted in an extreme tradition.

For the first three days and three nights of marriage, couples from the Tidong Tribe are forced to stay in one room and are not allowed to visit or use the bathroom at all!

This rule is strictly enforced by family members who watch the couple night and day. They also make sure that the couple only eat and drink small amounts, for obvious reasons.

As with many marriage traditions, a failure to successfully complete the bathroom ban is thought to bring bad luck on the couple and to signify that the marriage won’t last long. 

8. Monkey Buffet Festival (Thailand)

The Monkey Buffet Festival takes place on the last Sunday in November every year in Lopburi, Thailand.

On this day, all around the Phra Prang Sam Yot temple, beautiful piles of fruits and vegetables are stacked high.

Monkey buffet Thailand
Image: Twitter/festivalinvan

The celebration begins with dancers dressed as monkeys, performing amongst the ruins.

After this is over, the 2,000-strong population of local macaques are allowed to feast on the wonderful array of food – none of which is reserved for humans. 

This tradition is thought to bring good luck to the local area and its people.

9. Gurning World Championship (England)

Gurning, which means to pull a face, has a long history in some parts of England, particularly in a north-western town called Egremont.

This small town’s claim to fame is the Egremont Crab Fair, an event which has been going since 1267 and is home to the Gurning World Championship, a competition to see who can pull the world’s ugliest face. 

Those competing put on a horse collar and try to contort their facial features as much as is humanly possible. 

Some are more successful than others. Tommy Mattinson, from nearby Aspatria, has won the male competition an impressive 15 times.

Even more incredible is Anne Woods’s record. Before her death in 2015, Anne won the women’s gurning championships an incredible 28 times!

Anne Woods - gurning champion
Image: Twitter/whitehavenphoto

10. Cinnamon Throwing (Denmark)

If you turn 25 and are still single in Denmark, you need to be on your guard. 

This is because friends and family will likely pounce on you at some point and most probably tie you to a lamppost or a tree.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the worst of it. Next, they will throw heaps and heaps of cinnamon on you until you are covered from head to toe!

Although the exact reason behind the tradition isn’t known, it’s thought to have originated hundreds of years ago and is likely linked to the fact that spice salesmen were known for being bachelors. 

cinnamon throwing - Denmark tradition
Image: Twitter/DasSabrine

After you have been pelted with cinnamon you have five years to find yourself a partner.

If you don’t, when your 30th birthday comes around, you’ll get the same treatment – although this time it’ll be pepper instead of cinnamon!