Traditions are an important part of society. They have been passed down for generations and can teach us about different cultures. However, some traditions are so foreign to us that they can seem a bit strange. While putting presents under a Christmas tree might seem normal to us Americans, it might be weird to a tribe in New Guinea. Here are a few bizarre traditions from around the world.
Bullet Ant Gloves of the Satere-Mawe Tribe
Almost every culture has a coming of age tradition. The Hispanic culture has Quinceaneras for their daughters once they turn 15, bar mitzvahs take place once a Jewish boy turns 13, and the young men of the Satere-Mawe tribe wear gloves full of bullet ants once they turn 13. Yes, you read that correctly. The boys of the Satere-Mawe tribe must undergo painful bites from one of the most vicious ants in the world to prove their manhood once they turn 13.
The Amazonian Satere-Mawe tribe of Brazil has been practicing this tradition for centuries. A shaman gathers thousands of bullet ants and place them in specially designed mitts for the young boys to wear during their initiation to manhood. It is said that bullet ants got their name because their bite feels like a bullet piercing your body. The boys must wear these gloves and dance for 10 minutes or so while hundreds of bullet ants chomp on their flesh. If they can last the full 10 minutes, they are viewed as real men and are treated as such by the tribe.
You would think doing this once would prove your toughness right? Wrong! The boys of the Satere-Mawe tribe must do this 20 TIMES to prove their manhood. The pain can be so overwhelming that some of the tribe’s boys can shake for days due to the trauma they endured. I don’t know about you, but a bar mitzvah sounds like a much better way to earn your manhood than wearing gloves full of bullet ants.
Baby Tossing in India
Throwing babies off roofs is a controversial Indian tradition (you don’t say?). Toddlers are dropped 30 plus feet off a temple and are caught by family members in a blanket below. The tradition has been practiced for over 500 years by both the Hindu and Muslim religions.
Most of the baby tossing takes place at a Muslim shire close to Sholapur India called Baba Umer Durga but it has been carried out in other parts of the country as well. Many Indian people believe the ceremony is very important and does nothing but good for the child. The tradition is supposed to bring good luck to the baby and its family for years to come. Baby tossing has sparked much debate and has its fair share of critics.
Many children advocacy groups believe tossing a baby from a building up to 50 feet tall can be traumatizing for a child and have tried to ban the tradition multiple times. The tradition is banned today but many religious families still take part in the tradition. Many Indian families argue that the baby is not in danger and the drop has zero negative effects on the child. Regardless of what side of the debate you’re on, you have to admit tossing kids off building is a pretty strange tradition.
The Penis Festival of Japan
This Japanese tradition can get a little bit raunchy so bare with me. The Kanamara Matsuri, better known here in the states as the Japanese Penis Festival, is a yearly tradition celebrated in Kawasaki, Japan. It takes place on the first Sunday of April and is a religious occasion for the Shinto religion. As time went by, people outside of the Shinto religion started taking part in the odd tradition as well.
As you could of guess, The Penis Festival has an interesting history. Kanamara Matsuri, roughly translating to Festival of the Steel Phallus, developed out of an old Japanese legend about a temple priest killing a demon with a metal wang. I can’t make this stuff up. The legend goes that a demon with teeth in her vagina would seduce men and would bite their tallywacker off during intercourse. This became such a huge problem that temple priests decided to do something about it. They constructed a giant metal penis and used it to destroy the demon and her killer yoo-hoo… Japan is a fascinating place.
Today Japanese citizens celebrate the death of the dick demolishing demon by parading down the street with phallus-shaped shrines and floats. Food and decorations are also shaped like penises. Many sex workers attend the festival as well in order to pray for a healthy body and ask for protection against STDs. Leave it to Japan to host one of the most bizarre traditions in the world.
La Tomatina in Spain
La Tomatina is a one of a kind festival held every year in the Valencian city of Bunol located in Eastern Spain. The event is less of a festival and more of a giant food fight. Every last Wednesday of August, the people of Bunol take to the street and hurl countless tomatoes at each other. The food fight does not symbolize anything or pay respects to an important part of the city’s history. It just happens because the Bunol citizens know how to have a good time.
The La Tomatina Festival started way back in the mid-1940s. No one truly knows how La Tomatina originated, but there are a few rumors. Most people believe a group of young people accidentally knocked over a parade participant causing him to go into a fit of rage. The man knocked over a tomato stand during his tantrum. Onlookers decide to grab the tomatoes and began throwing them at the angry man and others. The following year another group of teens brought tomatoes from home and threw them at parade participants. The tradition stuck and is still celebrated every year.
This crazy festival has grown exponentially over the last few decades. Now La Tomatina is a tourist attraction with people attending from all over the world. Tickets for the event can be bought online and many tours are available for people who don’t want to participate. If you have ever dreamed of being in a huge food fight, you can finally live it out by attending La Tomatina.
It is only fair to add a weird American tradition to this list. We have many customs here in the United State but one of the stranger ones is groundhog’s day. For people not familiar with the event, groundhog’s day is an American tradition that takes place on February 2nd where we rely on a groundhog to tell us if we will have good weather or not. If the groundhog sees its shadow after leaving its burrow, spring will arrive early. If it doesn’t, winter will continue. And we thought a penis parade was weird.
Groundhog’s Day has been a tradition in the United States since the mid-1800s. The first one is said to have taken place in 1840 in Morgantown, Pennsylvania. Groundhog’s day did not become a U.S custom until 1886 when a newspaper reported on the event. Apparently, Groundhog’s day has German roots but the United Stated adopted it as their own after tweaking it a bit.
Even though getting weather reports from a varmint is ludicrous, the tradition still lives on today. There is even a ceremony that takes place every year in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. Here, you can see for yourself if the reputable meteorologist groundhog known as Punxsutawney Phil grants us with an early spring or not. As silly as it might be, Groundhog’s Day has become entrenched in American culture and has no intention of going away anytime soon.