Location: Abbots Bromley, Staffordshire, England

 

Dates: Wakes Monday (first Monday after the first Sunday after 4 September)

 

The date of the Horn Dance is not the only archaic aspect of this ancient rite. Held in a small village in the English Midlands, the ritual begins at 8am on the dot. The participants take the six sets of deer’s antlers, which carbon dating has revealed to be about 1000 years old, from the church. The horns are rather big, weighing between 7kg and 11kg. Six ‘deer men’ spend the next 12 hours carrying them around a 16km circuit of the surrounding countryside, accompanied by a hobby horse, a Robin Hood–style archer and Maid Marian. They regularly stop to dance, mimicking a bowman killing a deer, to music provided by a melodeon and triangle player.

 

One of England’s oldest surviving ritual dances, the event dates back to 1226. It has apparently only been cancelled once – in the 1920s, because the musician was ill and one of the dancers had died. It possibly began as a commemoration of the village’s acquisition of hunting rights in Needwood Forest, and the dance was an animistic ritual to ensure lucky hunting. Hobby horses are also a fertility symbol.

  

Local Attractions: Stay the night at the Goat’s Head pub in a room named after highwayman Dick Turpin, who holed up here. 

  

More Info: www.thehorndanceofabbotsbromley.co.uk

 


 

 

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Location: Alleenbrücke, Tübingen, Germany

Dates: Early October

It’s not exactly Running of the Bulls. Indeed, the ducks involved in this bridge-to-bridge race aren’t even alive: they’re the yellow, rubber species whose usual habitat is the bathtub. Nonetheless, Tübingen’s annual contest is spectacular, if inexplicable. In a random, Germanic version of the ‘Poohsticks’ game enjoyed by Piglet et al in Winnie-the-Pooh, a truck dumps some 7000 duckies into the Neckar River from Alleenbrücke.

The sunflower-coloured shower is accompanied by cheers from crowds lining the river banks. Many of the spectators are clutching a ticket with a number corresponding to one of the speeding water demons. The first synthetic contender past the finishing line at Neckarbrücke wins its patron a €1000 holiday voucher, with plenty of other prizes for runners-up.

Although the dazzling idea of the duck race is thought to come from Canada, it’s big business in Germany, where there are corporate duck-racing specialists. The season begins in March, with more than 150 competitions taking place in towns such as Erfurt, Bielefeld and Göttingen, as well as smaller villages.

Essentials: Get there before the race starts to buy a ticket.

Local Attractions: Come down from the duck-related adrenaline with a stroll around late-medieval Tübingen.

A hilltop fortress, cobbled alleys and halftimbered houses are the background for a lively University scene.

More Info: www.tuebinger-entenrennen.de in German

Source: worldnomads.com

Every year on the last Wednesday in August a little town called Buñol in the Valencia region of Spain plays host to the world’s largest food fight. During La Tomatina, tens of thousands of people throw around 150,000 tomatoes (equal to 90,000 pounds or 140 tons) at one another for an hour in the city’s streets.

 

La Tomatina is a week-long festival featuring music, parades, dancing, fireworks, and a paella-cooking contest the night before the big fight. A number of stories have been offered up explaining the origins of La Tomatina in the mid-1940s. Not officially recognized until 1952, it was also banned during the Spanish State period under Francisco Franco for its lack of religious significance. The festival is held in the honor of the town’s patron saints, San Luis Bertràn and the Mare de Déu dels Desemparats.

 

There is limited accommodation for those who travel to Buñol for La Tomatina. Many opt to stay in Valencia and take the 38km bus or train trip in for the festival. In preparation for the dirty mess that will ensue, shopkeepers use huge plastic covers on their storefronts in order to protect them. Firefighters use water cannons to wash down the streets after the festival. Oddly enough, little evidence of the tomato battle remains afterward as the acidity in the tomatoes has a way of cleaning the street.

 

Rules of the “Fight”

 

 A cannon is fired to signal the beginning and end of the tomato-throwing. According to the official La Tomatina website, there are just five rules:

1. You must not bring bottles or other objects that could cause an accident or injury.

2. You must not tear or throw t-shirts.

3. To avoid hurting people, you must squish tomatoes before they are thrown.

4. You must be careful around any trucks or vans.

5. After hearing the second shot, you must stop throwing tomatoes.

The “simple rules of civic responsibility and cohabitation,” as the website states, are meant to ensure the safety of La Tomatina participants.

La Tomatina Festival Tips

 

Thinking of joining in the food-flinging fun at La Tomatina? Here are a few bits of advice…

  • Choose a pair of shoes that you’re okay with ruining. You probably want to leave your  new, $150 cross-trainers at home. Go for lace-ups over slip-ons, if you want to keep them, that is.
  • Wear old clothes you don’t intend to use again.
  • Swim goggles are a good idea. The acid in the tomatoes can sting your eyes.
  • Use a waterproof camera if you want to take pictures.
  • Don’t miss the soap stick, a pole smeared with soap that has a ham hanging at the top. Whoever gets to the ham first, keeps it.
  • Enjoy yourself! Doing something as absurd as throwing tons of tomatoes at one another  for an hour isn’t something you do everyday!
Source: worldnomads.com

Location: Binche, Belgium. The parade begins at the town hall.

Dates: Shrove Tuesday

Description: Come prepared for a bruising at Belgium’s most bizarre carnival celebration. Listed by Unesco as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity, the Binche carnival sees local men, known as Gilles, stomp around while wearing strange green-eyed masks and shaking sticks to ward off evil spirits. The Gilles slow-dance through town, decked out in all their finery, including enormous ostrich-feather headdresses, and accompanied by local lads carrying baskets of oranges. From here, things get messy as the crowd is pelted with oranges to bless the forthcoming summer. No matter how tempting, don’t hurl one back – that bit of fruit that just hit you behind the ear is a gift!

Despite appearances, Binche’s carnival is a serious celebration, taking months of preparation and involving strict rules of conduct. The rituals surrounding it date back centuries and the Gilles’ costumes, some of them up to 150 years old, are thought to be modern interpretations of the elaborate, Inca-inspired dress worn by courtiers at a feast to honour Emperor Charles V in 1549.

Essentials: Binche has little to offer visitors, so you may prefer to stay in Mons, 40 minutes away by bus.

Local Attractions: Visit the Musée Internationale du Carneval et du Masque for a glimpse behind the carnival.

More Info:
 Carnaval de Binche


 

WorldNomads.com - an essential part of every adventurous traveller’s journey. Check out more world festivals at WorldNomads.com

Location: The Greyhound, Tinsley Green, England

Dates: Good Friday

Description: You probably played marbles as a kid but did your parents ever tell you that if you knuckled down and worked on your tolleys you could be a world champion? The championships are held each year in the car park of this West Sussex pub – the Wembley of marbles – when around 140 competitors vie for championship honours inside a 6-ft concrete circle. It might sound like a lark but it’s no gimmick; the championships have been held here since 1932.

Competition marbles sees 49 of the glass balls placed in the ring and the first person or team to knock 25 out of the ring with their tolley (shooting marble) goes through to the next round. The event has attracted players from Continental Europe and the USA, with German teams winning a couple of world titles, something the Britons ruefully blame on their own excessive alcohol intake.

More info www.marblemuseum.org

source: www.worldnomads.com