Traveling isn’t merely about seeing new places and sharing it on our social media. It’s a tunnel that offers us the chance to learn, experience, and indulge oodles of exceptional things beyond our comfort zone. For some, it’s a subtle form of escape from reality. Revelling in the beauty and taste of another culture, custom and tradition is one of the best parts about traveling. We observe, interact and embrace them with good grace.
Humankind has created plenty of strange customs and traditions over the centuries, but their existence is what that makes this world beautifully unique and diverse. There are a number of wonderful places in the world that have been long known for their strange practices and traditions. Let us take a look at them.
1. Songkran Day in Thailand
The annual Songkran festival marks Thailand’s New Year. It’s a holiday that falls on the 13th of April every year, which runs on for 3 days. It’s the time of the year where the entire country will celebrate days off from work, spend time with their loved ones, visit the temple, take part in water fights. Epic water fights! You’ll witness people in vehicles pouring buckets of water over one another, vendors taking aim at the crowds with their water hoses, and fun-seekers would fire giant fluorescent water guns or whatever water weapons they can get their hands on. This has got to be one of the most thrilling ways to welcome a new year. So if you are planning to make a visit to Thailand during the water festival, don’t be surprised if you get splashed or even soaked! If you plan on capturing these exciting moments, make sure you keep your phone in a waterproof bag.
2. Nyepi in Bali, Indonesia
Nyepi, also known as the Day of Silence is celebrated by the Balinese on a dark moon “Tilem Kesanga“, annually in March or April. It is a day reserved for self-reflection. Any form of acts that might interfere with the purpose is prohibited, which means no light or fire, no working, no talking, no eating, no noise, no entertainment or pleasure. During Nyepi, the entire streets of Bali will be closed, even the airport is set to halt operations for 24 hours. If you’re in need for some inner peace and tranquility, come and experience Nyepi in Bali, when nature takes a rest from human activity. With clean air and ‘zero emissions’ ― this can surely be one of the most interesting 24 hours you will ever encounter!
3. Finger-pulling in Germany, Austria, and the alpine regions of western Europe
Fingerhalken, or finger-pulling is actually a serious sport with very strict rules, at least among the Alps. It’s a competitive game between individuals, where two men sit across the table with a leather rope, and the point of the game is to pull the other man over the table. In fact, Fingerhalken championships are even held in Germany! Legend has it that the Germans use Fingerhalken to settle disagreements. This traditional sport obviously requires a high tolerance of pain, concentration and finger strength, which isn’t as easy as it sounds. However, there have been cases when the finger war got really violent, the competitors actually dislocated and broke their fingers. Alas, now we know, the people of the Alps take this sport very… very… seriously.
4. Red Ink in South Korea
Did you know that it is considered taboo to write someone’s name in red ink in South Korea? The Koreans believe that the colour red itself represents death. In the past, red ink was solely used to write the name of the deceased in a family’s genealogical record. Therefore, when you write an individual’s name in red ink, it is equivalent to you wishing death or harm upon them. To many of us, this might just be a superstition that belongs to the past, but it is something that the majority of Koreans still strongly regard as true. So remember, keep your red pen locked in the drawer when in Korea.
5. Cheese-Rolling and Wake in England
Cheese-Rolling and Wake is an annual tradition that takes place at Cooper’s Hill in England. Yes, it is exactly what it sounds ― chasing a rolling 8-pound wheel of cheese down a ridiculously steep hill. The festival was initially and traditionally celebrated by and for the people who resided in the countryside village of Brockworth, Gloucesterchire. Now, however, more and more people from all across the globe seem to enjoy participating in this tradition. Cheese-chasers often get seriously injured in the process, and yet they still do it. Come to think of it, must be for the fun of it!
6. Singles’ Day in China
This holiday was named “Singles’ Day” because of its date, 11th November, or 11/11, consists of four “ones”, representing four singles. It’s an occasion for single people to meet at parties and social gatherings. In the beginning, this was only meant for bachelors to observe, but today, it is celebrated by both the males and females. The single ones may feel annoyed, self-loathe or have a self-depreciating attitude for being single and alone, but these kinds of events are made to let people meet each other, go on blind dates, and help curb that negativity. But most importantly, embrace their singlehood!
7. The Hungry Ghost Festival
According to ancient Chinese beliefs, Yu Lan, or the Hungry Ghost Festival, is celebrated annually, every 7th month of the lunar calendar, when the restless spirits roam the earth. This tradition has been around for more than 2000 years. Believers offer drinks and food to ghosts, with the intention to appease the roaming ghosts and prevent them from intruding into their lives. Here’s a fun fact: the Hungry Ghost Festival is actually not a Chinese belief that originated from China. It is celebrated in India, Japan and other places such as Taiwan, Cambodia, Thailand and even Vietnam, all in their own ways and according to their own beliefs.