13 Traditions And Customs You Probably Didn't Know Existed In Other Countries

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Updated on Jun 17, 2020. Posted on Jun 17, 2020

Birthday rituals, taboo moves, and everything in between.

1. In Denmark, if you're unmarried on your 25th birthday, you might be doused in cinnamon.

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This aromatic tradition supposedly emerged hundreds of years ago. Back then, Danish spice merchants used to travel so much that they had no time to date and often remained single. This prank is all in good fun, but it only gets worse as you age — if you're single at 30, the spice of choice changes from cinnamon to black pepper!

2. In the Lopburi province of Thailand, residents prepare a massive buffet for local monkeys.

Three monkeys climbing a giant pyramid made of colorful fruits and vegetables

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Held every year, the Monkey Buffet Festival pays homage to macaques, local monkeys that are thought to bring good luck to the region. Hosts prepare nearly 2 tons of watermelon, lettuce, pineapple, and more — then let the monkeys run wild.

3. In Oaxaca, Mexico, a massive radish-carving festival brings unique flavor to the holiday season.

Three human figures (carved out of radishes) wearing sombreros and playing musical instruments

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At Noche de los Rábanos, or Night of the Radishes, locals carve radishes into intricate sculptures in a competition dating back more than 120 years. Radishes used for the festival aren't your traditional market radishes — this variety grows up to 2 or 3 feet long, making it the perfect medium for massive sculptures.

4. Every year, Czechs hold a witch-burning festival to ward off the evil of winter.

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Each year on April 30, citizens across the Czech Republic gather for Čarodějnice, a festival where burning "winter witches" — dummies built from sticks, straw, and other materials — is the main event. The warmth from the fire is said to get rid of the last of the cold, forcing evil witches to go away until next winter. But it's not all dark — for dinner, sausages are roasted over the fire, and there are plenty of drinks and dancing.

5. In South Korea, it's considered taboo to use red ink to write someone's name.

woman holding a red pen

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Back in the day, red ink was supposedly used to write death sentences and the names of people who had been arrested. It's since become linked with death and misfortune in South Korean culture. Today it's more of a superstition, but many people still consider it rude to write a name in red.

6. In the United States, a groundhog predicts the length of the winter season.

old man holding up a groundhog while men in top hats cheer in the background

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On Feb. 2 each year, a groundhog dubbed Punxsutawney Phil (named for his hometown of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania) emerges from hibernation. Legend says that if Phil sees his shadow, Americans will have six more weeks of winter. If not, spring is just around the corner.

7. In certain countries, children toss their lost teeth on the roof.

a child holding their missing tooth

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Instead of waiting for a visit from the tooth fairy, children in countries throw their lost teeth on the roof for good luck. Afterward, they wish for their permanent teeth to grow in straight and healthy. This tradition is practiced in several countries, including Greece, Taiwan, Korea, India and more.

8. In New Zealand, the Māori haka is a traditional dance performed as a sign of strength, unity, and pride.

Two members of the New Zealand All Blacks rugby team pulling intimidating faces while doing the haka

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Historically an ancient war dance, haka these days is sometimes performed at Māori weddings, funerals, and other important events. The dance itself features sharp movements, stamping feet, and rhythmic chanting. If you've ever tuned into an international rugby match, you might have seen the All Blacks haka performed by New Zealand's pro team.

9. In the United Kingdom, it's an old tradition to greet magpies.

10. In Mexico, it's tradition to take a bite straight from your birthday cake — then get your face smashed into it.

11. In Buñol, Spain, overripe tomatoes are used for a giant food fight each year.

Woman in a crowd absolutely covered in tomatoes (and their juices) at a tomato festival in Spain

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Every August, tens of thousands of people fill the streets of Buñol for Tomatina, the town's tomato fight festival. Trucks of overripe tomatoes are delivered throughout the town, and for one hour, mass tomato chaos ensues. The tradition dates back to the 1940s, when some locals say townspeople threw the fruit at their city representatives, while others say it began as just a friendly food fight between friends. (Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, the 2020 event has been canceled.)

12. In Australia, it's common to sit in the front seat of a taxi.

the roof of a taxi driving in Sydney, Australia

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Unless you're traveling with friends, some Australians say it's rude to sit in the back seat of a cab as it implies the driver is "below" you. Thus, it has become commonplace for solo riders often sit up front (though as ride-sharing becomes more common, so does sitting in the back seat!).

13. In one Scotland town, New Year's is celebrated with (literal) balls of fire.

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As a part of Hogmanay (the Scottish word for the last day of the year) celebrations, locals in Stonehaven, Scotland, gather to watch men and women swing blazing fireballs around in a beloved traditional parade. The ceremony dates back to the age of the Vikings.

What little-known customs or traditions does your country take part in? Let us know in the comments!

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