15 Amazing Cultural Traditions from Around the World You’ve Probably Never Heard Of

[Updated: 26 September 2018]

Ever heard of the popular Swedish drinking game pen-in-bottle? Do you know what Jarping is? Or the reason why a bunch of people choose to hurl themselves down a steep hill in pursuit of a large wheel of cheese each year? In no particular order, Travelstart brings you 15 weird and wonderful traditions from around the world.

15. Make your way to the city of Oulu in Northern Finland for the annual Air Guitar World Championships

Photo credit: @_ykpii via Instagram

Rate your air guitar skills? There’s only one place to test them internationally and that’s at the annual Air Guitar World Championships each August in Finland. Each participant has to play air guitar on stage in two rounds, each lasting 1 minute. Their motto is, “Make air, not war”.

Find cheap flights to Finland and see the Northern Lights plus attend the Oulu Music Video Festival which hosts the Air Guitar World Championships!

Need a Schengen visa? Find out how to apply for a Schengen Visa.

14. Take along your umbrella if you’re in Poland on Śmigus Dyngus

Photo credit: @savchuk.sergey via Instagram

Aka wet Monday, Śmigus-dyngus is an opportunity to stage the ultimate water fight. Held each year on Easter Monday in Poland and Ukraine, participants blast each other with water to celebrate Easter.

Find cheap flights to Poland!

Also read:

13. Bali’s Day of Silence

bali new years

Photo credit: @tinaowyeah via Instagram

New Year is celebrated in Bali with a 24 hour period of silence and meditation known as “Nyepi”. No fires may be lit, minimal talking is allowed and no travel, work or leisure activities are permitted. The only people you’ll find outside the home are the Pecalang, the traditional security men checking to see the prohibitions are being followed. On this day the usually bustling island comes to a standstill with no flights in or out of Denpasar airport. The day following Nyepi is known as New Year’s day and is filled with socialising and celebrations.

Find cheap flights to Bali!

Also read:

12. Professional finger-pulling competitions in the Alps

Image courtesy of @ad_nl via Instagram

Finger-pulling is no laughing matter in the Alps. Finger wrestling was once used to settle disputes but is now a competition that is taken quite seriously by the contenders. The winner is the person who manages to pull the other contestant across the table, using only his or her finger! Contenders pick their digit carefully and subject it to rigorous training regimes involving crushing tennis balls and doing one finger pull-ups!

You Might Also Like: 

11. Lanna’s Lantern festival, Yi Peng

Image courtesy of @venxsu via Instagram

Watch thousands upon thousands of rice-paper lanterns take to the night sky on Yi Peng. One of the best places to watch this beautiful festival is in Chiang Mai. The festival takes place on the full moon of the 12th Thai month (usually November).

Find cheap flights to Chiang Mai!

Also Check Out:

10. Join in the Cheese-chasing near Gloucester, England!

Photo credit: @spoonme via Instagram

Every Spring Bank Holiday near Gloucester sees the annual Cooper’s Hill Cheese-Rolling and Wake take place. Participants line up in groups of about twenty to chase after a substantial wheel of cheese as it descends perilously down a steep incline. This “world-famous event” often results in injuries to onlookers, a great lump of cheese is quite a hazard when rolled down a hill at speed!

Find cheap flights to London!

Also read:

9. Play Ruzzola in Tuscany and Umbria

Photo credit: @carolronca via Instagram

This popular game consists of throwing a wooden cylinder, roughly resembling a wheel of pecorino cheese, as far as one possibly can!

Find cheap flights to Italy!

Also see:

8. Jarping is a serious sport!

The egg jarping final #Northumberland #pubs #easter #jarping

A post shared by The Feathers Inn (@thefeathersinn) on

Jarping is a game where you try crack someone else’s boiled egg without cracking your own. This is very popular in North-East England and there’s even a World Jarping Championships in Peterlee, Durham, each Easter.

Photo credit: @ashaling via Instagram

7. Flag-throwing in Tuscany

Photo credit: @debrakolkka via Instagram

In Medieval times in Italy, a guild’s banner or flag was never allowed to touch the ground as it was considered a symbol of purity. The tradition of acrobatic and classical flag-throwing lives on with both boys and girls participating in this skillful sport.

And try out the food in Italy when you’re not tossing flags. See our Beginner’s Guide to the Best Food Spots in Italy!

6. Songkran

Photo credit: @_ykpii via Instagram

Songkran is the water festival which marks the beginning of the Thai New Year. Everyone takes to the streets on the 13 April with whatever water weapons they can muster. This has to be one of the most fun ways to welcome a new year!

Find cheap flights to Bangkok!

Also check out:

5. Finland’s wife-carrying championships

Photo credit: @wifecarrying via Instagram

It may be a little outdated however the Wife-Carrying World Championships are held annually in Sonkajärvi, Finland with great fanfare and the prize is dependant on the wife’s weight in beer. Contestants have to carry their wives over a series of obstacles in the shortest amount of time. Different lift techniques are used ranging from piggy-back to fireman’s lift to the Estonian carry (seen in the above photograph).

4. Pen-in-bottle, Sweden

This ridiculous but fun drinking game involves securing a pen on a length of string tied around one’s waist and then competing to be the first person to lower one’s pen into an empty bottle using one’s waist.

Find cheap flights to Sweden!

3. Galette de Roi, France

Photo credit: @talhausen via Instagram

In France Epiphany is celebrated in January with a “King cake”. This cake is made with a pastry crust and a dense centre of sweet frangipani. The person who gets the piece of cake with a porcelain figurine inside gets to be the king for the day and wears the paper crown which accompanies the cake!

Find cheap flights to France!

Keen on a trip to France? Find out how to get a Schengen Visa in 48 Hours!

2. Sitting down for a few minutes before leaving on a trip, Ukraine

In the Ukraine and Russia, it is traditional to sit down for a few minutes as a family before leaving on a trip. This is meant to grant you good luck on your journey (it’s also a good opportunity to remember anything you may have forgotten).

Find cheap flights to Ukraine!

1. Jump over seven waves at New Year’s in Rio

Photo credit: @billycole3 via Instagram

Celebrate New Year’s Eve on Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro with fireworks and a midnight swim in the sea for good luck. 2 million people descend on this beach for New Year’s all dressed in white and ready to party the night away. Part of the fun is the tradition of jumping over 7 waves while making 7 wishes for the new year.

Find cheap flights to Rio de Janeiro!

Don’t have a passport, or need a new one? Check out our Guide to Your South African Passport Application and Renewal and start planning your trip!

Do you know of any cool or weird cultural traditions around the world? Have you attended any of these? We want to hear from you in the comments section below!

And sign up for our newsletter to get more great travel articles like this one sent straight to your inbox and exclusive access to the latest flight deals.

Our Readers Comments

  1. WOW!!!!!!

  2. Correction #11: Chiang Mai.

    • Hi Brenda,

      Thanks for spotting this and letting us know.

      We will correct this.

  3. nice to know what’s happening in the world.

  4. An incredible post, I have to travel a lot more!
    I am from Spain and we have many wonderful traditions to visit but it is very curious to know the rest of the world.
    Thank you very much

  5. AMAZINGLY INTERESTING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Have something to say...