Ah, the holidays: A time to give thanks, spend time with family, eat good food, light your neighbors on fire, rub engine oil in grandma's eyes, get drunk, fight a bull and dress up in a white tuxedo to ward off the furious ghosts of fish. What, that doesn't sound like your holidays? Well, friend, it sounds like you've been celebrating the wrong ones. Let's get that calendar of yours set straight.
#7. Batalla de la Rata Muerta: City-Sized Food Fight Featuring a Dead Rat
In the annual Fiesta de San Pedro Nolasco, instead of a pinata they have something called a "cucana." It's a very similar concept, except that with the cucana, the chances of candy are only 50-50. The other 50 is a dead rat. Which is then retrieved from the ground and used as a projectile because fuck-you-I-didn't- get-candy.
"Hey, let me get in on that."
The festival is named for Pedro Nolasco, a Catholic saint whose primary claim to fame was the founding of a religious order that sought the redemption of Christian slaves of the Moors in the 1200s. Then, obviously, a plague-dodgeball tournament was decided to be the most appropriate way to celebrate his canonization.
Uh, thanks, guys, but "The Patron Saint of Ratball" really wasn't what I was going for ...
#6. Las Bolas de Fuego: Fireball Festival
In 1922, an erupting volcano forced the people of Nejapa, El Salvador, to evacuate. As they were leaving, locals saw great balls of fire spewing out of the volcano and believed that their patron saint, San Jeronimo, was actually fighting the devil for them. So to honor this event, where their heroic saint saved the villagers from burning alive, everybody gets together once a year and burns each other alive.
"That volcano is a wussy little bitch!"
The city divides itself into two teams, then everybody wads up some old rags, dips them in kerosene for a month, sets them ablaze and hurls them at their neighbors, because apparently Jeronimo was the Patron Saint of Arson. Sure, the revelers mostly come equipped with water-soaked gloves, clothes and masks for safety, but you can only prepare for Armageddon if you know it's coming in the first place. If you just happen to stumble into the wrong village on the wrong day, however, then surprise!
Happy Burn Ward Day!
#5. Bous a la Mar: Diving Bulls
In Spain, there are many ways to be maimed or killed by bulls. But it is a free land, so it's up to you to pick your favorite.
What's that? Ha ha, no: "None of the above" is not an option.
"Neither is 'sane.'"
For the discriminating gore victim, might we suggest Bous a la Mar -- the Bulls to the Sea? There is no "running of the bulls" here; it's nothing so uncouth as that. The objective of Bous a la Mar is simply to get a bull to dive after you into the ocean. Do not scoff. It is not such an easy task. You must drive the bull into a blind rage first, then, when he charges, you flee, ultimately leaping into the sea -- not to avoid him, you see, but in the hopes that he will follow. That's how you "win." To recap: You provoke a suicidal rage in this gargantuan missile of meat and pointy bits, then you need to outrun him, then you need to outdive him, then you need to outswim him.
It's like a triathlon of animal-based suicide.
Fernando Bustamante / AP
"Pissed off Bull to Bull HQ: Transformation locked, initiating Missile Mode. Repeat: Bull Missile is go."
#4. Lantern Festival: Molten-Iron-Throwing
Once upon a time, the peasants of a poor Chinese farming village found that they couldn't afford fireworks for the annual Lantern Festival. But the industrious citizens didn't let that stop them. Instead, with careful research, they discovered that hurling molten iron (at around 2,300 degrees Fahrenheit, to be precise) against a cold wall in autumn looks kind of neat. So now, every year -- for the last 300 years -- they just go ahead and do that a bunch.
China Travel Guide
All the best holidays require welding masks.
The festivities begin with the townspeople collecting all the old pots and discarded iron to melt down, then they watch an hourlong performance called Da Shuhua, or "beating the tree to produce flowers" (the burning kind of flowers, in case Chinese metaphor is too subtle for you), and then everybody just holds hands while the world explodes.
So what's the technique for pulling off this dangerous pyrotechnics show? It's very technical, so see if you can stay with us:
Step 1. Get a guy in a wool coat and hat to toss liquid metal with a ladle.
China Travel Guide
Step 1 is critical.
Step 2. What?
Step 3. We were supposed to think of other steps?
Step 4. Holy shit WATCH OUT FIRE!