STRANGE EUROPEAN CUSTOMS

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La_Tomatina_Bunol_Spain

STRANGE EUROPEAN CUSTOMS

Why are customs in Europe strange or weird?   Do they continue?  How are they unique?

Strange Customs in Europe

Out of approximately 50 countries, Spain is the leader among European nations, when it comes to weird traditions. Below are some of the strangest Spanish customs.

La Tomatina   – A massive food fight, with crushed tomatoes as the weapons of choice. The town of Buñol runs red with tomato juice, from its citizens and shops to the streets.

Caga Tia – This Christmas custom involves a log, which is hollow and has a cute face painted on one end. You must buy the log on December 8th and it must be “fed” daily. Come Christmas Eve, the log should be placed near the fireplace and “beaten” with a stick. The punishment forces the log to eject nuts, candies and fruits. Its final gift is a garlic bulb or onions or salt herring. There’s even an encouraging song to sing along while “beating” the log.

El Colacho – This is the sport of long jumping with a twist. The town of Castrillo de Murcia exorcises their 1 year old inhabitants, by laying them out on a mattress and the devil and his assistant jump over them. This custom is meant to represent the devil running away from the town and taking any evil present in the infants with him.

 

Strange Customs in Asia and Australia

While there are infinite marriage customs and traditions in India, one ritual that is amusing and touching is the Kashi Yatra. This takes place at the groom’s house, before he arrives at the marriage hall for the ceremony. The groom pretends he wants to be a holy man and live a life of religion, so he decides to go to a holy place. His household plays along and helps him collect a walking stick and some bare essentials for the trip. Just as he is about to leave, the bride’s father comes and extols the virtues of his daughter and why the groom should marry her. After some good-natured ribbing and laughs on both sides, the groom decides to get married instead and proceeds to the marriage venue.

When meeting someone new or old, a handshake is the norm.  But in Middle-Eastern culture, there are different rules when it comes to greeting someone physically.  For example, a man will greet a new or old acquaintance with a kiss on the right cheek, then the left, patting the back or shoulders at the same time. If they know each other but are meeting after a long time, then the greeting is as follows: shake hands, kiss on the right cheek, then the left and finally on the right again.

In Bedouin circles, a rule while accepting tea or coffee is to give a slight shake or jiggle of the empty cup, while returning it, to indicate that you are done and do not want any more coffee. If you fail to shake the cup, be prepared to keep getting it refilled!

In the land Down Under, the term “B.Y.O” is used in party and get-together invitations. It denotes “Bring your own”, which means you are expected to bring your own beverages, alcoholic or not to the event! Some restaurants and eateries allow “BYO”‘s, where you can opt for your own alcoholic drinks instead of purchasing them from the restaurant.

Strange African Customs

The Sebou custom marks the occasion of a newborn and is followed by all religious sects of Egypt. The ceremony takes place seven days, after the birth of the child. A grand feast is prepared, family members from far and wide; friends and neighbors are invited to meet the infant for the first time. Gold jewelry in the form of bracelets, amulets and pendants are given as gifts. The baby is bathed and dressed in new clothes. It is placed in a colander or sieve, which is decorated and the women surround the colander and sing. The colander is gently rocked or shaken while the chanting takes place. The strange part is that, the mother must step over the colander, without touching it, seven times. Meanwhile the other women bang vessels, yell and shout and sing at the top of their voices, making a deafening din. This ceremony is a sort of cleansing ritual for the newborn, to get rid of evil and bad spirits. All the noise and clamor is to show the newborn, what a nosy and loud world exists out there.

The different tribes of Africa have diverse rituals and customs in all spheres of life. Here are some strange rites for different situations:

At a funeral, children and unmarried adults are barred from entry. Family members stand on one side of the grave and other people on the other side. The family cannot speak at the funeral.

The Baganda tribe of Uganda create or prepare graves for their members, when they are still children!

Lobola is a marriage custom, where the groom and his family have to present gifts or money to his fiancée and her family. Some tribes regard Lobola as a compensation to the bride’s family for taking her away. It is also regarded as a thank you tradition, for the groom to express his gratitude to the bride’s family, for blessing their union.

