CLOSE
istock
istock

15 Festive International Holidays the U.S. Should Adopt

istock
istock

Americans have a pretty terrific slate of national holidays, but if we could just add these special days, festivals, and events from abroad, the calendar would be even more delightful.

1. Bolludagur (Iceland)

Two days before Lent, they celebrate Bolludagur, or "Buns Day," by eating cream puffs or “buns” of all sizes, shapes, and fillings. Kids get an especially sweet deal. According to tradition, they're supposed to wake up before their parents and gently beat them awake with a homemade Bun Wand. They earn one cream puff for every blow they land.

2. Feast for Monkeys (Thailand)

In the Hindu epic the Ramayana, the hero Rama gives Thailand's province of Lopburi to the monkey king Hanuman. On the last Sunday of each November, all of Hanuman’s real-life monkey descendants get the royal treatment. Townspeople set up a feast of more than four tons of fruits, vegetables, and even sodas for the local macaques to enjoy.

3. Hadaka Matsuri (Japan)

Men demonstrate their masculinity in many ways, but no ritual makes it as tough as Japan's Hadaka Matsuri. The men aren't completely naked, but most strip down to loincloths on a cold February night to test their manhood and battle for future happiness. The night gets off to a freezing start when men purify themselves in fountains or the Yoshi River. Then they try to catch sacred batons thrown into the crowd by priests. Meanwhile, somewhere very cozy, we’re guessing the ladies are probably a little relieved that there's no Naked Woman Festival.

4. La Tomatina (Spain)

You don't have to fight for the right to food fight in Buñol, Spain. On the last Wednesday of every August, thousands of people gather for La Tomatina. The events starts out tame at 10 a.m. with a game of palo jabón, in which competitors climb slippery greased poles to get to ham at the top. Once the meat drops, the one-hour food fight is on. A shot is fired, and trucks from Extremadura bring in some 150,000 overripe tomatoes.

Don't think this is a red-splattered free-for-all—La Tomatina comes with rules. For starters, tomatoes are squashed to avoid injuries, and goggles and gloves are advised. No other projectiles, fruit or otherwise, are allowed. Participants must keep their shirts on. And once the second shot goes off, the food fight is over.

5. Ystävänpäivä (Finland)

Finland’s answer to V-Day is actually Y-day, and it's about celebrating friendship, not romance. Men and women give cards, gifts, and candy to their platonic life partners. No one feels left out or expresses curmudgeonly anti Y-Day sentiment. At least, we hope not.

6. Laskiainen (Finland)

Laskiainen is another Finnish tradition we're ready to start. Seven weeks before Easter, Finns fuel themselves with pea soup and buns filled with jams and cream. It's all downhill from there: men, women, and children spend the rest of the day sledding. Since the 1930s, Palo, Minnesota has celebrated Laskiainen with authentic music, food, crafts, and high-speed snow racing. What trailblazers!

7. Chinchilla Melon Festival

Many towns celebrate local crops, but they take it to another level Down Under. Every two years, Chinchilla—the Melon Capital of Australia—plans a giant four-day shindig with lots of juicy fun. Activities include archery that replaces the dart with a melon, a fruity slip and slide, and even melon skiing. Yes, skiing downhill wearing watermelons on your feet.

8. Keirō no Hi (Japan)

Japan’s Keirō no Hi, or Respect for the Aged Day, on every third Monday of September is devoted to honoring older folks... even if they're not your own grandparents. Volunteers prepare and deliver free meals, children perform songs and dances at special ceremonies, and the media spends the day highlighting elderly people doing amazing things in their twilight years.

9. Up-Helly-Aa (Scotland)

This Scottish holiday at the end of each December starts with themed costumes and hundreds of people bearing torches. They march and then set fire to a replica of a Viking ship to depict the rebirth of the sun. It's a cross between Halloween, a good old-fashioned bonfire, and an action movie.

