In the annual Fiesta de San Pedro Nolasco, instead of a pinata they have something called a “cucana.” It’s a very similar concept, except that with the cucana, the chances of candy are only 50-50. The other 50 is a dead rat. Which is then retrieved from the ground and used as a projectile because fuck-you-I-didn’t- get-candy.
“Hey, let me get in on that.”
The festival is named for Pedro Nolasco, a Catholic saint whose primary claim to fame was the founding of a religious order that sought the redemption of Christian slaves of the Moors in the 1200s. Then, obviously, a plague-dodgeball tournament was decided to be the most appropriate way to celebrate his canonization.
Uh, thanks, guys, but “The Patron Saint of Ratball” really wasn’t what I was going for …
#6. Las Bolas de Fuego: Fireball Festival
In 1922, an erupting volcano forced the people of Nejapa, El Salvador, to evacuate. As they were leaving, locals saw great balls of fire spewing out of the volcano and believed that their patron saint, San Jeronimo, was actually fighting the devil for them. So to honor this event, where their heroic saint saved the villagers from burning alive, everybody gets together once a year and burns each other alive.
Getty “That volcano is a wussy little bitch!”
The city divides itself into two teams, then everybody wads up some old rags, dips them in kerosene for a month, sets them ablaze and hurls them at their neighbors, because apparently Jeronimo was the Patron Saint of Arson. Sure, the revelers mostly come equipped with water-soaked gloves, clothes and masks for safety, but you can only prepare for Armageddon if you know it’s coming in the first place. If you just happen to stumble into the wrong village on the wrong day, however, then surprise!
Happy Burn Ward Day!
#5. Bous a la Mar: Diving Bulls
In Spain, there are many ways to be maimed or killed by bulls. But it is a free land, so it’s up to you to pick your favorite.
What’s that? Ha ha, no: “None of the above” is not an option.
Getty “Neither is ‘sane.’”
For the discriminating gore victim, might we suggest Bous a la Mar — the Bulls to the Sea? There is no “running of the bulls” here; it’s nothing so uncouth as that. The objective of Bous a la Mar is simply to get a bull to dive after you into the ocean. Do not scoff. It is not such an easy task. You must drive the bull into a blind rage first, then, when he charges, you flee, ultimately leaping into the sea — not to avoid him, you see, but in the hopes that he will follow. That’s how you “win.” To recap: You provoke a suicidal rage in this gargantuan missile of meat and pointy bits, then you need to outrun him, then you need to outdive him, then you need to outswim him.
It’s like a triathlon of animal-based suicide.
Fernando Bustamante / AP “Pissed off Bull to Bull HQ: Transformation locked, initiating Missile Mode. Repeat: Bull Missile is go.”
#4. Lantern Festival: Molten-Iron-Throwing
Once upon a time, the peasants of a poor Chinese farming village found that they couldn’t afford fireworks for the annual Lantern Festival. But the industrious citizens didn’t let that stop them. Instead, with careful research, they discovered that hurling molten iron (at around 2,300 degrees Fahrenheit, to be precise) against a cold wall in autumn looks kind of neat. So now, every year — for the last 300 years — they just go ahead and do that a bunch.
China Travel Guide All the best holidays require welding masks.
The festivities begin with the townspeople collecting all the old pots and discarded iron to melt down, then they watch an hourlong performance called Da Shuhua, or “beating the tree to produce flowers” (the burning kind of flowers, in case Chinese metaphor is too subtle for you), and then everybody just holds hands while the world explodes.
So what’s the technique for pulling off this dangerous pyrotechnics show? It’s very technical, so see if you can stay with us:
Step 1. Get a guy in a wool coat and hat to toss liquid metal with a ladle.
Step 1 is critical.
Step 2. What?
Step 3. We were supposed to think of other steps?
Step 4. Holy shit WATCH OUT FIRE!
#3. Festival of Colors: The Hit-Me-in-the-Face-with-Poisons Festival
Holi, the festival of colors, takes place in early March of each year in India and Nepal. Holi is a beautiful time when both humans and nature shake off the gloom of winter to rejoice in the wonders of spring. Obviously, this is best accomplished by hurling poisons at one another. It’s not intentional, for the most part: It’s just that the tinted powders and dyed water that festivalgoers fling and smear across literally everybody they see — which are supposed to be from natural herbs — are sometimes comprised of oxidized metals mixed with industrial dyes, acids and engine oil. Aluminum bromide, lead oxide, copper sulphate and a whole host of other toxins that can make you make you sick and cause skin conditions and even blindness are playfully, joyously sprayed all over just … everything.