The Masai tribe has a rite of passage custom for boys above 12 years of age. For a boy to become a warrior of the tribe, he must be circumcised. This operation takes place without anesthetic and to show his bravery and strength, the young boy must not flinch or show any pain or emotion. He has to wear black clothes and live apart from his village for 4-8 months. This ceremony is called Emuratare.   The Masai tribe, greet each other by spitting. When greeting elders, a tribesman must spit in his hand before offering a handshake, thus showing respect. The men spit on newborns, telling them that they are bad. It is believed that if a baby is praised, it will be cursed with a bad life.

OTHER CUSTOMS/TRADITIONS

 

Human Sacrifices – in many ancient cultures the act of killing a human being as an offering to a higher power was practices.  People were killed in a manner to appease gods or spirits, and sometimes included burning, beheading or even being buried alive.  Many religions now condemn this weird tradition, but occasionally is practiced in remote areas of the world.

Ash Eating – In Venezuela and Brazil, the Yanomano tribe has retained many of their ancient customs and weird traditions.  Their religion forbids keeping any part of the body of a deceased person.  When a person dies, his body is cremated and their crushed bones are added with the ashes.  The ashes are then given to the family and must be eaten.  The tribe believes that a person dies because someone has sent evil on him.

Living with the Dead – The Torajans, an ethnic group in Indonesia celebrates death.  Because it may take months to save enough money for the celebration, the body is wrapped in clothes and kept under the family’s home.  It is believed that the person’s soul remains with the family until the burial.  Once the funeral held, the body is placed in a coffin and put into a cave.

Seppuku – Is a form of self-sacrifice and was a common practice of the samurai warriors.  The warriors used it to avoid being taken to enemies.  Sometimes the daimyo ordered a warrior to commit seppuku.  The main reason for this ritual was to restore or protect one’s honor as a warrior.  Only those of the samurai caste were allowed to participate.  The warrior was bathed and dressed in white robes.  After eating his favorite meal, his instrument was placed in front of him.  He would write a death poem.  Then he would open his clothing and plunge his knife into his abdomen.   His selected attendant would then cut the warrior’s neck, just leaving a small band of flesh attaching the head to the body.

Dueling – From the 15th to the 20th centuries, dueling took place in Western societies.  Using swords or some other agreed upon weapon, two people would agree to fight in order to restore one’s honor.  Those of wealth used dueling pistols.  The goal of dueling wasn’t to kill the opponent, but to demand satisfaction from the offender.

Foot Binding –   During the 10th through the early 20th century, foot binding was a ritual in China.  By age six, girls were put through this ritual.  Each foot would be soaked in a mixture of animal and blood.  Toenails were cut back and the feet were massaged.  Each of the toes were then broken and wrapped in long tight bandages.  Their feet would not be able to develop normally, causing them to break and become deformed.  Typically, feet would be only four to six inches long.

Eunuchs – A eunuch is a castrated male.  In ancient China, castration was a traditional punishment or a means of gaining employment.   During the Ming Dynasty there were 70,000 eunuchs, some by self-castration.  Some of these individuals had powers that were greater than those of the prime minister.  Self-castration became illegal and by 1912 less than 500 eunuchs existed and their jobs ended.   Eunuchs castrated before puberty were valued for their exceptional high pitched voices.

Concubinage – is a time when a girl or woman is an ongoing, quasi-matrimonial relationship      with a man of a higher social class.  The man typically would have a wife and one or more concubines.  Concubinage usually was voluntary by the girl or her family, but sometimes it involves sexual slavery.  Concubines had limited rights and their children were acknowledged as the man’s children.

Geisha – In Japan, a weird tradition that began in the early 1900’s still exists today, but with some modifications.  By the 1930’s there were 80,000 geisha – a group of girls committed to the art of Japanese singing, music and dancing.  Many of the girls were from poor families and brought into the geisha house.  Today, becoming a geisha is a choice.

Kathy Kiefer

 

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