Strange Traditions And Customs, But Who Is To Say?

Traveling overseas, it might be a good idea to familiarize yourself with the customs and traditions of other cultures.

May 3, 2021

Let’s put aside for a moment all the politics and rhetoric. The world is filled with wonder, mystery, and yes, danger -  bustling big cities of glass and granite, skyscrapers that almost touch the clouds; the small towns and quaint villages; the Great Plains, and the fields of wheat and grain; the snow-capped mountains; the Grand Canyons and fertile valleys; the raging rivers and storm-tossed oceans; the ancient world and the Coliseum and Acropolis and the pyramids and the Sphinx - all there for us to revel, marvel, and take pleasure in. And within and surrounded by all of this grandeur, life in all its complexities goes on. 
Recently I received a phone call from an acquaintance that had been traveling overseas. Aside from the restrictions and inconveniences brought on by the Coronavirus, Miriam told me how much fun she had and about all the sightseeing and tourist attractions. She found the different and diverse people she had encountered to be quite colorful and interesting, and expressed particular interest in what she thought was their strange customs and traditions, several of which she described. After listening, when the conversation was over, I decided to look further into this and found some rather unusual things.
TIBET: There’s a small village at the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains. If one were to venture there and look from a distance you might wonder why the houses had no windows. According to the beliefs of the people of the village, this is to keep evil spirits from entering into their homes, and that stone instead of glass would create a much more difficult material for the inhabitants of the nether regions to gain entrance and do harm. It is believed that the residents of the few homes that do have windows are Christians who want to let the light shine in, like that of Christ.

AMERICA: Right here at home, the Amish people are a religious community located mainly in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana. They live simple lives without technology and the modern conveniences that most of us take for granted. In a coming-of-age tradition called “Rumspringa,” children, when they reach the age of 16, are allowed to step beyond the borders of the community to experience life in that of the outside world.

It is meant to afford the youth an opportunity to explore the tenets of their faith to determine if they want to return to the Amish church. In this endeavor, they can seek real-world experience and live on their own, or remain at home with their families. They can drive an automobile, try alcohol, attend wild parties, and seek further outside education. My suggestion to these youngsters would be to avoid the big cities, as there are undesirables just waiting to pounce on some innocent kid, and lead them astray.

BRAZIL: The Brazilian Amazon is home to the Satere Mawe People. This tribe has little, if any, contact with the outside world. Tradition says that at the age of 13 the boys in a coming-of-age initiation must prove their worth as members of the tribe. These youth must travel to the jungle, gather and harvest the dreaded and dangerous bullet ants whose sting is more painful than a bee's, and it is said even worse than a gunshot.

The ants are about an inch long, and are taken back to the village, where the elders intoxicate them with herbal mixtures, which places the ants in a catatonic state long enough for them to be woven into a special pair of gloves with stingers pointed inward. When they awake - yes I know what you’re thinking and you’d be right - the boys to show their courage and stamina must place their hands in the gloves for a period of minutes. During what must be a very painful period of time, the boys must perform a traditional ritual dance. This entire initiation must be performed several times.

SPAIN: In northern Spain is the town of Castrillo de Murcia, there is a tradition that has its roots in both Catholic and pagan rituals going back to the 17th century. This tradition is what is thought of as a cleansing, and is commonly known as “baby jumping.” Each year on the Sunday after the feast of Corpus Christi, a procession is held through the town. When the people reach the end of their walk, babies who were born the previous year are laid on a mat and the men of the town dressed up as devils jump over the babies, symbolizing the newborn escaping the clutches of the fiend. This is followed by leaders of the local Catholic Church cleansing the babies with holy water.   

SOUTH KOREA: How often in your daily activities do you find it necessary to use red ink? Should you find yourself in South Korea someday, be sure whatever writing instrument you may be using has blue, black, any other color than the dreaded red ink. Red ink in South Korea is only used when recording the name of the dead in family records. If you were to write the name of a person in red ink, it would mean you wish harm on that individual. It is considered rude and a sign of ill will. This tradition is prevalent throughout the country.

CHINA: All you husbands out there, if you think there are some rather frustrating and disappointing obligations you might have in your life, consider this. There is quite an unusual and painful tradition among some of the outlying tribes in China. Husbands carry their wives on their backs over burning coals; this is believed to help the wife in having a less painful pregnancy. It is also practiced to prevent natural disasters, and when a couple moves into a new home. I have to believe there are a good many bachelors in some of these tribes.

CHINA /INDIA/ JAPAN: When you travel to distant lands, engage with the people and learn their customs and traditions, and see the sights, visit the museums and tourist attractions, but there is one other aspect of your visit, and that is to sample the cuisine. If you happen to be in India or Japan you might want to be sure as you finish your meal to leave no food. This will indicate that you enjoyed the meal, which will earn you the gratitude of your host. But not so in China, not leaving food means you did not feel full and is considered unacceptable. What about doggie bags?

These are but a few of the strange and unusual traditions and customs of different peoples around the world. But keep in mind, what we may consider unusual and what may seem ridiculous, and even dangerous, are for other cultures part of their heritage and beliefs, so who are we to say?

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