10 Unusual Festivals

I. CHEESE-ROLLING (U.K. May).

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Cheese-rolling has taken place on the 1 in 2 slopes of Cooper’s Hill, near Birdlip in Gloucestershire, since the 15th Century. At 6pm on Spring Bank Holiday Monday, local youths line up at the top of the hill alongside a 7lb circular Double Gloucester cheese. When the cheese is released, the competitors hurtle down the hill in an attempt to catch it before it reaches the bottom. Eight people were injured during the 1992 event and further accidents caused the 1998 event to be cancelled amidst much controversy.

2. DAY OF THE DEAD (Mexico, 2 November).

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According to Indian folklore, this is the day when the deceased return to life. Families conduct macabre. graveside picnics, offering food to the dead, and then tuck into a feast of their own, chocolate coffins, sugar wreaths and fancy breads adorned with skulls and crossbones.

3. DOO DAH PARADE (U.S. Thanksgiving).

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A spoof version of the glittering Rose Parade held each year in Pasadena. California, the Doo Dah Parade has deliberately become a byword in tackiness with badly-decorated floats, inept drill teams and a routine where businessmen in suits perform with their briefcases.

4. GOTMAAR FESTIVAL (India, September).

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On the day following the September full moon, the 45,000 inhabitants of Pandhura divide themselves into two groups and start hurling rocks at each other until sunset when the fighting ends The festivities can get out of hand. In 1989 there were 616 casualties including four deaths.

5. GRANDMOTHERS’ FESTIVAL (Norway, July)

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First held at Bodo in 1992 the festival sees grannies riding motorbikes, racehorses, skydiving and scuba- diving. The star of the inaugural event was 79-year-old Elida Anderson who became the world’s oldest bungee-jumper

6. KING OF THE MOUNTAIN FESTIVAL (Australia, October).

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With a summit just 140ft above the surrounding plains, Mount Wycheproof in Victoria is registered as the lowest mountain in the world. This fact is celebrated annually with a foot-race up the mountain with each contestant carrying a sack of wheat weighing 140 lb.

7. LA TOMATİNA (Spain).

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This festival dates back to 1944 when the fair at Buñol was ruined by hooligans hurling tomatoes at the procession. Now each year the town stages a 90-minute mass fight with 190,000lb of ripe tomatoes, an event which has relegated the annual fair to the status of a mere sideshow.

8. MOOSE-DROPPING FESTIVAL (Alaska, July).

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The town of Talkeetna plays host to an annual celebration of moose-droppings. Stalls sell jewelry and assorted knick-knacks made from moose-droppings but pride of place goes to the moose-dropping-throwing competition where competitors toss gold-painted moose-droppings into a target areas the winner being the one who lands his dropping closest to the center target.

9. RUNNING OF THE SHEEP (U.S., September).

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Reedpoint, Montana, stages a gentle alternative to Spain’s famous Running of the Bulls. Each September hundreds of sheep charge down Main Street for six blocks. Contests are held for the ugliest sheep and prettiest ewe while shepherds assemble to recite poetry.

10. SWINGING THE FIREBALLS (Scotland, New Year’s Eve).

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Residents of Stonehaven march through the town swinging great balls of fire made from wire netting and filled with driftwood, pine cones, twigs and oil-soaked rags. The balls are then thrown into the harbor to herald the New Year. The ceremony is thought to date back to the Middle Ages when the townsfolk tried to charm the sun from the heavens during the long, cold winter months.

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