10) Peru: Christmas Fighting Festival
On December 25, locals gather for a Christmas festival with dancing, singing, drinking and feasting on locally produced Peruvian food. But the culmination of the day is takanakuy, a centuries-long tradition of ceremonial fist-fighting between members of the community. Takanakuy is a Quechuan word often translated as “to hit one another” or as “river of blood.” People from the province gather to watch fighters display their manhood and courage, uphold family honor and settle grievances.
9) Spain: Baby-Jumping
The Spanish village of Castrillo de Murcia has some interesting ideas about childcare. Since the 17th century, the village has been holding a yearly ceremony in which infants are laid out on mattresses in the street. Actors dressed as devils then leap over them. The ritual supposedly dispels the children’s original sin. (For a variety of reasons, the Catholic Church disapproves of the ritual and asks that people stick to baptisms with water.) The festival hasn’t had any mishaps yet, but nobody would blame you if you held your breath until the jumping part is over.
8)Turkey: Kirkpinar Wrestling Festival
Turkey is known for its affinity for wrestling, and at no other time is this national obsession so obvious than during the Kirkpinar Wrestling Festival. In the 14th century, two warriors fighting before the son of the Ottoman Sultan sparred so heartily that they both died of exhaustion. In honor of this devotion to the sport, the city of Kirkpinar has held a tournament ever since.
Turkish wrestling is unlike Olympic wrestling, in that each participant’s style is different and there are virtually no rules. The three-day event fields up to 20 no-holds-barred two-man matches at a time, where duels feature ear-pulling, head-slapping and (brace yourself) testicle-grabbing. What’s more, contestants slather their bodies in olive oil before stepping in the ring, making the goal of the match — grabbing your opponent’s leather strap, which is worn between the legs, and overcoming him — all the more difficult.
7) Greece: Rouketopolemos (Rocket War)
Every year on Easter the Greek village of Vrontados engages in an unusual, dangerous custom. Two rival churches, Agios Markos and Panagia Erithiani, stage mock war, firing as many as 60,000 small rockets at each other’s bell towers. This takes place while services are being held in both churches. The light show in the night sky is spectacular, but some of the rockets inevitably veer off course, causing injuries, property damage, and occasionally death. Nobody is sure exactly how the tradition got started. One legend says that the village used to fire cannons over the sea to ward off pirates, but the cannons were taken away to prevent uprisings during the Ottoman occupation. After the War of Greek Independence (1823–31), residents celebrated having their access to munitions restored by shooting off fireworks.
6) Japan : Takeuchi Matsuri
Half street brawl and half war game, the Takeuchi Matsuri is also pure mayhem. Every February 15th — one day after a presumably peaceful Valentine’s Day — townsfolk divide themselves into team North and team South, and face off on an open field. After downing many rounds of sake, the men of the small Japanese town don helmets and grab 20-foot bamboo poles in preparation for a real battle.
In three rounds, participants proceed to whack the opposing team with their sticks, causing welts and cuts to the “enemies'” torsos, legs and arms. If that weren’t enough, fighters are so jacked up by round three that fire is thrown into the mix, as the poles are lit. Eventually, this last round turns into an all-out brawl, as drunken Japanese guys forget about tradition (if the North wins, it signals a good rice harvest for the coming year) and beat opponents with poles and their fists.
5) Theemithi Singapore
Honoring an Indian goddess who proved her innocence by walking barefoot on a bed of red-hot coals, the Singapore event of Theemidhi (fire walking) is amazing to watch. For the worshipers who partake in a reenactment of the legend, it is also very dangerous.
With celebrations beginning at about 2 a.m., it is a festival worth staying awake for, as a procession makes its way to Sri Mariamman Temple and a four-meter long bed of burning coals is set up. Men in traditional costumes then work themselves into a trance-like state and cross the bed barefoot again and again, each time apparently feeling no pain. Still, just for the risk they are taking, this event ranks high on this list of dangerous festivals.
4) Danjiri Festival : Japan
Extremely dangerous in theory and practice, this festival puts drunken locals from Osaka at the helm of awkward, top-heavy vehicles. Originating in 1703 as a harvest festival, the Danjiri Festival’s latest incarnation is surely much more intense. Thirty different Osaka neighborhoods design intricate floats and, on September 14th, slowly pull them around Osaka’s narrow streets. All goes well at first but, on the 15th, the streets turn into a race course and the rickety floats zoom down the ancient roads, swaying every which way.
3) Onbashira Festival Nagano, Japan
As the third Japanese festival on the list, it’s clear that Japan is a place for the adventurous (and reckless). The Onbashira festival takes place over a month and is split into two sections — it’s the earlier installment that is of interest to us.
During “Yamadashi,” locals venture into the forest and cut down the 10-ton fir trees that are a hallmark of the region. In order to get them to their faraway destination (two local shrines), they must be hauled across freezing rivers. At one juncture in the path, however, locals encounter steep slopes and decide to ride down the inclines while perched on the logs. Wearing traditional costumes and fed sake to instill bravery, these locals take the precarious trip downhill and invariably lose a few of their friends every seven years.
2) Cheese Rolling, Blockworth, Gloucester, UK
Only in England could they turn an innocent looking cheese into a death race. For the last 200 years every late May Bank Holiday thousands flock to the village to hurl themselves down the steep Cooper’s hill in pursuit of a Double Gloucester cheese. A fleet of ambulances is always in attendance to cart the injured competitors off to hospital.
1) Running of the Bulls, Pamplona, Spain
Carried out during the Festival of San Fernier for the last 600 years bulls have been let loose through the narrow streets crowded with crazy competitors who try to avoid getting trampled or gored. Made famous in Ernest Hemmingway’s novel “The sun also rises” it is now one of the most popular and dangerous thrill rides you can voluntary take part in. It has claimed the lives of at least 15 people since 1924 and many more have suffered, cuts, bruises, broken bones and concussion.