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6 Unusual Customs across Europe

6 Unusual Customs across Europe 

Every nation around the world has a distinct history, background, and customs. In this blog, we will be outlining some of the most bizarre customs across the European continent – some of which have been around for several centuries.

Unusual Customs across Europe

1) Throwing pottery from windows (Corfu, Greece)

This tradition involves throwing large jugs – filled with water – from balconies and towards the center of the town. This event never fails to attract a large audience anxious to be witnesses to pottery pieces falling and smashing into pieces.

The tradition, known as botides, is Eastern Orthodox, and marks the First Resurrection, also known as the Holy Saturday. It is believed that the Venetians – the rulers of Corfu from the 14th until the 18th century – were behind the origin of this custom. At the start of every New Year, the Venetians would throw all their belongings out in order to make way for the new belongings they would be receiving during the New Year.

The Greeks decided to adopt this custom and celebrate it during Easter – an occasion that holds tremendous importance in their calendar – and added a touch of pottery.

2) Tomatina Festival (Spain)

You might or might not like vegetables, but you can certainly agree that they are meant to be used only for eating, right? Well, the Spanish beg to disagree, as they enjoy hurling the popular vegetable tomato at other people – so much so, that they have actually created a festival for it. The Tomatina Festival is the world’s largest tomato ‘fight’, and is conducted on the final Wednesday of every August. The festival is one of the biggest attractions for travelers planning their summer trip to Spain.

No one is quite sure about the origination of this tradition, and they do not really care as long as they are having the time of their lives.

3) ‘Partita a Scacchi’, (Marostica, Italy)

Every second September sees the Northern Italian town of Marostica conduct a chess game – only, human beings act as pawns.

The origination of this tradition lies in a 15th century event. A couple of gentlemen fell in love with the same girl, Lionara. The two men decided to have a duel, where the winner would get to marry the lady. However, Lionara’s father, who also happened to be the lord of the Marostican castle, had a different idea. He suggested that the two men should instead play chess – the winner would get to marry Lionara, while the loser would end up with her younger sister named Oldrada.

Since then, this biannual game, which takes around two hours, has hundreds of participants showing up in different costumes.

4) Danube cross swimming (Romania)

Did you know that Romanians have a winter swimming festival designed for the Danube Race celebration? In fact, the event is so popular and sacred that the Orthodox Church formally supports it. A priest hurls a cross into the water, and numerous men dive in the freezing waters and try to find it. The custom celebrates Jesus’ baptism that happened in the Jordan River. Vodka consumption is part of the festival – perhaps to enable people to endure the freezing Danube water. According to belief, the person managing to find the cross would enjoy a year ripe with luck and prosperity.

5) Wife-carrying championship (Finland)

If running alone feels boring, this is the festival for you. During the wife-carrying championship, the men are required to carry their female partners and race. The males are bound by rules regarding the ways they can carry their women partners. For instance, only the Estonian style or fireman carry – where a woman, upside down, holds a man’s waist and wraps her legs around the male’s shoulders – is permitted. Moreover, the racing track is lined with several other obstacles. The goal, simply, is to win the race. Couples who perform exceptionally well might even get the chance to participate in the Wife Carrying Championship conducted annually in the Finnish city of Sonkajarvi.

6) Ursul (Moldova and Romania)

This event, conducted every winter, is the symbol of the rebirth and death of time, and also a way to get rid of any evil spirits. The event, held in one of the six days between Christmas and New Year, attracts a large audience, despite being slightly controversial.

The performers put on actual bear skins (some as heavy as 50 kilograms) and perform dances on drums and pan flutes. These performers start preparing for this event at least three months prior. Generally, the procession consists of a minimum of six and a maximum of 24 bears, tamers, and even characters who have dressed up like women.

Alongside the dances, the ceremony comprises various acts, including ones where the tamers strike the bears using horsetails, while women use sticks for the same purpose. The climax sees the bears ‘die’ before they are resurrected, thereby symbolizing rebirth.

Final Word

What is madness for one set of people might be tradition for another. We hope that this blog helped enhance your knowledge about some of the strangest and most awe-inspiring customs practiced around Europe.

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