Every country and culture has its own rituals and traditions, and while these practices may be commonplace to locals, they often sound wonderfully wacky to outsiders. This is part of the fun of travelling. Fully immersing yourself in the customs of another country is arguably one of the best educations you could ask for. At Original Travel, we love finding ways of incorporating local life into our travel itineraries, so we’ve made a list of some of our favourite wonderful and wacky traditions from around the world to look out for if you’re in search of some holiday entertainment…
El Colacho, Spain
La Tomatina, which involves tossing tomatoes at one another as part of an annual festival, has become a fairly well-known Spanish custom. El Colacho, on the other hand, is a lesser-known (and slightly more risky-sounding) tradition that takes place in northern Spain; babies are laid on mattresses on the street, while participants wearing devil costumes run along and leap over them. The tradition is thought to keep the devil at bay and has taken place for over 400 years without incident, putting any concerns about safety to rest.
El Entierro de la Sardina, Spain and Latin America
Another Spanish tradition, which is also practiced in parts of Latin America, involves the symbolic burial of a sardine sculpture along with a funeral procession to mark the occasion. This indicates the end of the annual carnival on Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent, with the fish funeral signifying the burial of the past and the rebirth of society with renewed vigour. It’s unclear where the custom originates from, although one theory suggests that it started in the 1700s during the reign of King Charles III, who distributed fish as a gift during lent – the sardines went bad and were subsequently buried, kickstarting the tradition.
Scrambled eggs are a key ingredient of a full English breakfast here in the UK, and serving the dish on a Sunday morning is a popular tradition (especially as a hangover cure). However, in Bosnia they are eaten to mark the start of the spring season, as part of a festival known as Čimburijada. The day begins with a sizeable plate of scrambled eggs, cooked and eaten in a city park, followed by an afternoon of partying, barbequing and swimming in the nearby river.
La Mordida, Mexico
La Mordida is another food-based tradition, although one that involves being covered in food, rather than eating it. The Mexican birthday custom involves pushing the birthday girl or boy’s face into the thick creamy icing of the cake when they go to take the first bite. Meanwhile, the rest of the party guests chant ‘¡Mordida!’ (Spanish for ‘bite’). The origins of the tradition are unknown, however it remains an enduring Mexican birthday tradition, along with the smashing of piñatas and morning serenade of the song ‘Las Mañanitas’.
Cinnamon Throwing, Denmark
Sticking with the theme of birthday traditions, it’s commonplace to be covered in cinnamon if you’re single on your 25th birthday in Denmark. Legend has it that the tradition dates back to the 16th century, when Scandinavian spice salesmen were too dedicated to their trade to find a potential partner and get married. Today, 25-year-olds are tied to a chair or lamp post, while their friends cover them in copious amounts of cinnamon as a celebration of their single status.
A tradition that honours marriage, Polterabend translates to ‘wedding shower’, and takes place the day before the ceremony. The wedding party gather outside to smash various objects, including tiles, pots, plates and crockery – the louder the noise, the better, as this is thought to bring good luck to the newly-weds (glass and mirrors are avoided, as they’re known for bringing the opposite). The bride and groom are then tasked with the clean-up, as a means of preparing them for the teamwork required within married life.