Ever wonder how other cultures celebrate holidays and traditions? From leaving milk and cookies for Santa in the USA to the traditional quinceaneras of 15-year-old Latin American girls to the more unique custom of jumping over babies in Spain or throwing plates in Denmark, every culture has its own rituals and traditions — and while some might seem more unusual than others, they’re a normal custom in their homeland. We’ve rounded up some strange cultural traditions around the world.
1. Satere Mawe Tribe Initiation, Brazil
The Satere Mawe Tribe calls the Brazilian Amazon home and has minimal contact with the outside world. The tribe has been able to preserve many ancient traditions, including the coming-of-age initiation for the young boys of the tribe. At age 13, the boys of the Satere Mawe Tribe become men but must prove their worth through the initiation ceremony. The boys head off into the jungle to harvest the angry bullet ants. One sting from the inch-long ant is said to be 30-times more painful than a bee sting, or about as painful as a gunshot, giving them their name. Back in the village, the chief elder intoxicates the ants in an herbal mixture, knocking them out just long enough to weave them into a special pair of gloves, with the stingers pointing inwards. When the ants wake up, the ceremony begins. The boys show courage by placing their hands in the gloves for 10 minutes each while being led in a traditional dance. The ceremony repeats 19 more times before the young boys can call themselves men. According to the Satere Mawe traditions, the bullet ant initiation prepares them for the pain of adulthood and how to manage pain without showing weakness.
2. El Colacho, Spain
This tradition in Castrillo de Murcia, in the north of Spain, has its origins in pagan rituals and has been a local tradition since the 17th century. As a way to cleanse a new baby’s soul, the tradition is commonly known as ‘baby jumping’. Every year, on the Sunday after the Feast of Corpus Christi, the event, which is now a mix of both pagan and Catholic traditions, begins with a procession through town and at the end of the walk, babies born in the previous year are laid on a mat. Men dressed as the devil run between and jump over the babies. Next, the leaders of the Catholic Church in the Burgos Region cleanse them with holy water.
3. Red Ink, South Korea
If you find yourself in the bustling cities or in the calm countrysides of South Korea, avoid using red ink. Historically in Korean culture red ink was only used to note the names of the dead on the family register. If the name of a living person was written in red ink, it was considered a sign that the person who wrote the name wished harm upon the other. Now, using red ink is a huge ‘no’ throughout the country, especially to write down a name. It’s considered rude and a sign of ill-will against the person whose name is noted, so it’s best to simply avoid the color altogether.
4. Throwing of Broken Dishes, Denmark
Looking for a way to bring good luck? The Danes sure have a unique way of doing so. During the year, people in Denmark save any broken dishes, plates, cups, or bowls until New Year’s Eve. On the New Year, they throw the broken dishware at the homes of friends and family as a way to wish them good luck for the new year. A less aggressive way to wish good luck is to simply leave a pile of broken plates on the doorstep of a loved one. The tradition dates back centuries and is one of the more unique ways to ring in the new year.
5. Rumspringa, USA
The Amish Church is certainly unique and one interesting aspect is the traditional coming of age “Rumspringa.” The Amish are a religious community largely based in many parts of Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana, as well as smaller groups in other states. They live simply, without modern technology or fashion. At age 16, however, the Amish children are allowed to experience life outside the community for the first time. Rumspringa is meant to be a time for the kids to fully explore their faith and the real world, in order to be able to come to a decision on their own whether they want to return to the Amish Church or not. Whether the teens decide to return or not after Rumspringa, the time spent in the outside world is never put to waste. Teens can live on their own or live with their families, buy cars, go to wild parties, try alcohol for the first time, get an education (as Amish schooling only goes through 8th grade), and much more.