10. The Anastenaria (Greece and Bulgaria)

Revelers in Northern Greece and Southern Bulgaria get fired up twice a year for the Anastenaria. The dancing celebrations, dedicated to Orthodox Christian figures Saint Constantine and Saint Helena, last for three days and culminate in fire walking. But don't worry—dancers say they don't feel a thing, thanks to the protection of the saints.

11. International Camel Derby & Festival (Kenya)

Horse races, trail rides, and rodeos are great and all, but camels make for a more wild ride. Since 1990, Maralal, Kenya has been the site of the International Camel Derby & Festival. The event attracts riders from all over the world and is surprisingly open to novices. Even without prior camel riding experience, you can hire a camel and a handler for the 10-kilometer (6.2 mile) Amateur race. More seasoned camel riders are eligible for the 42-kilometer (26.2 mile) Pro Elite race without a handler.

12. Nyepi Day (Indonesia)

People worldwide are encouraged to reflect on their past, present, and future at the dawn of a new year. On Bali's annual Nyepi Day, quiet contemplation is actually enforced. People are supposed to spend the Lunar New Year at home in silence—avoiding the distractions of electricity, food, TV, and radio. Security guards patrol the streets, ready to bust anyone they catch outside. Sounds relaxing ... for a little while, anyway. After Nyepi Day, Balinese people turn the volume way up with cleansing rituals, demon exorcism, effigy burning, carnivals, and even the Omed-Omedan kissing festival for teenagers.

13. Holi (India and Nepal)

Each spring, revelers in India, Nepal, and elsewhere start the celebration of the Hindu Festival of Colors the night before by lighting bonfires in honor of a boy named Prahlada from Hindu legend and his triumph over his evil aunt Holika, who tried to burn him in a fire. The next morning is a beautifully messy free-for-all with colored powder, water balloons, and live music. Holi is a time to make new friends, make amends with former ones, and believe in the power of good.

14. Race the Train (Wales)

Who needs a running buddy when you can just follow a train carrying all your supporters? In the annual Race the Train event in Tywyn, Wales, participants run alongside the tracks of the Talyllyn Railway to and from the village of Abergynolwyn. (Incidentally, these names are even harder to pronounce after you've run a few miles.) Runners cross all kinds of terrain, from country lanes to rough pastures, as the train's passengers cheer them on. And if things don't go so well, it can't be that hard to hop aboard on the second leg of the trip.

15. Takanakuy (Peru)

The holiday season can be stressful. Each Christmas, people from the Peruvian province of Chumbivilcas take their aggressions out on each other in a series of minute-long public brawls. Takanakuy, which translates to "when the blood is boiling" in Quechua, is open to men, women, children, and the elderly to address civil or private matters. Interestingly enough, most fighters use martial arts-style moves, instead of a good old knuckle sandwich. Once their altercation is over, they shake hands or hug it out and consider the issue resolved.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
holidays
10 Things You Might Not Know About Chinese New Year
iStock
iStock

Some celebrants call it the Spring Festival, a stretch of time that signals the progression of the lunisolar Chinese calendar; others know it as the Chinese New Year. For a 15-day period beginning February 16, China will welcome the Year of the Dog, one of 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac table.

Sound unfamiliar? No need to worry: Check out 10 facts about how one-sixth of the world's total population rings in the new year.

1. THE HOLIDAY WAS ORIGINALLY MEANT TO SCARE OFF A MONSTER.

Nian at Chinese New Year
iStock

As legend would have it, many of the trademarks of the Chinese New Year are rooted in an ancient fear of Nian, a ferocious monster who would wait until the first day of the year to terrorize villagers. Acting on the advice of a wise old sage, the townspeople used loud noises from drums, fireworks, and the color red to scare him off—all remain components of the celebration today.

2. A LOT OF FAMILIES USE IT AS MOTIVATION TO CLEAN THE HOUSE.

woman ready to clean a home
iStock

While the methods of honoring the Chinese New Year have varied over the years, it originally began as an opportunity for households to cleanse their quarters of "huiqi," or the breaths of those that lingered in the area. Families performed meticulous cleaning rituals to honor deities that they believed would pay them visits. The holiday is still used as a time to get cleaning supplies out, although the work is supposed to be done before it officially begins.

