Two months ago we highlighted some very strange festivals observed during the month of June. In this edition we look at some equally outlandish celebrations of August.
Berlin’s Wasserschlacht Festival
Wasserschlacht is the German word for “water fight”. Although that sounds very innocent, the battle that takes place between the districts of Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg on the Oberbaumbrucke Bridge is much more than harmless throwing of water balloons. Sure it starts with water but then rapidly degrades into a massive melee where participants throw rotten eggs, flour, fruits, slabs of meat and even dirty nappies at each other. Foam-rubber clubs are also used to hit and push the opposing side back to their side of the bridge.
The event is held almost every year since 1998 and initially started as a battle fought with water and flour alone. Later someone decided to bring in eggs, fruits and vegetables to the fight. The only rule is that they cannot be fresh -- only rotten or cooked. Dirty nappies and salted herring are relatively new introduction in 2008.
Participants usually number less than 1,000 but in 2011, when 5,000 people arrived at the bridge the Wasserschlacht battle had to be canceled by the organizers over fears of the bridge’s safety.
Mwaka Kogwa is a four-day-long celebration observed at Makunduchi, a village in the south part of Zanzibar. Men armed with banana stems participate in mock fights in celebration of the Shirazi New Year. The idea is to get rid of the past year’s disagreements and misunderstandings so that the new year can be started with a clean slate. What a harmonious way to start the new year.
As the men fight, the women stroll through the fields singing songs about life and love. They are dressed in their best clothes and taunt the men after the fight is over. At the end of the fight left over emotions are directed towards a hut which is burned to ashes. Then the feast takes place. The festivities vary from village to village but Makunduchi is where the biggest events take place.
Aomori Nebuta Festival
The Aomori Nebuta Matsuri or Aomori Nebuta Festival is a Japanese summer festival that takes place in Aomori, Japan, where intricately decorated colorful paper lantern floats called Nebuta are paraded through the streets. The floats are incredibly colorful and carry some amazing artwork. The festival attracts the most tourists of any of the country's nebuta festivals, and is counted among the three largest festivals in the Tōhoku region.
The Nebuta floats are pulled by roads through the streets usually by children, but in most cases, the floats are carried along by other means, and the children are just there for show. A Nebuta float can take almost a year in the making, they are hand painted with historical figures and lit up in a colourful display.
In the cities of of Hirosaki and Goshogawara, also in Aomori Prefecture, there are similar festivals around the same time, but they call the giant floats “Neputa.” The neputa are much taller, sometimes as high as 22 meters and can weigh up to 17 tons.
Jersey Battle of Flowers
The Jersey Battle of Flowers is an annual carnival held in the Channel Island of Jersey in the second Thursday of August. The festival consists of music, funfairs, dancers, majorettes and a parade of flower floats alongside various street entertainers. The 'Battle' itself originally consisted of dismantling the floats to provide floral ammunition for a literal battle of flowers between participants and spectators. However, this aspect has long been abandoned in favour of keeping the beautiful floats in tact for everyone to enjoy.
BBC has some incredible pictures from this year’s celebration.
La Tomatina is the largest food fight festival organized every year in the town of Bunol in the Valencia region of Spain. Tens of metric tons of over-ripe tomatoes are thrown at each other in the streets during this day. The week-long festival features music, parades, dancing, and fireworks among other things. At the end of the fight the whole town square is colored red and rivers of tomato juice flow freely. This festival started as a street brawl in 1944, then evolved into an official festival in 1952. We have some great pictures of La Tomatina.
If tomatoes are not your thing, then you can try throwing grapes at the La Raima grape throwing festival that takes place in the town of Pobla del Duc. In the searing heat of the noon-day sun, trucks hauling 90 tonnes of grapes dump the fruit into throngs of waiting people who proceed to fling the fruit. The festival, which marks the climactic end to a season of hard labour, can be traced back to the 1930s, when jubilant farmers would celebrate the end of the harvest by throwing the rest of the crop at each other.
Burning Man is a liberal arts festival that takes place in the last week of August week before Labor Day in the Black Rock Desert, in Northern Nevada. This annual arts festival whose attractions include colossal art installations, all-night dance parties, marathon kite-flying sessions and off-kilter fashion shows, is described by many participants as an experiment in community, artwork, absurdity, decommodification radical self-expression, and radical self-reliance.
Humungus Fungus Festival
The Humungus Fungus Festival is a celebration of one of the largest fungi in the world - Armillaria gallica. The event takes place in Crystal Falls, Michigan, U.S., close to the forest where a gigantic colony of the fungi was discovered in the early 1990s. The fungi colony was reported to cover an area of 15 hectares, weigh at least 9,500 kilograms and appeared to be be 1,500 years old. After the benevolent giant mushroom was discovered it did not take long for the city fathers to decide to share this wonder with the world - hence "The Humungus Fungus Festival" was born.
The main event of the festival is the making and eating of the humongous pizza measuring 10 feet by 10 feet and topped with fungus and mushroom. There is also an assortment of other activities such as strong man competition, Motocross racing, as well as horseshoe and buckboard tournaments. There’s also a rummage sale, a mushroom cook-off and a parade.
La Pourcailhade - Festival of the Pig
La Pourcailhade is a pig festival held each year in August in the town of Trie-sur-Baïse, in south-western France. The festival involves displays, pig races, eating contests and other competitions. The most popular competition is "Le Championnat de France du Cri de Cochon" ("French Pig-Squealing Championships"), in which contestants have to imitate the noises pigs make at various stages in their life.
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