Different cultures can seem bewildering at first.
Each has its own customs, traditions, and ways of life. These traditions can entertain, educate, and baffle us in equal measure.
What exactly is a tradition? The tradition definition can loosely be defined as a custom or set of customs that is passed down generationally. Traditions and customs are generally practiced during a certain time and have some sort of cultural meaning.
We have them in the USA too. They include everything from fun traditions like searching for eggs on Easter to national traditions like eating turkey on Thanksgiving Day.
Other traditions are very odd if you aren’t fully educated about them. But most of them are absolutely amazing when you get fully immersed.
Each culture has different traditions. Oftentimes these traditions are hundreds of years old, based off of customs so old that only a few members of society even remember the original meaning behind them.
As an expat, traditions should be important to you. It’s interesting and fun to learn about other cultures, and it can give you an idea of what you might be in for. Be sure to do a Google search on your local traditions to learn more about your new countrie’s culture and beliefs.
That’s why we’ve compiled this list of the 3 wildest customs from around the world.
1. Traditions with a Twist: La Tomatina, the World’s Biggest Food Fight
Traditional events vary from culture to culture.
Some go to church on Sunday.
Some celebrate the 4th of July.
In the small yet storied Spanish town of Bunol, they throw tomatoes at each other. That’s right. You read that correctly.
Every year on the very last Wednesday of August, townspeople and tourists alike gather in droves to celebrate La Tomatina — the largest festival of throwing tomatoes at each other in the entire world.
Ok, so maybe it’s the only festival of throwing tomatoes at each other in the entire world. But that doesn’t stop it from being an event worthy of gigantic crowds. Tourists come from all around the world to participate, with roiling juice-covered crowds tossing plump fruits every which way.
It can get pretty crazy (not to mention pretty slippery).
The event has turned into a bit of an attraction, with a limit of 20,000 tickets sold each year. Considering the town has a population of around 9,000, it’s a pretty big event.
But why, Bunol?
The Mystery Behind the History
The origin of this tradition is steeped in mystery – always differing depending on who you ask. It seems like nobody has the real story, but everyone has an opinion.
Some say that it started with an innocent tomato toss between friendly rivals during the annual town parade, while others claimed the tradition was just the result of a good old tomato-cart spill on the highway.
While nobody really agrees, it is generally accepted that the tradition began during WWII. It has also come to light that most of the tomatoes are ones which have already begun to rot. So if you do decide to participate, you won’t be contributing to world waste.
2. Funerary Traditions to Delight and Shock: The Famadihana
Every culture has a set of rituals concerning funeral rites.
However, the ones in Madagascar take the cake when it comes to the most surprising rites around.
The Famadihana has no specific date and is not practiced by any specific religion. It occurs all around Madagascar and the surrounding islands, perpetuated by people of all different faiths.
Every five to seven years (though the timelines can be a bit more relaxed, depending on the village), villagers unseal the burial tombs of their ancestors. In a celebratory manner, they remove the bodies and dance with them through the village.
This tradition is very old. It is practiced in order to show love to the deceased, and have a sort of conversation or connection with family members that are not around anymore.
While specific beliefs vary from region to region, the Famadihana is always practiced with love and good intentions.
3. Bizarre Birth Traditions: Baby-Tossing in India
The birth of a newborn is an exciting time for all parents.
What would make it even more exciting? Throwing the baby off the roof of a temple.
Don’t worry, all the babies are caught. Though the practice was made illegal by the government, it continues to this day. The drop is about 30-50 feet from the top of the shrine (depending on which shrine is used), and babies are caught in a wide white sheet.
Popular in only a few places across the country, the tradition is about 700 years old. The tossing is espoused to be an offering to the gods which will protect the baby throughout its infancy.
Exploring Local Traditions is Fun and Exciting
Of course, these aren’t the only traditions around the world that westerners find bizarre. Compared to these, the ones you’ll find in your new country might just seem downright tame!
Make sure to research traditions you aren’t familiar with and attend a few of the ones that are open to the public. This will help you integrate and have a good time in the process!