Would you like to take a stroll on red hot coals in Greece? Or maybe enjoy a three-day weekend simply to enjoy a picnic with your family in Australia? How about spending an hour smacking anyone and everyone you see with tomatoes in Spain? These are a few of the unusual holiday traditions celebrated by cultures around the world. For centuries, civilizations have marked important annual events such as harvest, meaningful religious holidays, and significant historical anniversaries with an amazing and amusing variety of activities. Let’s take a look at some of these celebrations, shall we? If you’re interested in finding out how you can attend one or more of these celebrations, links to the articles I used are at the end of this article, as are the titles of some books available right here at Salina Public Library.

In Cuzco, Peru, you can attend the nine-day celebration of Inti Raymi in June. The event is a holdover from an ancient Incan holiday honoring the god Inti. These days, people party, party, party, but also take time to enjoy dances and entertainment from performers who gather in Cuzco from all over the former Incan territories. Following the main ceremony, a llama is sacrificed, and then the dancing and celebrating resume. It’s a colorful celebration of a culture that many people may not even realize is still vibrant and thriving. 

If you happen to be visiting northern Greece during the third week of May and are perhaps a bit of a pyromaniac, then The Feast of Anastenaria may be your cup of tea. From May 21 to 23, Saints Constantine and Helen of the Greek Orthodox faith are celebrated with music, feasting, dancing and sacrifices. On the last day, some celebrants walk barefoot over a bed of glowing coals. As for me, I’ll stand aside and watch that particular event.


Australians have a reputation for knowing how to relax and have fun, and several locations in northern Australia set aside the first Monday of August for Picnic Day, a tradition dating back to the 1800s. Schools and businesses close and everyone is encouraged to take a long weekend. I don’t know about you, but that sounds good to me!

After your picnic with your mates Down Under, it’s not too late to make plans to be in the Spanish town of Buñol for La Tomatina, which lasts for only an hour on the last Wednesday of August. Just be sure to stock up on tomatoes before attending, as everyone else will be sure to have a healthy supply! The point of this festival of red? Pure and simple fun. While the history of the event is beyond the scope of this blog, it’s an entertaining story originating with an angry parade participant who threw a temper tantrum in 1945!

While you’re in Spain, a little research might help you find a community that celebrates El Colacho. Some Spanish Catholics celebrate the Feast of Corpus Christi by placing newborn babies on blankets on the streets or sidewalks. Men dressed as devils jump over the infants to absolve the children of original sin and protect them from evil. Photos from this event are particularly interesting when the faces of the children are visible.

Back home in the United States, history buffs might enjoy celebrating two now-obscure holidays from the earliest years of our nation’s existence: Von Steuben Day and The Eighth. Baron Friedrich Von Steuben was a Prussian military leader who helped George Washington instruct his troops in discipline and military conduct. Many historians believe the colonists might not have won the American Revolution without Von Steuben’s expertise. The holiday is still celebrated in the middle of September by some cities in the Northeast. Beer tents and parades usually mark the day. And here’s a fun fact: The parade in Ferris Bueller’s  Day Off is actually Chicago’s Von Steuben Day parade!

The oddly-named “The Eighth”–appropriately celebrated on January 8–marks another event in US history, the US victory over the British at the Battle of New Orleans at the end of the War of 1812. In the years prior to the Civil War, The Eighth was celebrated as enthusiastically as Independence Day, but sadly the holiday has essentially passed into the history books today.

So far, all the holidays have celebrated humanity. If you prefer to celebrate animals, Lopburi, Thailand holds its Monkey Buffet Festival on November 26, 2023, so if the idea of joining 10,000 other spectators to watch 3,000 long-tailed macaques devour up to four tons of fruits, vegetables and candies intrigues you, book your flight now! This holiday is over 2,000 years old, and celebrates the assistance given by a monkey army to the divine Prince Rama and his wife, Sita, in their flight from a demon. It is also believed to bring good luck to the people of Lopburi.

The library has many travel books available, but here are three titles you might enjoy. Rolf Potts is a Kansas native who still lives in here but has traveled extensively. His The Vagabond’s Way: 366 Meditations on Wanderlust, Discovery, and the Art of Travel is wonderful. Every day of the year has its own page, on which you’ll find Potts’ thoughts about a wide variety of travel issues. Potts also wrote the highly-entertaining Marco Polo Didn’t Go There: Stories and Revelations from One Decade as a Postmodern Travel Writer. 

If you’re looking for some very off-the-beaten-path destinations, check out Joshua Foer’s Atlas Obscura: An Explorer’s Guide to the World’s Hidden Wonders. Filled with short entries about some of the most obscure, intriguing, and downright strange places in the world, this is a wonderful book for simply browsing. 


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