If I were to recommend an occupation for those interested in useless facts, teaching English as a second language would surely be the one. ESL coursebooks are (obviously) focused on language and geared towards keeping a student’s attention, therefore it’s chock full of factoids that will in no way enhance one’s chances of getting a job.
Via ESL coursebooks, I have learned that the first microwave was as large as a refrigerator, that post-earthquake search and rescue teams use rats instead of dogs and that scientists are developing a wall climbing suit.
Parlay this consistent use of ESL coursebooks with a lifelong fascination with the weird, twisted, stupid and arcane and you have, well, you have the list below.
This list is made up of the five most interesting and unusual customs in the world that have never caught on in the rest of the world.
1. Fulani Sharo
This is a rite of manhood in Nigeria during which a young man is put into a ring and flogged with sticks to prove that he is ready for marriage. He may only marry if he passes the test and is deemed worthy by his male compatriots. The beating is so severe that in most cases it physically scars the flogged for life.
Being forced into a beating to prepare one for marriage is rife with metaphor. Whether you’re getting prepared for a lifelong flogging or it’s literally beating sense into someone. In a world where many men have to be dragged down an aisle drunk and/or tranquilized after dropping several thousand dollars on a party they don’t want to be invited to, the last thing needed to coerce them into marriage is a physical beating.
Seems like a no-brainer, the world would be full of bachelors.
2. Day of the Geese
The Day of the Geese, or Antzar Eguna, is a Spanish tradition in which a greased goose is suspended over water and young men jump from boats and attempt to rip off the head of the goose. This competition is intended to allow the young men to show off their strength and their eligibility to the young women. Also, winners keep the goose.
Like any man, I have always longed to strangle and decapitate a goose over a lake. Moreover, the fact that succeeding in this action gets you a date with a young Spanish woman makes this sport painfully interesting.
However, the mere mention of this tradition has already put my name on every animal rights group in the western hemisphere. I suppose most of the world’s men will have to stick to attracting eligible women by outdrinking the other males and remembering her birthday.
3. Bathroom Ban
The Tidong in northern Borneo have a rather uncomfortable wedding custom. For three days and three nights following the wedding, both bride and groom are prohibited from using the bathroom. That means no urinating, no defecating, and no bathing. The belief is that this leads to a long, happy, and fertile marriage.
It’s not hard to imagine why this hasn’t caught on. If you couldn’t use the bathroom on your wedding night where would you look in a mirror repeating the sentence, “What in the name of God have I just done?”
Besides, if you and the wife are kinky this could ruin your whole night.
Of all the Christmas traditions in the world, Catalonia, Spain has my vote for the best. They hide small statuettes of people pooping in their nativity scenes for friends and family to try to find. These figurines are called ‘caganers,’ which is Catalan for ‘shitter.’ This tradition has been around since the 17th century, and it is now common for famous people to be immortalized in the form of a caganer figurine.
The mind boggles at the possible reasoning for this tradition. Nevertheless, it is my new life ambition to be made into a caganer figurine.
I don’t know why this tradition hasn’t caught on worldwide. Personally, I am going to start the tradition in Prague this upcoming Christmas season and might even avoid getting beaten up in the process.
5. Easter pomlázka
This is a Czech Easter tradition in which young boys whip girls’ butts with braided whips made of branches. The boys are then offered chocolate or shots of homemade slivovice, depending on their age.
The whole day ends both very drunk and with a Conan the Barbarianesque glow of pillage and rampage. Having taken part in this tradition a few times, I can not exaggerate the level of excellence and awkwardness this custom elicits from a first time whipper. (My Easter pomlázka story will appear in this blog in about three weeks)
This list is absolutely incomplete, so feel free to add your favorite unusual world custom!