Bizarre Traditions around the globe
Translated by Elisavet Kechagia
Based on the original article in Greek by Μαρία Παπακοσμά
It is widely known that travelling broadens one’s horizons and shapes their cultural identity in various ways, one of them being getting in touch with traditions that might seem bizarre to our eyes. Let’s immerse ourselves in some peculiar traditions from around the globe.
White heron dance
The White Heron Dance, or Shirasagi-no Mai in Japanese, is a ceremonial parade that takes place twice a year in Senso-ji Temple, in Asakusa, Tokyo. More specifically, this dance is a Shinto tradition that was taking place in Kyoto during the Heian period (794-1185), constituted by a procession of eight dancers dressed in the traditional costume of the period representing white herons. The dancers depict the Heian lifestyle through slow movements, and one can easily descry the figures of samurai warriors, temple guardians, musicians and children. The ceremonial parade was inaugurated in Asakusa in November 1968 in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the establishment of Tokyo as the Japanese capital.
Haka is a type of ancient Māori war dance that originates in New Zealand, traditionally used on the battlefield as well as when groups came together in peace. Being a posture dance performed by vigorous movements, stamping of the feet and various facial expressions, it voices intense pride, power and unity within the tribe. The dance is also accompanied by the poetic description of ancestral history in the form of a chant. It is performed to this day during ceremonies such as weddings and funerals in honour of guests, and also to highlight the occasion.
Monkey Buffet Festival
One of Thailand’s not so spiritual annual events is the entertaining, but somewhat strange, Monkey Buffet Festival that takes place near the Khmer Temple in the old city of Lopburi, also known as “Monkey city”. This festival specifically attracts a thousand tourists each year who come to see the local 3000 macaques feast on banquets of various fruit offerings.
Red Ink Korean Superstition
South Koreans refrain from writing in red ink, for the simple reason that it is historically and traditionally used in writing the names of the dead. Consequently, writing down the name of a living person in red, or using a red pen in general, is considered taboo.
Henna in India
It is common for brides in India and some Muslim countries to paint their hands with henna before their engagement or wedding, for it is believed that hennas are bringers of good luck, joy and blessings. However, they can also be used for aesthetic purposes. Some brides apply to the design the husband’s initials, while symbols that represent happiness, success, beauty and other positive qualities may also be included. When located on the palms, the henna means that the wearer is open to receive but also offer blessings, while the location at the top of the hands symbolizes protection of the wearer from external causes.