15 Weird Rituals and Superstitions from Around the World

You might agree that humans are the weirdest species on the planet. With so many traditions, rituals, and superstitions, we have a belief system that often creates an odd relationship between cause and effect.

We’ve found the weirdest rituals and superstitions in the world, from rolling cheese down a vertical hill in the UK to making a feast for monkeys and an annual hair-freezing contest in Finland.

Some of these rituals are a bit quaint. Others are jaw-dropping and on the far spectrum of bizarre but accepted as “normal” by the country’s inhabitants.

We chose 15 of what we think are the weirdest rituals and superstitions from around the world, and we hope you’ll agree they are indeed “out there” as the oddest.

1. Radish Carving in Mexico

Night of the Radishes Oaxaca, Mexico
Image Credit: Alejandro Linares Garcia, Own Work – CC BY-SA 4.0/Wiki Commons.

Radishes are a healthy addition to a salad, but Oaxaca, Mexico, has a 120-year tradition of carving them. Each year, Oaxaca hosts a massive festival during the holiday season. People carve statues and figures from radishes—even writing them seems weird.

The completed artistic radish creations are on display to the locals and visitors to the region.

2. The Mari Lwyd, Wales, UK

A Mari Lwyd
Image Credit: Jan Mehlich, Own Work – CC BY-SA 2.5/Wiki Commons.

Here’s an odd Welsh ritual for you. The Mari Lwyd is a Christmas custom that involves embellishing a horse’s skull, which is put on top of a broomstick. The person carrying this strange vision has a sheet draped over them, adding to the weirdness.

The “horse” knocks on local doors, which, when opened by the householder, inspires those gathered to burst into song and request admission to the house.

3. An Annual Feast for Monkeys, Thailand

Monkey Buffet Festival at Phra Prang Sam Yot
Image Credit: Peerapong Prasutr – CC BY-SA 4.0/Wiki Commons.

In Lopburi, Thailand, on the last Sunday of November, the inhabitants prepare an annual feast for the local monkeys. Set among the ruins of Phra Prang Sam Yot temple, the town prepares a visually delicious banquet with favorite monkey foods like watermelon.

The theory is that this annual ritual is supposed to bring luck to the region. It’s certainly lucky for the monkeys.

4. International Hair Freezing Contest, Yukon, Canada

Image Credit: Eclipse Nordic Hot Springs.

If the definition of madness is dunking your head into hot springs and waiting for your hair to freeze in -30 Celsius temperatures, then those attending the international hair-freezing contest in Yukon, Canada, check the box.

However, if you fancy winning a $2,000 prize, the Eclipse Nordic Hot Springs runs this annual competition. Categories include the best facial hair and the most creative.

5. Cheese Rolling in Gloucestershire, UK

The Cooper's Hill Cheese Rolling and Wake
Image Credit: Dave Farrance – CC BY-SA 3.0/Wiki Commons.

Gloucestershire, UK, is my home county, and the cheese rolling event is one that locals and visitors look forward to with glee. It’s a ritual to celebrate spring, a season of rebirth. The grassy hill is short but impossibly steep, and competitors must chase a rolling cheese down the hill.

Few competitors stay upright (it’s more like people rolling), and it’s pretty dangerous, but it becomes more popular each year.

6. Never Put a Baguette Upside Down On The Table, France

Image Credit: Nick Thweatt – CC BY-SA 3.0/Wiki Commons.

It’s unlucky to put a baguette upside down on a table, or so the French think. Though it may sound odd, the roots of this superstition date back to the days of the executioner. A baker would put a baguette upside down for the hungry executioner, and nobody would dare eat it.

If a baguette is upside down, you must make a cross on the flat side with a knife to dispel the bad luck.

7. Never Wish Anyone Birthday Luck Before The Day, Germany

Image Credit: Shutterstock.

Celebrating a birthday or wishing a person a happy birthday before the day is considered bad luck in Germany and several other countries. To avoid bad luck, save the birthday wishes until after midnight.

Some people take the superstition to extra lengths by not giving gifts until the day after someone’s birthday.

8. Tuesday the 13th is Unlucky, Spain

Colossal statue of Mars (Pyrrhus)
Image Credit: CC BY 3.0/Wiki Commons.

In many countries, Friday the 13th is considered unlucky, but in Spain, it’s Tuesday the 13th. The superstition arose from Greek and Roman culture. In Greek mythology, the Greek god of war, Ares, fell twice to enemies on a Tuesday.

In Roman culture, the belief is that the Roman god of war and protector of ancient civilization, Mars, rules Tuesday. Most Spanish and Greek-speaking countries have this superstition.

9. Be Careful Whose Feet You Sweep, Spain

Image Credit: Shutterstock.

It’s best to avoid anyone in Spain carrying a broom if you’re looking for love. This Spanish superstition means that if a broom touches a single person’s foot, they are doomed to live alone for the rest of their lives.

The origin of this odd superstition isn’t known, but it’s considered a curse. If your feet somehow get touched by a broom, the “only” way to break the curse is to spit on the broom immediately.

10. It’s Unlucky to Open an Umbrella Indoors — UK, USA & Canada

Image Credit: Shutterstock.

Don’t open an umbrella indoors if you visit a friend in the United Kingdom, U.S., or Canada because it is considered bad luck. Even if your umbrella is sopping wet, the hosts won’t encourage you to leave it open to dry off in the house.

The exact origins of the superstition aren’t known, but they likely date back to when houses were smaller and umbrellas were bigger. Having one open in a home could have damaged ornaments or hurt someone.

11. Putting Shoes On The Table — U.K., USA & Ireland

Image Credit: Shutterstock.

Don’t put your shoes on the table in the UK, U.S., or Ireland, not even if they are brand new out of the box. The theory is that this habit symbolizes an imminent death in the family.

The superstition may date back to a mining tradition. When a miner died in an accident, the family would put his shoes on a table.

12. Walking Under a Ladder — UK, U.S. & Canada

Image Credit: Shutterstock.

If you notice a ladder against a wall in the UK, U.S., or Canada, you’ll observe people stepping around it because walking underneath is considered unlucky.

This superstition may be one of the most rational because someone could be on the ladder and drop something on your head if you walked underneath it.

13. Lucky Rabbit’s Foot — UK, Europe & More

Victorian silver mounted rabbit's foot charm
Image Credit: CC BY-SA 3.0/Wiki Commons.

Not so lucky for the rabbit, but if you live in the UK, Ireland, Europe, North and South America, Africa, China, or Australia, a rabbit’s foot is considered a lucky charm. The belief likely stems from the interest in carrying an amulet for luck.

A rabbit’s foot is small and easily kept in a pocket or handbag.

14. Burning Sage — Many Countries

Image Credit: Shutterstock.

Sage is an herb whose smoke can supposedly ward off evil spirits when burned. People use it to “smudge” their homes, wafting the smoke into every room and typically adding a chant or sentence to ask evil spirits to leave.

White sage is particularly popular and is readily available to buy or grow in gardens worldwide.

15. An Itchy Nose Means Someone’s Talking About You —  Europe

Image Credit: Shutterstock.

There are multiple superstitions regarding having an itchy nose, but in Northern Europe and the UK, someone is talking about you behind your back and not saying nice things.

The theory behind this superstition is that the itchy nose occurs because of negative energy around you, such as jealousy or ill will, causing the nose to itch.

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