Europe’s Strangest Festivals
As the clocks went back last weekend it can only mean one thing; summer is on its way. And with it come longer days, warmer weather and…festivals. But whilst many people would have had one eye on the Glastonbury line-up that was announced earlier this week, which celebrations will our European neighbours be looking forward to this year?
El Colacho - Castillo de Murcia, Spain
By Celestebombin (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Spain definitely has more than its fair share of strange festivals, with the running of the bulls, La Tomatina and the Festival of Near Death Experiences being just a few of the events that take place throughout the year. However, when they are not charging through the streets in an attempt to escape angry horned beasts or pelting tomatoes at each other they celebrate new life by staging a baby jumping festival.
El Colacho takes place just outside of Burgos during the Corpus Christi celebrations in July. Families lay their bundles of joy on large mattresses in the street, before grown men dressed as devils leap over them to cleanse them of evil spirits.
Walpurgisnacht – Harz Mountains, Germany
If you were to visit one of the towns around Germany’s Harz Mountains on the 30th of April, the evening before Saint Walpurga’s Day, you may be forgiven for thinking that Halloween had come early. Thousands of men, women and children dress as witches and warlocks to mark the start of spring and the end of a witch’s year of evil deeds.
German folklore states that this is the night they fly to the top of the Brocken, the highest peak in the mountain range, to discuss the past twelve months of malicious acts. The frivolities and fancy dress are said to warn off any rogue witches that could otherwise make their way into people’s homes.
Wife Carrying Championships – Sonkajärvi, Finland
The country that brings us the annual Air Guitar Championships also stages this tongue in cheek festival that has its roots in more sinister activities. Wife carrying originates from the days of notorious wife-stealer Rosvo-Ronkainen, who would send his band of robbers into villages in the east of Finland to take women away from their homes. In order to determine that he had the right men for the job, he would stage obstacle courses for them to carry heavy sacks through to prepare them for the task at hand.
Nowadays the women involved in the Wife Carrying Championships are fully aware of what they are getting themselves into; an arduous ride to the finishing line through water, over hurdles and around other obstacles on the shoulders of their beloved. This year the event will take place over the weekend of the 1st and 2nd of July.
Calcio Storico – Florence, Italy
By Lorenzo Noccioli [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons
Calcio Storico is a sporting event that brings together the people of Florence in a ten-day festival. Each of the four city neighbourhoods has a team of 27 players which compete in two semi-finals and then a final, held on the feast day of St John the Baptist, June 24th. The teams from Santa Croce, Santo Spirito, Santa Maria Novella and San Giovanni take to a sand court in the city centre that is specially made for the matches.
The rules are that there are very few rules and so the main aim is for one team to get the ball into the other’s goal (caccia) by any means necessary. This includes kicking, throwing and wrestling each other in an attempt to claim pride and victory for their neighbourhood. Historically, the victors were rewarded with a cow but nowadays they receive a free meal during the evening celebrations that are punctuated by raucous fireworks.
If you would like to see any of these festivals for yourself, we can tailor-make a trip to include everything you would like to do. Call us today or contact through our online form.