If you’re looking for a pleasant, soothing distraction from the sometimes-cruel world we live in right now, we suggest you might want to avoid the events we’ve curated below. If you like living life on the extreme edge, consider it a checklist for things you really need to see for yourself in order to get a full appreciation for how insane some of these festivals really are.
The Cooper’s Hill Cheese-Rolling and Wake
Chase after a wheel of cheese? Sounds like fun. Except in this shindig put on by the residents of the village of Brockworth, England, participants first have to throw themselves down a very steep (and lumpy) hill in order to catch it. Injuries are guaranteed; ambulance crews are set up at the finish line at the bottom of the hill, with the area hospital prepped for a busy couple of days. Teams of volunteers are also in place to stretcher those too decimated to finish the race under their own steam to waiting medical care. The winner gets the cheese at least…
Running of the Bulls
Spain’s Running of the Bulls brings one million visitors yearly to Pamplona to view the kind of event that makes animal lovers cringe. A group of 15 cows (including six bulls) are unleashed onto a 970-yard (850 meter) route along Santa Domingo street. Both men and women dressed in white adorned with a traditional red scarf run alongside the stampede, trying not to get trampled or gored. The finish line is a bullpen and arena located on Plaza de Toro, where later in the day the bulls face death at the hands of a matador. Last year a dozen people were gored by the bulls, and since 1924 15 people have been killed in the run.
National Pyrotechnic Festival
Readers of Interesting Shit might already know something about this fireworks festival that is centered in the Mexican city of Tultepec. On the surface it seems harmless enough: seven days of celebrations in honor of the patron saint of fireworks makers (yes, there really is one) that brings about 100,000 people to the region. The festival itself is dangerous enough on its own-these fireworks don’t get shot into the sky, but rather at people dancing in the streets. But it’s the production of the fireworks where things get truly scary; the area is surrounded by fireworks manufacturing facilities and accidents involving the production of explosives for the festival have claimed hundreds of lives.
Takanakuy Christmas Fighting Festival
Got a beef with a friend or mortal enemy that you think needs to be settled with an old-school fist fight? Maybe the Takanakuy Christmas Fighting Festival is for you. Forget Festivus’ airing of grievances at the dinner table-this yearly event that falls on Christmas Day and began in the Chumbivilcas Province in Peru involves men dressing as one of five different characters. Men call out the name of the individual they have an issue with and the two combatants square off in a no-biting-allowed martial arts-style battle. Copious amounts of drinking takes place before and after the fights, which is a lot more fun than taking an aspirin for the pain.
Yanshui Beehive Fireworks Festival
The people living in the Yanshui district of Tainan in Taiwan think getting beaned by a lit firework is a good thing. A very good thing, in fact, to the point where they pile on whatever protective gear they can in order to allow themselves to get pelleted with fiery explosives that are said to bring good luck to whomever they make contact with. The ‘beehives’ in this case are not filled with honey, but large towers crammed with upwards of 600,000 fireworks that will be set alight with their stored munitions launched towards a waiting throng of people.
Good Friday Crucifixion Re-enactment
In North America, Easter is seen by a large chunk of the population as a good time to hide foil-wrapped chocolate eggs. In the Philippines, it’s taken a little more seriously. It’s also safe to say there’s a lot more blood involved. Catholicism and local superstitions combine for individuals who have themselves nailed to crosses in a disturbing display that is their way of re-enacting the suffering cast upon Jesus Christ. Tourists look on as hands and feet are nailed to crosses, with the hope being sins will be atoned for as a result.
Kirkpinar Oil Wrestling Festival
Greased-up topless men clad in leather pants fighting for a gold belt-sounds like it could be a theme night in a funky nightclub somewhere. In Edirne, Turkey, it’s the core concept of a wrestling festival where men doused in olive oil attempt to either pin or lift their opponent over their head-no small feat when you’re bare-skinned and slippery all over. These wrestlers, or Pehlivans as they’re known in the area, fight in one-on-one matches on a grass field until only a single man is left standing. That individual will win the title of Chief Pehlivan and given the Kirkpinar Golden Belt.
Canada’s Calgary Stampede has a love/hate relationship with a lot of people. Cowboys and party people love it, animal rights activists hate it. Held yearly since 1912, the 9-day Stampede held in July sells over 1 million cans of beer and is almost guaranteed to see at least one horse fatality a year. Two human casualties have also been reported in the past 20 years, and injuries are all but expected for animals people alike while participating in bull riding, steer wrestling and chuckwagon races.
Onbashira Festival or the Honored Pillars Festival
Japan isn’t a country known for its logs, but every six years when the centuries-old Onbashira Festival is happening fir logs literally get ridden to the forefront. The festival is centered around the four shrines of Suwa-Taisha, northwest of Tokyo. Sixteen massive fir trees (some more than 60 feet, or 18 meters tall) are cut down, which then become ‘honored pillars’. These are used to symbolically refresh the four shrines, but first the logs must be moved out of the mountainous region they are taken from. That’s when people hop on and begin a perilous downhill ride as ropes are attached and the ‘pillars’ are dragged through treacherous terrain. Once at the shrines, the logs are finally raised, with riders still clinging on. Injuries are frequent and casualties have occurred, including drownings and several instances where riders have fallen from 30-foot heights while the logs are being raised.
Agni Keli (Fire Fight of Kateel Durga Parameswari Temple)
Part of an 8-day festival that takes place every April, Agni Keli has a simple concept: two teams are pitted against one another, and the battle has nothing to do with kicking or punching but instead encourages people to set one another on fire. Thousands of spectators gather at the temple of Durga in Mangalore to watch hundreds of topless participants throw lit palm frond torches at one another from a distance of about 30-50 feet (10-15 meters). Each individual is allowed five throws during the ritual which usually only lasts about 15 minutes. Although clothing is only worn from the waist down that fabric is often set ablaze and a sliding scale of burns are a given for anyone brave (or foolish) enough to take part.