15 of the Most Dangerous Festivals Around the World
Festivals are for fun and having a joyous time, but in parts of the world, people prefer celebrating festivals that are fraught with danger. Read on for more!
La Tomatina, Spain
Bunol, a small town near Valencia, plays host to thousands each year on the last Wednesday of August.
About 10,000 kg of tomatoes are used in the world’s largest food fight which originated in 1940 as a result of a food fight between children. The event has over the years become a major tourist attraction in Spain.
Though the official rule states the tomatoes must be crushed before being hurled at others, few seem to follow it. One may get hurt in the process in absence of proper clothing and shoes.
Vegetarian Festival, Thailand
Held in Phuket every October, this extreme festival has its roots in Chinese traditions and was brought to Thailand by a group of Chinese Opera artists.
Participants undertake fire walking, body piercing and other acts of self-mortification — acting as the mediums of the gods.
Men and women puncture their cheeks with various items including knives, skewers and other household items. During the course of the festival, people don’t eat meat and practice abstinence. In 2011, as many as 74 people were injured while trying to perform self-mortification.
Celebrated in India, Sri Lanka and Singapore during October and November, Theemithi is a Hindu fire walking ritual in which the faithful walks across white-hot coals for blessings of goddess Draupadi, the female protagonist of the epic poem “Mahabharata.”
The common belief is that one’s feet would get burnt only if he is impure. Devotees stick to complete vegetarianism and fasting rituals before the event and miraculously walk on the fire unscathed.
In Peru’s Chumbivilcas province, grudges are not settled over a few of drinks, but some serious fighting around the time of Christmas.
Called Takanakuy, meaning “when the blood is boiling,” men and women, and even children and elderly persons, enter the ring to settle personal scores built up over the year.
The fights are supervised by a referee and there is local police on standby, if the situation goes out of control. The brawls are mostly civil and resemble martial arts rather than uninhibited scuffles; injuries are rarely reported. The festival is not only about to fight, but also has music, dance and a lot of alcohol.
Hadaka Matsuri, Japan
This festival dates back to 767 A.D. and various temples across Japan conduct it on different days in January and February.
As part of this ritual, thousands of men, dressed only in loin clothes, run through a pool of freezing water before struggling fiercely for a stick thrown from the window of a temple by the priest.
The lucky retriever in this free-for-all struggle is blessed with a year of happiness. Stampede is a constant threat during such events and several injuries have been reported over the years. In 2007, a man was crushed to death in the frenzy. Also, freezing water often leads to hypothermia.
Held every year in January or February, Thaipusam is a Hindu festival celebrated in southern India and across Southeast Asia.
In Malaysia, the festival attains grand proportions with thousands gathering at the Sri Subramaniar Swamy Temple inside the Batu Caves to honor Lord Murugan.
Extreme body piercing is an integral part of the Thaipusam festival. Devotees pierce themselves with silver skewers attached to a cart and pull it to take the physical burden.
While most of the time supervision and medical facilities are at hand to ensure safety, it’s a dangerous ritual nonetheless.
Battle of the Oranges, Italy
Held in Ivrea, in February, the battle is a re-enactment of a historical incident in a milder form. Somewhere between the 12th and 13th century, a commoner had killed the lord of the town who attempted rape on her.
The situation led to a battle between the lord’s henchmen and the town’s people.
Today the practice continues to be followed, but instead of guns and swords, oranges are the artillery used. The carnival has been subjected to criticism due to injuries sustained by people and also because of the wastage of oranges.
Yanshui Beehive Rockets Festival, Taiwan
Held every year in February or March at Yanshui island, located 149 miles (240 kilometers) from Taipei, this festival is characterized by sky lanterns and beehive firecrackers.
People burst crackers in thousands throughout the night in the belief that the one who is bombed with them is saved from bad fortune.
While the festival makes for a great spectacle, it is dangerous at the same time. With countless firecrackers shooting like tracer bullets over one’s head, even protection gears like helmets, masks and fireproof jackets sometimes fall short of preventing burns and bruises.
Onbashira Festival, Japan
Over 1,000-year-old and held once every six years, the Onbashira Festival in held in Japan’s Suwa region in April and May. The purpose of the festival is to symbolically renew the Suwa Taisha or Suwa Grand Shrine.
The festival requires people to roll down huge heavy logs down a mountain slope to the shrine. During the journey, men ride on the logs while they slide down the steep mountainside.
Many deaths have been reported over the years during transporting and erecting the heavy logs, the latest being two deaths in 2010.
Cooper’s Hill Cheese Rolling and Wake, England
“Early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese” does not hold true in case of Cooper’s Hill Cheese Rolling held on the last Monday of May in Gloucestershire, England.
The winner gets the cheese in a race where participants race down a steep hill to chase a piece of cheese which gets a head start.
The person who crosses the finish line first gets the dairy prize. The event has been in place since the 1800s, but was officially canceled in 2010.
However, an unofficial race continues to be held every year. The highest toll of injury was reported in 1997 when 33 participants got injured while tumbling down the hill.
Crucifixion re-enactment, Philippines
Christian devotees in Philippines, particularly in the northern Pampanga province, have themselves nailed to wooden crosses on Good Friday in order to mimic the suffering of Jesus Christ at Crucifixion.
Church leaders have often been vocal against the practice of mixing Catholic devotion with local belief, but that has not deterred devotees from practicing it.
Medical workers are present near the site to take the devotees for supervision once they are lowered from the crosses.
El Colacho, Spain
Spain is home to some of the most curious festivals on Earth. One of them is El Colacho or Baby Jumping Festival, held every year in Castrillo de Murcia near Burgos since the 17th century.
Newborn babies are baptized by laying them on the ground and having adult males, dressed in traditional devil costumes, jump over them.
The ritual is believed to absolve the babies of their “original sin.” The festival takes place on the first Sunday after the Catholic festival of Corpus Christi.
Though no casualties have ever been reported, Pope Benedict XVI had asked the Spanish clergy to distance itself from the practice.
Kirkpinar Wrestling Festival, Turkey
One of the oldest annual sporting events in the world, this 700-year-old festival was recognized by the UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage Event in 2010.
Men bathed in olive oil and wearing leather pants wrestle it out to win the title of Chief Pehilvan (chief wrestler) and the Kirkpinar Golden Belt.
The wrestling features pulling of ears, pinning down the opponent to the ground and sometimes even grabbing the private parts in order to bring down the opponent.
Bull Riding at Calgary Stampede, Canada
Bull riding is considered as one of the most dangerous sports in the world. Held every July, a participant must stay atop for eight seconds on a bucking mad bull.
The rider tightly fastens one hand to the bull with a long braided rope. There have been a number of casualties over the years and the event has faced the backlash of animal welfare activists as well.
Running of the Bulls, Spain
Held every year from July 6 to July 8 in Pamplona, Spain, Running of the Bulls is another most dangerous festival.
Believed to have originated in the 13th century, it coincides with the religious San Fermin festival. The event participants have to abide by strict rules to avoid accidents.
Still, accidents do happen. Every day, fighting bulls run down a narrow, winding 825-meter-long fenced alley with participants racing ahead and along with the animals to the bull ring at the end of the route.
There have been 15 deaths and hundreds of injuries during the event since 1924.