The Sentinel

Worlds Most Dangerous Festivals

Feb 10, 2023
Christmas Fighting Festival, Peru
For the Takanakuy festival, which takes place on December 25, people settle their disputes and grievances by challenging each other to fistfights. These are held in makeshift rings with spectators looking on. Fighters and spectators attend the festival wearing costumes based on local folklore. To keep the proceedings from going out of control, the referees carry whips.
Rouketopolemos (Rocket War), Greece
Every year on Easter the Greek village of Vrontados engages in an unusual, dangerous custom. Two rival churches, Agios Markos and Panagia Erithiani, stage mock war, firing as many as 60,000 small rockets at each other’s bell towers. This takes place while services are being held in both churches. The light show in the night sky is spectacular, but some of the rockets inevitably veer off course, causing injuries, property damage, and occasionally death
Baby-Jumping, Spain
Since the 17th century, the village of Castrillo de Murcia has been holding a yearly ceremony in which infants are laid out on mattresses in the street. Actors dressed as devils then leap over them. The ritual supposedly dispels the children’s original sin.
Cheese-Rolling, England
An 8-pound wheel of Double Gloucester cheese is rolled down a 200-yard hillside in the country. A group of runners chases it, trying to catch it. The problem is that the hill is too steep for a human to stay upright, so most of the runners fall awkwardly after a few steps and then tumble the rest of the way down.
Fruit Battle, Italy
Italian town of Ivrea stages a citrus battle royale, reenacting a semilegendary medieval uprising in which the town overthrew a tyrant. A horse-drawn cart carrying oranges and players representing the tyrant’s evil henchmen is drawn into the square, where it is swarmed by hordes of noble orange-throwing townspeople. The players in the cart wear hockey-style protective gear.
Running of the Bulls, Spain
Early in the morning on each day of the festival, about 2,000 brave souls line up at the start of an 875-meter (half-mile) running course through the streets of the city center. The fun starts at 8:00 am, when the human runners sprint down the course immediately followed by six charging bulls. Injuries are rarer than you’d think, but tramplings and gorings—including fatal ones—do occur
Extreme Log Ride, Japan
Onbashira festival takes place in the Lake Suwa region of Nagano prefecture in Japan. The festivities begin in the mountains in April when 16 carefully chosen fir trees in the mountains are cut down using traditional logging tools. They are then dragged down to the temple without the use of mechanized equipment. The logs are usually about 20 meters long and weigh as much as 12 tonnes, so people have to work in large teams to hoist them up mountains and across rivers.