Karen Belz
August 07, 2013 7:00 am

You guys are all familiar with the famous Running Of The Bulls in Spain, right? You should at least be familiar with the scene in City Slickers, where Billy Crystal realized too late that he’s not capable of participating in such a feat. Well, good news for all of you daredevils out there. The bull run is coming to the United States!

Yes – while the run is extremely dangerous (who would have thought unleashing bulls amongst humans would be a safe idea?) it’s exhilarating to some. And there’s also a sense of history behind it – Spanish tradition says the true origin of the run began in northeastern Spain during the early 14th century.

August 24th will be the first initial U.S. run, held in Virginia, but more events are already being planned for Georgia, California, Texas, