7 of Europe's Most Unusual Festivals

7 of Europe's Most Unusual Festivals

From wife-carrying to cheese rolling, we’ve rounded up some of the stranger festivals in Europe

By: Meagan Drillinger
<p>Northern Italy celebrates the Battle of the Oranges during the annual Carnival of Ivrea. // © 2016 Creative Commons user <a...

Northern Italy celebrates the Battle of the Oranges during the annual Carnival of Ivrea. // © 2016 Creative Commons user furanda

Feature image (above): Participants chase a wheel of cheese down a hill during the cheese-rolling competition in Gloucestershire, England. // © 2016 Creative Commons user ninjawil


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If you thought the La Tomatina tomato-throwing affair or the Running of the Bulls event were as whimsical as Europe’s festivals can get, think again. We’ve unearthed seven even more unusual festivals dedicated to some truly unique causes.

Baby Jumping Festival, Spain
Known by residents as El Salto del Colacho (“the devil’s jump”), the annual Baby Jumping Festival is exactly what it sounds like: people jumping over babies. The event began around 1620 in the village of Castrillo de Murcia in northern Spain. The ritual originally was meant to bless newborn babies and remove original sin — a different kind of baptism. Today, it involves men dressed as devils in red and yellow jumpsuits leaping over babies born during the year preceding the event. Traditionally, the festival takes place on the Sunday after the holiday of Corpus Christi, which is held in either May or June.  

Battle of the Oranges, Italy
This northern Italian tradition happens in the town of Ivrea during the annual Carnival of Ivrea, which began in 1808. The rules aren’t overly complicated: Simply hurl fresh oranges at anyone you meet. The Battle of the Oranges recreates a civil war that broke out between the citizens of Ivrea and a ruling tyrant in the Middle Ages. Today, the streets of the city are painted orange with freshly thrown fruit, while performers hand out sweets and presents to spectators. The 2017 competition will be held Feb. 25-28.

Black Pudding Throwing Championships, England
While La Tomatina might be considered a sexier sort of food fight, the sex appeal in this particular U.K. tradition is a little lacking. Throwing black pudding — a type of blood sausage — doesn’t have quite the same effect as smearing your single neighbor with a saucy tomato. That said, this is a very real tradition. 

The annual competition, which will be held this year on Sept.11, dates back to 1455, to a battle between Lancashire and Yorkshire. Participants throw black pudding at a pile of Yorkshire pudding (a dish made from eggs, flour and milk or water) stacked on a 20-foot-high perch. Competitors have three tries to knock down as many Yorkshire puddings as possible. 

Busojaras, Hungary
As part of the farewell to winter, each February, the town of Mohacs in southern Hungary strikes up a six-day carnival to bid adieu to the colder months. Named for the festival’s “busos,” which are men dressed in monstrous costumes with wooden masks and wooly cloaks, the event gathers more than 500 of these beasts for a march through the city. At the end of the parade, a coffin symbolizing winter is burned on a bonfire in the central square. Next year’s festival will take place Feb. 23-28.

Cheese-Rolling At Cooper's Hill, England
Residents and visitors alike celebrate each spring in Gloucestershire, England, by rolling a 7- to 8-pound wheel of double Gloucester cheese down a hill — Cooper’s Hill, to be exact. Competitors race down after the sphere, and the first person to cross the finish line at the bottom of the hill wins the cheese. The origin of the competition is unknown, but it is now a massive spectacle that draws people from all over the world to participate and observe. Next year’s event will be held May 29.

La Pourcailhade, France
Should you find yourself hungry and in the Pyrenees in August, you’ll be just in time to catch La Pourcailhade, or Festival of the Pig. This annual event celebrates all things porcine: window shops are decorated with pig displays; there is a black-pudding-eating competition; piglets are pitted against one another in The Piglet Race; and humans do their best impressions of pigs at various stages in their life during Cri do Cochon, the squealing competition. 

Don’t forget to bring your appetite for the eating portion of the program, where the menu — not surprisingly — consists mostly of pork. This year’s festival just ended, and 2017 dates should be announced soon.

Wife Carrying World Championships, Finland
Every year, the husbands of Finland test their strength — and their marriages — in this annual event. The rules are simple: Complete the obstacle course in the shortest amount of time, all while carrying your wife. (Clarification: The woman doesn’t have to be the wife of the competitor. She can be the wife of a neighbor, too. She must, however, be over 17 years old and weigh more than 108 pounds. She’ll be weighted down with a rucksack if she weighs less.) 

The sandy track is 253.5 meters long and includes two dry obstacles and one water obstacle. And don’t worry: If a participant drops his wife, he’s allowed to pick her back up and continue. This year’s competition was held in July, but be on the lookout for dates for 2017.