Getty “Open wide, so it coats your lungs!”
Although maybe that’s the true lesson here: You should appreciate the many varied and wondrous colors of nature while you can, because any day now, you could go blind.
Oops. Sorry, that was a typo. We meant “will.” You will go blind.
Getty “AHHH GOD THIS LEAD OXIDE IS ABSOLUTELY STUNNING! ABSOLUTELY STUNNING MY EYEBALLS!”
#2. The Festival of St. Vincent: Beware of Falling Goat, Drunk Assholes
On the fourth Sunday of every January, the pious folk of Manganeses de la Polvorosa celebrate their patron, St. Vincent, by rounding up the unluckiest goat in the European Union. Said ungulate is then carried in a procession to the local church, where it is carted up to the top of the bell tower.
Marbella Guide Of course.
Historians don’t fully know how this began, but it may be that the custom is a reenactment: An old legend says that there once was an 18th century priest who had a goat that he would milk for the needy. Then, one day, the goat followed him into the church and made its way up to the belfry. When the bells started ringing, the goat, scared shitless by the racket, took a flying leap off the tower. Luckily, he was rescued by villagers below, who were holding blankets out to catch him.
Of course, that warrants the question: How did the villagers know that the goat was even up there, much less to already be in position with blankets to save him?
The legend of the jumping goat may be quaint and charming, but there’s actually a far more reasonable and likely explanation for the festival, put forth by historians earlier this year: There’s a lot of drinking going on in Manganeses de la Polvorosa.
Travel Huanqiu And yet somehow, clearly, not enough.
#1. Entroido: Antball-Hurling Madness
Entroido is the name of a popular festival in Laza, Spain, that celebrates the end of winter and the beginning of spring. Colorful and ornate “Peliqueiros” costumes are donned, and a general revelry is engaged in by all.
Getty “Hey, it’s like the Burger King Guy dressed up as a transsexual pope. I’m not planning on having nightmares about that later at all!” — Fucking Nobody
The festival lasts approximately five days, beginning with the weekend, during which folks run through the streets with flaming torches, while others throw dirt on them from second-story windows.
But why? You, the logical, sane reader might ask.
And that’s a good question, actually, but now you’re on fire and about to be buried in the street, so you don’t get to hear the answer. Later, all of the participants gather to dance, whip one another and eat grilled goat and pig head.
But I don’t understand, what’s the cultural significance of that?
Because those are the words their fingers landed on while they were flipping through the dictionary. What, you think there’s some rational motive here that you’re missing? OK, try this on for size: To signal the end of Entroido, they hold the “sardine’s funeral,” in which a huge artificial sardine is constructed and then set on fire. Some dress in black to mourn the sardine’s passing, while others choose white to imitate sardine ghosts.
Maybe the sardine is sacred to –
NOPE. We’re not done. On Monday, a battle is waged in which the weapons of choice are mudballs filled with live ants. Of course, what antball is complete without a good seasoning of vinegar first, to make sure the ants are good and pissed off pre-hurl.
Stop. Please. You’re just making noises with your mouth now, these aren’t even words I –
Getty Stop this madness.
When this blind orgy of torch-wielding, dirt-tossing, sardine-ghost-busting, antball-hurling madness is in full swing, there enters the “morena”: “A morena, or brown cow masquerader in a carved wooden mask, appears amidst the ant-throwing to butt people, lift women’s skirts and add to the chaos.”
Carnaval Exhibit.org Any festival where a key figure exists solely to “add to the chaos” is OK by us.
I give up. I give up trying to understand this. I’m confused and angry for reasons I do not fully understand. I think I might throw ants on people. Why do I want to do that now?
Heeeyyy, that’s the spirit! Happy Entroido! Now twirl! Twirl or the Cow God of Chaos will not honor you with his fire! Morena! MORENA!
Carnaval Exhibit.org You’ve won us over with your antballs and horse anarchy, Spain.