From Groundhog Day to Cheese Rolling, there is no doubt that we humans have some rather… eclectic ways of doing things. Although it doesn't make total sense that the end of winter can be predicted by a rodent, that air-guitar playing can be an actual skill, and that tomatoes, far from being smeared on a pizza, can be smeared on other people, it's these strange and often wacky occurrences that make the world just that tiny bit more joyful. This list explores a few of them!
Groundhog Day, USA, February
Have you ever wondered what life was like prior to meteorologists? How did people way back when (more specifically, in 1840) know whether or not to break out their summer wardrobes? Well, forget about the old 'red sky at night' saying, because in Pennsylvania, the groundhog is a surefire way to know whether or not it's time to dust off your barbeques. Allegedly, if a groundhog emerges from its den and is scared by its shadow, winter will continue for another six weeks. If he emerges and doesn't return to his den, it's time for spring! This year, alas, the groundhog known as 'Punxsutawney Phil' saw its shadow and retreated, which could explain the recent icy snap we've been having…
Cooper's Hill Cheese-Rolling, England, May
This one technically isn't an event, because the government has officially washed its hands of it. No surprise really, as you can probably understand, it's a health-and-safety nightmare. Every Spring Bank Holiday, adrenaline junkies and those with high pain thresholds gather together to chase after a wheel of cheese. This sounds normal (relative to other things on the list and considering our strange English love for cheese), until you consider that they're chasing a wheel down a 1:2 gradient hill, and the cheese gathers speeds of around 70 mph, which is enough to also injure spectators. Since 2010 it's become a more spontaneous event, as no one really wants to put their names to it and be considered liable for injuries, and the wheel of cheese is now just a foam disk, but you can rest assured that in May, the event 'wheel' go ahead.
Boryeong Mud Festival, South Korea, July
Sun, sea, and sand - Boryeong, just 40 miles out from Seoul, is an idyllic beach resort. The mud from there is well known throughout the world, having been used in numerous skin care and make up products. If you, like me, are a great fan of good skin and cutting out the middle man, may I suggest you get yourself to the Boryeong Mud Festival, where you can wallow in gallons of the stuff. A fair warning - this is not a trip to the spa. The festival, started in 1998 to try and promote the cosmetics industry, is a high energy, two week event, with mud wrestling, mud skiing, a mud prison (whatever that is) and music, and has been known to attract over two million people from all over the world.
La Tomatina, Spain, August
We've all been there. The sunny weather gets a bit too sunny, no one can really be bothered to do anything because it's August, and sometimes you just crave a cool, refreshing, tomato right to the face. Well, maybe not all of us, but in Buñol, Spain, they certainly do. This festival doesn't really have any particular reason behind it; one August day in 1945, a few kids got a bit angry at a parade and started throwing tomatoes at each other, as teenagers are known to do. Since then, aside from a short ban in the '50s, this event has really taken off. There are now rules, copycat events all over the world, and hundreds of thousands of tomatoes that never got to fulfil their wish of being eaten. The entire thing is only around an hour, but on the plus side, the citric acid from the tomatoes makes the town super clean after - although I wouldn't advise smearing your kitchen in ketchup for a handy clean up routine.
World Bog Snorkelling Championships, Wales, August
Welcome to Wales, the land of dragons, The Valleys, castles, and the World Bog Snorkelling Championships. As with other strange and unusual things, the event started in 1976 as a result of a pub conversation. Although I couldn't find a happy recollection of the conversation that took place, one can only imagine that it was egged on by a hearty amount of beer. The gist of the event is that the competitor must enter a water trench in a bog, wearing snorkels and flippers - and presumably a wet suit as I can't imagine this is a particularly warm event - and, well, flop through the trench at the fastest possible speed, as you're not allowed to use your arms. Like all auspicious happenings, it has inspired a fair few copies, but none can come close to the original, which gives its proceeds to different charities every year.