In Photos: Europe's Most Weirdly Wonderful Festivals

From masked knights on horseback to a treacherous cheese-rolling competition, these are some of the most bizarre and beautiful traditions in Europe.
weird festivals
In Photos: Europe’s Most Weirdly Wonderful Festivals Getty Images

If you want a quirky day out, there's no better place to look than small-town Europe. Provincial backwaters with little in the way of entertainment birthed of some of the world's oddest festivals and tradtions.

Many have pagan roots, designed to petition Mother Nature for plentiful crops and good health. During the Apple Howling ceremony in Bolney, England, locals drink cider and sing to the apple trees, in hopes they'll thrive in the coming year. Celebrants in Ivan Kupala Night in Belarus jump over bonfires to purify themselves. (Couples that don't leap over the flames together are said to be doomed to break up.) And during the Burial of the Sardine in Spain, mourners carry a coffin with an effigy of a sardine on it through the streets.

Below, we run down the best of the Europe's odd festivals and customs in calendar order.

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The year gets off to a colorful start at the La Vijanera carnival in Silio, in Spain's northern province of Cantabria, on the first Sunday of January. The origins of the festival are uncertain, but it is believed to come from pagan rituals of local tribes prior to the Romans, so it predates Christianity. The festival concludes with the killing of The Bear, representing the triumph of good over evil. AFP