We’re on the lookout, constantly searching for anything that might justify potential debauchery. We want to party, but doing so without a reason is not respectable behaviour.
Legitimising our natural instincts to P-A-R-T-Y, governments around the world designate public holidays – open invitations to climb over statues and slur into shot glasses.
Partying without justification is frowned upon. A period of acceptability is provided for young people, and extended for students. But once middle age creeps in, you’re likely to be perceived as a sad and misguided fool if you don’t have a reason to down wine from the bottle on the streets.
Fortunately, help is at hand. Based on the flimsiest of excuses, public outpourings of drunkenness have become annual fixtures in social calendars. Here’s our guide to some of the world’s most random excuses to party.
La Tomatina, Spain
There are disputes about its origins. Some say kids threw tomatoes at policemen, others believe farmers wanted to maintain over-demand for their product, and romanticists believe a giant was banished from the village of Buñol after being peppered by rotting fruit.
Either way, tens of thousands congregate in a tiny village in eastern Spain to throw 40 tonnes of tomatoes at each other. Locals line the streets selling plastic jugs of sangria, cute houses become packed taverns, and by the time the action gets underway most people can hardly stand.
Where and when: Last Wednesday in August, Buñol village (near Valencia).
Classic travel story: “Like all parties I had expected a hangover. However, I hadn’t anticipated removing tomato pips from my tear ducts three days later.”
Yanshui ‘Beehive’ Fireworks Festival, Taiwan
Fireworks and light shows have always been a traditional part of celebrating the Chinese New Year. Determined to make the experience interactive, a small village in Taiwan decided to ignore everything we have ever been taught about the dangers of fireworks. A cage packed with bottle rockets is set off... into the crowd.
Yes, for a couple of hours, thousands converge on a wall of explosives deliberately aimed at their faces. Protective clothing is obviously essential, as is showing off your scars to prove you had a meeting with the “war god”.
Where and when: Yanshui town, Taiwan, on the 15th day of the Luna New Year.
Classic travel story: “It sounded like fun. But getting pelted with fireworks really isn’t fun... especially when you’re one of the unlucky 100 who end up in hospital.”
Four Days Marches, Netherlands
Walking 50 kilometres a day for four days in midsummer doesn’t sound like the most appropriate time to get drunk. But never underestimate the Dutch, in this annual show of nationalism. Walkers carry hip flasks, champagne bottles and wine glasses. They usually start the morning still drunk from the night before... there’s nothing like a swig of vodka to remove the pain of blisters. Villages welcome the brave with impromptu techno parties and streets are lined with spectators and their throbbing cool bags.
Participation is limited to 42,000 walkers, but millions dress in orange and descend on Nijmegen for the accompanying parties.
When and where: Mid July in Nijmegen (eastern Netherlands).
Classic travel story: “After many hours of drinking I was sat in a cafe at 4am, consuming the usual post-night-out snack. I was ready for bed, but my new Dutch friends simply changed from dancing shoes to walking shoes, waved farewell, and set off an another 50km trek. Never again will I claim I’m hardcore.”
Reed Dance Ceremony, Swaziland
Tens of thousands of topless women parading and dancing sounds like many a single man’s dreamt up party. In the tiny African nation of Swaziland, virgin girls and women travel from their villages to bring reeds to the Queen Mother and dance for the King.
Officially, the purpose of the ceremony is to celebrate the women’s chastity, although the royal village receives a new reed fence and the King gets to choose himself another wife. While traditional maize beer is consumed by the male spectators, the presence of the King ensures public displays of drunkenness do not interrupt the parading women.
Where and when: Ludzidzini Royal Village, annually in August or September.
Classic travel story: “I was trying not to, but it really was impossible to look anywhere else but the thousands of breasts on the field. One maiden was particularly striking, dancing with incredible abandon. A man tapped me on the shoulder. ‘You should be careful,’ he said. ‘That woman you are staring at is the King’s daughter’.”
Melon Day, Turkmenistan
Celebrating the country’s muskmelon, this is one of 24 public holidays in the ex-Soviet country of Turkmenistan. Others include Carpet Day, Good Neighbourliness Day, and a Drop of Water is a Grain of Gold Festival.
Supported by its secret police, the government practically orders that people must use the day to celebrate the specialness of the Turkmen melon. And the Turkmen only celebrate in one way: vodka. Litre after litre is consumed, each toast including a reference to the piece of fruit that brought them an excuse to party.
Where and when: Nationwide on the second Sunday in August.
Classic travel story: “It was before midday when my head began spinning. I knew it was rude to refuse a shot and we had been going since breakfast. Only when the women arrived did I learn that it would have been acceptable to take a small sip each time, and not down the 100ml glass.”