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Festivals typically evoke a sense of fun and celebration, with parades, feasting, dancing and music. Some communities, however, celebrate their festivals in weird (but no less fun) and wonderful ways – from throwing a massive food fight in town, to chasing after cheese wheels down a slope. Here are five bizarre and unusual festivals around the world. 

Muddy Mess 

Getting down and dirty in the mud might not sound like everyone’s idea of fun, but the annual Boryeong Mud Festival in South Korea, some 200 kilometres south of Seoul, proves otherwise. A staple summer activity in Boryeong since the late 1990s, the annual event was originally started as a way to market the region’s mud products (purportedly beneficial for health and beauty). Today, the festival attracts over two million visitors to the town and is usually held over two weeks in July. Large amounts of mud are transported from the town’s mudflats to Daecheon beach, where visitors can get into mud fights, take part in competitive games, enjoy local delicacies and buy mud-based products.

La Tomatina (25.08.2010) - Spain, Buñol 08
Image by flydime [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)]
Tomato Fight 

The town of Bunol in Spain takes the term ‘food fight’ to a whole new level with La Tomantina, an annual festival where participants throw tomatoes at each other. The tradition apparently dates back to 1945, when a group of rowdy young boys upended a vegetable cart at a local parade, causing people to pelt one another with tomatoes. There were attempts by the authorities to ban the practice in the 1950s, but this was met by local protests, and they eventually relented. Today, the fight takes place on the last weekend of August and usually lasts for an hour. At the end of the fight, fire trucks hose the street clean. 

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CheeseRolling
Image via Dave Farrance [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]
Need For Speed 

Each year in spring, the quiet, picturesque village of Brocksworth in Gloucester, England is transformed into an extreme sports venue. The Cooper’s Hill Cheese-Rolling and Wake is an annual festival held on the Spring Bank Holiday, and sees participants rolling and tripping their way down Cooper Hill in the hopes of catching a cheese wheel (Cheese rolling was traditionally used as a way to determine grazing rights for villagers in the area since the 19th century). The first person to either catch the cheese wheel or make their way past the finish line, wins the cheese. Despite the festival’s risky nature (injuries are common), that hasn’t stopped participants from all over the world from attempting to tumble their way to victory. 

Olney Pancake Race 2009
Image by Robin Myerscough [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]
Flipping Pancakes 

For half a millennia, the womenfolk of Olney in Buckinghamshire have been participating in what is thought to be the world’s oldest Pancake Race. Held on Shrove Tuesday (also known as Pancake Day), the race sees participants, dressed as traditional housewives, making a 415-yard (about 380-metre) dash from the Olney MarketPlace to the Parish Church while flipping a pancake in a frying pan. While no one knows when and how exactly the tradition started (legend has it that a housewife, hearing the church bell ringing, dashed to the church still clutching her frying pan with a pancake in it), one has to give it up for the townsfolk, who have kept the practice alive for over 500 years. Any woman over the age of 18 who has lived in town for more than three months can compete in the race.

CheungChaubun mountain
Image via .怪貓. [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]
Give Me Buns

Held on the island of Cheung Chau in Hong Kong, the Cheung Chau Bun Festival was traditionally held by local villagers to pray for safety against pirate attacks, although today, the festival is more about showcasing Chinese culture. What makes the event special is ‘bun snatching’, where participants scale three giant bamboo towers covered in buns. It is believed that the first to reach the top (no mean feat, requiring excellent grappling skills and upper body strength) and remove the buns would ‘win’ good fortune for their family for the rest of the year. Another notable highlight at the festival is the float parade, featuring young children dressed in elaborate Chinese costumes and balanced on poles, seemingly ‘floating’ on the air.