This list features some of the most mysterious festivals from around the world. Enjoy!
Up Hella Aa, Scotland
Up Hella Aa is another festival related to fire. Actually it’s considered to be the biggest fire festival in Europe and one of the most unique festivals in the world. It’s held in Shetland, Scotland, in the middle of winter. The legend says that in the early 9th century the Vikings landed on the Shetland islands and settled there for the next 600 years as farmers. The Shetlanders are still proud of their Viking heritage. The festival exactly timed to coincide with this event.
Every year the folks from the port-town of Lerwick dress as Vikings march in a procession holding torches and a 30 feet long replica of a Viking longship or galley. 900 Vikings march toward the sea, and when they reach it they throw their torches into the galley of the longship and burn it to ashes. This is a really magnificent spectacle. Originally, it was the way Vikings buried their leader. After the ritual burning of the galley the crowd splits into small groups and ramble about and make merry in the local pubs. This is where the fun begins – some hellacious drinking, singing and dancing until the early hours.
Ivan Kupala night, Ukraine
Ivan Kupala night is celebrated between 23th and 24th of June. The name of this holiday combines two elements – Christian and pagan. Ivan is St.John the Baptist, and Kupala is a pagan goddess in Slavic mythology. The word Kupala is a derivative of the Slavic word ‘kupaniye’ and means bathing. Ivan Kupala night is full of different rituals connected with water and fire.
There is a belief that this night all the evil spirits who live in the rivers, lakes and ponds come out of the water but it turns out to be saint. So it’s important to bathe somewhere outside before the sunrise.
During Ivan Kupala night unmarried young girls and women are wearing flower wreaths on their heads and in the middle of the night they may float them on the river and men may attempt to capture the wreaths in order to show their interest and sympathy to the woman who floated the wreath.
There is another belief that the water and the fire “become good friends” only for this one night. So there are also some rituals connected with the fire. On Ivan Kupala night young people jump over the flames of bonfires to show their bravery and faith. The couples in love also may jump over the fire but they should jump while holding hands and if they fail it is considered to be a sign of their destined separation.
Dia de los muertos (Day of the Dead), Mexico
Dia de los muertos is a true celebration of life holiday. The Mexicans believe that death is not the end but the beginning of a new afterlife.
Originally, Day of the Dead developed from the ancient traditions of the Aztec, the Maya and other pre Spanish civilizations.
The feast lasts three days. October 31st is All Hallows Eve. November 1st is for honoring dead children and infants, it is called Day of the Innocents or Day of the Little Angels. November 2nd is referred to as Day of the Dead or All Souls Day.
During these days everything turns upside down – nights becomes days, the cemetery turns into the most popular place in the country, kids enjoy calaveras (colorful sugar skull and chocolate molds), people dress up as the deads and the deads are supposed to become the ‘livings’ again.
The Duanwu Festival ( The Dragon Boat Festival), China
The Dragon Boat Festival is one of oldest festivals, not only in China but also in the world.
During the festival, people eat zongzi (rice dumplings), drink realgar wine and race the dragon boats. The festival is also known as Poet’s Day in honor of the first known Chinese poet Qu Yuan.
The Dragon Boat Festival commemorates the life and the death of Qu Yuan, who was not only the poet but also a minister of the state of Chu during the Warring States period. When his state fell into the hands of the enemy, he committed suicide by drowning himself in the Miluo River. The local people loved him, they raced out in their boats and tried to save the poet. Unfortunately, they weren’t successful, but this is said to be the origin of the boat racing. As they even couldn’t find the poet they dropped the balls made of sticky rice into the river in order fish would eat them but not Qu’s body. This is the origin of the zongzi.