Throwing babies off balconies, severing fingers and getting covered in cinnamon and pepper; these strange traditions around the world will widen your peepers with astonishment.
Fingerly Snippets, a Series of Unfortunate Events
The Dani Tribe found in the fertile highlands of Papua New Guinea have a barbaric tradition of snipping the ends of their fingers off. When a member of the tribe dies it is believed in order to appease the spirit of the deceased, a female relative must have their finger cut off mid-knuckle.
The ritual begins while at the funeral when string is tightly wrapped around the finger and left for 30 minutes. Once blood circulation has stopped, the finger is sliced off, dried and burnt as a sacrificial offering. The ashes are then buried on sacred ground. In the early 20th century, Christian missionaries tried to stop this horrific tradition but even today it’s possible to see tribe elders with severed fingers on both hands.
Danish Spice Weasels
In Denmark it is tradition to spray people in cinnamon on their 25th birthday if they haven’t yet been married. That’s right cinnamon and not just a puff either. We’re talking large bags of cinnamon to cover the poor single-sods from head to toe.
Then five years later, on their 30th birthday, if they still haven’t been married the spice is upgraded to pepper and once again they are doused from head to toe.
There is a little bit of tradition to this spice marinading madness that kind of explains things a little bit. The tradition goes back to the spice salesmen of the 16th century who were too busy travelling the land selling spices to find a suitable mate and settle down, so they became known as Pebersvends, translating literally as Pepper Dudes.
So next time a friend turns 25 or 30 why not spray them with exotic spices? Just tell them you’re trying to expand their cultural horizons – it’s a Danish tradition!
At a sacred temple in Maharashtra India, babies are dropped 50 feet off a tower-ledge where they bounce off a sheet held taut by a group of onlooking men. Before the ceremony takes place the parents must pray and take a vow to Baba Sheikh Umar Saheb Dargah before their child can be tossed off the edge of the temple. Most mothers would consider this one of their worst nightmares but for a select group of Hindus and Muslims it is a high honour and said to bring good luck and abundant health to the falling child. The tradition has been practiced for over 500 years and it’s been claimed that in that time no baby has ever been injured – physically. I’m sure there has been some psychological trauma instilled in there somewhere. ‘I’m not really sure why I’m scared of heights. Oh it might be that time Mum threw me off a 50 foot balcony.’
Butts, Whips and Vodka
In the Czech Republic and Slovakia a very odd tradition takes place on Easter Monday. The day, known as ‘flogging Monday’ or Dyngus, begins when young men visit their female friends and whip their butts with sapling branches. The whip, known as a Pomlázka, is a selection of fresh pussywillow branches with coloured ribbons attached at one end. The Pomlazka symbolises fertility. Considered as part of a traditional courting ritual the young men demand treats and vodka before they whip the girls. In some regions it is even customary to douse the girls in cold water too. Oh Eastern Europe, maybe go easy on the vodka?
Silly Faces a Gurnin’
Gurning is a Great British tradition that dates back hundreds of years. Basically, to Gurn one simply pulls the most ridiculous face possible – bugs eyes, jaw forward, duck lips that sort of thing. Traditionally Gurners frame their face with a horse collar, known as ‘Gurnin’ through a braffin’.
The World Gurning Championships takes place at Crab Fair in Egremont, Cumbria where the contestants are judged on how distorted they can make their mug. Four time championship winner, Peter Jackman took the tradition so far that in 2000 he had all his teeth removed just so he could pull sillier and more grotesque faces. His signature look is known as the ‘Bela Lugosi’, named after the Hungarian-American actor who played Dracula in the classic 1931 film.