3. IT WILL PROMPT BILLIONS OF TRIPS.

Man waiting for a train.
iStock

Because the Chinese New Year places emphasis on family ties, hundreds of millions of people will use the Lunar period to make the trip home. Accounting for cars, trains, planes, and other methods of transport, the holiday is estimated to prompt nearly three billion trips over the 15-day timeframe.

4. IT INVOLVES A LOT OF SUPERSTITIONS.

Colorful pills and medications
iStock

While not all revelers subscribe to embedded beliefs about what not to do during the Chinese New Year, others try their best to observe some very particular prohibitions. Visiting a hospital or taking medicine is believed to invite ill health; lending or borrowing money will promote debt; crying children can bring about bad luck.

5. SOME PEOPLE RENT BOYFRIENDS OR GIRLFRIENDS TO SOOTHE PARENTS.

Young Asian couple smiling
iStock

In China, it's sometimes frowned upon to remain single as you enter your thirties. When singles return home to visit their parents, some will opt to hire a person to pose as their significant other in order to make it appear like they're in a relationship and avoid parental scolding. Rent-a-boyfriends or girlfriends can get an average of $145 a day.

6. RED ENVELOPES ARE EVERYWHERE.

a person accepting a red envelope
iStock

An often-observed tradition during Spring Festival is to give gifts of red envelopes containing money. (The color red symbolizes energy and fortune.) New bills are expected; old, wrinkled cash is a sign of laziness. People sometimes walk around with cash-stuffed envelopes in case they run into someone they need to give a gift to. If someone offers you an envelope, it's best to accept it with both hands and open it in private.

7. IT CAN CREATE RECORD LEVELS OF SMOG.

fireworks over Beijing's Forbidden City
iStock

Fireworks are a staple of Spring Festival in China, but there's more danger associated with the tradition than explosive mishaps. Cities like Beijing can experience a 15-fold increase in particulate pollution. In 2016, Shanghai banned the lighting of fireworks within the metropolitan area.

8. BLACK CLOTHES ARE A BAD OMEN.

toddler dressed up for Chinese New Year
iStock

So are white clothes. In China, both black and white apparel is traditionally associated with mourning and are to be avoided during the Lunar month. The red, colorful clothes favored for the holiday symbolize good fortune.

9. IT LEADS TO PLANES BEING STUFFED FULL OF CHERRIES.

Bowl of cherries
iStock

Cherries are such a popular food during the Festival that suppliers need to go to extremes in order to meet demand—last year Singapore Airlines flew four chartered jets to Southeast and North Asian areas. More than 300 tons were being delivered in time for the festivities.

10. PANDA EXPRESS IS HOPING IT'LL CATCH ON IN THE STATES.

Box of takeout Chinese food from Panda Express
domandtrey, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

Although their Chinese food menu runs more along the lines of Americanized fare, the franchise Panda Express is still hoping the U.S. will get more involved in the festival. The chain is promoting the holiday in its locations by running ad spots and giving away a red envelope containing a gift: a coupon for free food. Aside from a boost in business, Panda Express hopes to raise awareness about the popular holiday in North America.

A version of this story originally ran in 2017.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Chris Ware, Keystone Features/Getty Images
arrow
holidays
31 Valentine's Day Cards Through the Years
Chris Ware, Keystone Features/Getty Images
Chris Ware, Keystone Features/Getty Images

Giving romantic Valentine's Day cards slowly came into fashion during the 18th century, but they were mostly DIY affairs at the time. By the end of that century, pre-printed cards began to appear, and once the printing and manufacturing technologies of Victorian Britain picked up, the Valentine card industry boomed. Not all sentiments were romantic—some were downright rude—but the tradition of giving friends and loved ones cards has only continued to grow (it's estimated that Americans will spend $1 billion on cards this year alone). Below are 31 cards from years past.

1. 

Vintage Valentine circa 1860
A vintage Valentine circa 1860.
Hulton Archive, Getty Images

For the couple who fancies themselves a Victorian-era Romeo and Juliet.

