We love a good festival at Azimo, and the stranger the better. As a global business that sends money to anywhere in the world, we’ve come across a fair few. From cheese rolling to wife carrying, here’s a round-up of our favourites.
The Thai New Year in April celebrates the end of the dry season and is seen as a spring cleaning day, both spiritually and physically. It’s also the hottest time of the year in Thailand, so what better way to celebrate than with a massive countrywide water fight? Locals loaded up with water pistols, hoses and refilling trucks prowl the streets in search of someone to soak, with tourists always a prime target. Authorities have started a campaign to encourage people to throw water sensibly to help battle the country’s drought crisis, but don’t expect that to stop Thais pulling the trigger.
Noche de Rábanos, Mexico
The hugely popular Night of the Radishes festival pulls in thousands of punters to the zócalo, or central square, in Oaxaca every Christmas. This isn’t some government-sponsored healthy eating initiative, though. It’s a bizarre radish-carving contest with 100 radish artists trying to slice and dice their way through oversized, contorted root vegetables, and the winner leaving with a fistful of pesos. The festival takes place on 23rd December, so expect plenty of religious radishes – nativity scenes, cathedrals and the Virgin Mary are always popular – alongside Santas and snowmen.
World Gurning Championships, UK
Forget Rio 2016, the Egremont Crab Fair in Cumbria is the Oddity Olympics, with competitions in everything from pipe smoking to pony leaping (not at the same time, of course!). But the contest that really makes the headlines is the World Gurning Championships, which basically involves sticking your head through a horse’s collar and pulling the most grotesque face you can (false teeth are a big advantage). The 28-time Women’s World Gurning Champion Anne Woods entered the hideous hall of fame when she was recognised by the Guinness Book of Records in 2010 as the World’s Ugliest Woman.
Monkey Buffet Festival, Thailand
Table manners are left at the door at this bizarre dinner party for the local primates in Lopburi province, north of Bangkok. Every November, two tonnes of fruit and veg, plus sweet treats from Coke to ice-cream, are spread across an ancient temple site for the 3,000-strong long-tailed macaque population to gorge themselves silly before swinging off for a treetop nap. The festival, which began in 1989, was the ingenious concept of hotelier Yongyuth Kitwattananusont and brings in thousands of tourists each year. Yongyuth is clearly a keen marketeer – one year, he stuffed himself into a monkey suit and parachuted in for the party.
Argungu Fishing Festival, Nigeria
Founded in 1934 as a sign of the newfound peace between the people of Argungu and nearby Sokoto, this Nigerian cultural festival’s final day ends with a truly bizarre spectacle. Some 35,000 fishermen leap into the muddy Malan Fada river in pairs, armed only with a net and a gourd to keep them afloat, to compete in an hour-long, bare-handed fishing frenzy. The prize for the biggest catch is several thousand dollars and a minibus, not bad for an hour’s haul. Just make sure your net’s big enough, though – in 2005, it took a 75kg catfish to claim victory (and four men to haul it on to the scales).
Cheese Rolling Festival, UK
From morris dancing to pancake races, England has some pretty strange traditions, but chasing cheese down a near-vertical hill is up there with the best. This tasty cheese roll puts plenty of competitors in a pickle (and some in a bandage) as they try to catch a rolling 3.5kg wheel of Double Gloucester as it gathers speed down Cooper’s Hill in Gloucestershire. The champion chaser of recent times is local lad Chris Anderson, who has snaffled 15 cheeses over the last decade. Health and safety have taken a pretty dim view of the event in recent years and organisers even tried out a foam fromage in 2013. But the Double Gloucester is now back – minus the backing of the local council.
Wife Carrying Championships, Finland
Scandinavians may be ahead of the global game in terms of gender equality, but this Finnish festival still feels like it’s stuck somewhere in the dark ages. The annual Wife Carrying World Championships have been held in Sonkajärvi since 1992, but the contest is rooted in the 19th-century legend of Ronkainen the Robber, who allegedly tested aspiring members of his gang by forcing them to lug sacks of grain or live animals over a similar course. Race rules state the wife can be your own or your neighbour’s, but she must be over 17 years of age. She must also weigh at least 49kg, but the heavier the better – the winner takes home the weight of his wife in beer.