Each year, more than 50,000 people travel from around the world to attend Burning Man that takes place on Black Rock City from the last week of August and ends on the first Monday in September. Burning Man is social Rorshach test — it means different things to different people. Even the organizers cannot pin it down; this year it is described in various terms: “A city in the desert. A culture of possibility. A network of dreamers and doers.” “A way of being in the world.” “Burning Man is a laboratory. Not every experiment works, but we’ll never know if we don’t try.” For the uninitiated, images from Burning Man reveal anything from sublime beauty (art and architecture) to the truly strange (think Rocky Horror on steroids). But as any burner (an attendee at Burning Man) will tell you, strange is a relative concept. A quick peek at some of the world’s strangest festivals make Burning Man seem not so strange.
Up Helly AA
Where: St Ninian’s Isle, Scotland
When: Last Tuesday of January
Participants dress up in Viking regalia, light torches, and march through town.
Battle of the Oranges
Where: Ivrea, Italy
Participants engage in one of the largest food fight (oranges only) you will ever see.
Where: Okayama, Japan
Participants get naked (actually most modestly use a loincloth) and receive purification from temple water.
Where: Masterton, New Zealand
Participants compete in the world’s largest sheep shearing competition.
Where: Chaing Mai, Thailand
Participants engage in water fights throughout the town, as part of celebrating the Thai New Year.
Where: Tokyo, Japan
Two sumo wrestlers face one another holding an infant born in the previous year. The goal is to make the other’s child cry first.
Where: Cooper’s Hill, England
Participants race a round of Double Gloucester cheese to the bottom of Cooper’s Hill.
Where: Castrillo de Murcia, Spain
A man in a devil’s costume jumps over the town’s babies to cleanse them of evil spirits.
Boryeong Mud Festival
Where: Boryeong, South Korea
The world’s largest mud fight.
Where: Bunol, Spain
The world’s largest food fight (this time, tomatoes only).
Monkey Buffet Festival
Where: Lopburi, Thailand
Top chefs prepare a fine banquet of fruits and vegetables for the local monkeys; people watch the monkeys eat.
For further reading: http://burningman.org