2. 

vintage Valentine circa 1902.
A vintage Valentine circa 1902.
New York Public Library // Public Domain

Here's hoping his best girl can teach this little Edwardian Alfalfa a thing or two about grammar.

3. 

vintage Valentine circa 1902
A vintage Valentine circa 1902.
New York Public Library // Public Domain

He looks so shy about it though!

4. 

vintage Valentine circa 1903
A vintage Valentine circa 1903.
New York Public Library // Public Domain

Puppy love.

5. 

vintage valentine circa 1903
A vintage Valentine circa 1903.
pageofbats, Flickr // Used with permission

Sounds like a recipe for love.

6. 

vintage Valentine circa 1904
A vintage Valentine circa 1904.
New York Public Library // Public Domain

Please, Mr. Postman!

7. 

Vintage Valentine
New York Public Library // Public Domain

For the Irish love in your life.

8.

vintage Valentine circa 1905
A vintage Valentine circa 1905.
New York Public Library // Public Domain

Elaborate flower arrangements have always been quite popular.

9.

Vintage Valentine
A vintage Valentine
New York Public Library // Public Domain

Ahh, the art of love.

10.

vintage Valentine circa 1907
A vintage Valentine circa 1907.
New York Public Library // Public Domain

For when "roses are red, violets are blue" is just a little too … elementary.

11.

vintage Valentine circa 1908
A vintage Valentine circa 1908.
New York Public Library // Public Domain

An enterprising cherub preps for the big holiday by making love locks.

12.

vintage Valentine circa 1909
A vintage Valentine circa 1909.
NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY // PUBLIC DOMAIN

They both seem shocked to be in this position.

13.

vintage valentine with krampus
pageofbats, Flickr // Used with permission

For when your sweetheart loves Santa's demonic counterpart, Krampus, so much that you need to put him on every holiday card.

14.

vintage Valentine circa 1910
A vintage Valentine circa 1910.
New York Public Library // Public Domain

When you want to get a little moralistic with your notes of affection.

15.

vintage Valentine circa 1910
A vintage Valentine circa 1910.
New York Public Library // Public Domain

What a gallant little messenger.

16.

Vintage Valentine circa 1912.
A vintage Valentine circa 1912.
New York Public Library // Public Domain

We vote you don't give the gentleman who sent this the time of day.

17.

vintage Valentine
in pastel, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Like an I-O-U for a walk in the gardens come springtime.

18.

vintage Valentine circa 1920
A vintage Valentine circa 1920.
New York Public Library // Public Domain

Self-deprecating sentiments from the Roaring Twenties.

19.

vintage Valentine circa 1921
A vintage Valentine circa 1921.
New York Public Library // Public Domain

She's got her mind on her honey and her honey on her mind.

20.

vintage Valentine
New York Public Library // Public Domain

Musicians always seem to get the girl.

21.

vintage Valentine circa 1922
A vintage Valentine circa 1922.
New York Public Library // Public Domain

When "the language of the heart" gets lost in translation.

22.

vintage Valentine
pageofbats, Flickr // Used with permission

Dead. I'm dead.

23.

vintage valentine with a clown
pageofbats, Flickr // Used with permission

Creepy clowns are unlikely to win many hearts, "Daddy."

24.

vintage valentine
RoniJJ, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Just make sure your crush doesn't have a seafood allergy.

25.

vintage valentine
pageofbats, Flickr // Used with permission

The hot dog pun almost makes up for putting faces on them.

26.

vintage valentine
pageofbats, Flickr // Used with permission

Tell this stalker to buzz off.

27.

vintage valentine
pageofbats, Flickr // Used with permission

Please avoid this gun show.

28.

vintage valentine

This is frightfully adorable.

29.

valentine
pageofbats, Flickr // Used with permission

Not exactly the most romantic Tennessee Williams line to send …

30.

vintage valentine
pageofbats, Flickr // Used with permission

Racy!

31.

valentine with pizza
pageofbats, Flickr // Used with permission

Now this is a sentiment we can get behind.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios