A look at some of the world’s most fascinating cultural traditions

Anna Allgaier

It doesn’t matter where you’re from, there’s a lot that unites us all on this big beautiful rotating ball we call Earth. But one thing that consistently vaires, is tradition.

I love a bit of tradition. Especially when it involves excess food, presents and a family member drinking too much and embarrassing themselves.

Having grown up going to International Schools, I got to take part in some of my classmates' traditions that I hadn’t experienced before. Which got me thinking… This deserves some air time.

Here’s a look at cultural traditions that made me go “ooooo”.

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India 🥥👶

India isn’t just home to my favourite cuisine, it’s also home to some pretty incredible traditions that have rocked my socks off. Is that a saying? It is now.

In Tamil Nadu, in the south of the country, it’s customary to smash a coconut on someone’s head. Why? For health, wealth and success of course!

Baby tossing is also a thing during the first week of December. The ritual consists of children under the age of 2 being shaken by a priest and dropped from a 15m height in either a shrine or a mosque. Practised by both Muslims and Hindus, in Maharashtra and Karnataka states, it was first introduced hundreds of years ago in a bid to cure children of poor health. Today, over 200 families a year still participate in the ritual.

Bosnia 🥚

Having been raised in the UK, whenever I think of Spring approaching, I think of Creme Eggs, Mini Eggs and bunny shaped Malteasers. I think of chocolate, lots of chocolate.

But if you grew up in Zenica, Bosnia, you’ll think of scrambled eggs. A.K.A “Čimburijada.” They introduce the season with a huge breakfast of scrambled eggs in a big pan near the river. But it isn’t all eggs, there’s picnics, swimming, BBQing. What a party.

Austria & Germany 🎅🏽👹😱

Austria (and Germany) are all about Christmas. We THRIVE when it comes to Christmas. We’re talking snow, we’re talking markets, we’re talking cookies that will have you shedding tears of joy. But with the good, comes the somewhat scary.

In the Germanic countries, on the 5th/ 6th of December we celebrate a day called St Nicholas Tag. It’s a lovely day where children put their shoes out when they go to sleep and St Nicholas comes around during the night and fills their shoes up with sweets. I once tried to hack this system and put out a ski boot, but, no dice.

That’s the good news, the bad news is, we also have this thing called the “Krampus.” Some of you may have seen the Krampus horror movie. For those of you who haven’t, the Krampus is the Germanic version of Santa’s Naughty and Nice list. But instead of a naughty list, we have a massive monster draped in animal skins with a terrifying face, a whip and bells tied to its ankles. Why? To carry naughty children back to the underworld with them in the darkness of course! Love my country ❤️.

Denmark 💔

If you’re turning 25 in the lovely country of Denmark, and you’re still single, expect to have cinnamon chucked at you by your family. This applies to both men and women, and the tradition calls for the recipient to be doused in water before the yummy spice is thrown at them. It’s all in good jest though.

Finland 🧖‍♀

The Fin’s are fun people, and this is, of course, reflected in their cultural traditions. Tradition number one that I loved: They dig a Sauna. So do we at Wise, in fact, we have one in our London office. Sounds dodgy, I promise it isn’t.

Like us at Wise, the Fin’s don’t see a Sauna as something you only do with family and friends, if you live there, expect to be invited to have a business meeting in one of these hot boxes. Saunas are such an integral part of their culture that they even have a Burger King in Helsinki with one. Because who hasn’t wanted to munch on a Whopper in excessive heat?

Tradition number two that I loved was “Wife Carrying.” Referred to as “Eukonkanto”, the sport dates back to 1992, and they even have a Wife Carrying World Championship where the best wife carrier wins beer, lots of beer.

Japan 😭 👺

The Japanese have some fabulous, and I mean FABULOUS, traditions. So I’m going to spit fire through them…

  1. The crying baby festival (Naki Sumo Misturi) where sumo wrestlers hold up a baby each and the referee puts a scary mask on to make the baby cry, the loudest baby wins. All in the name of good health!
  2. There’s a belly button festival complete with people dressed as belly buttons on the 28th and 29th of July in Furano, Hokkaido.
  3. There’s more crying babies on the 3rd February, during Setsbun (the day before the start of Spring.) The Japanese believe that on Setsbun, demons appear across the world, so parents pop on Oni masks and try to scare their kids.
  4. On January 30th, men gather in Tokyo to stand on a stage and scream declarations of love at their partners. I’d love this to be honest.

The UK 🔥

On the 5th November Bonfire Night is celebrated across the UK. There are fireworks, bonfires, sparklers, yummy food, oh and there’s the burning of a massive scarecrow male figure (not always, but this does happen.)

Who is this man you ask? It’s Guy Fawkes, who tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament many, many years ago and failed. So today, it’s used as a lovely excuse to get cosy with your friends and family over a hot dog and some mulled wine.

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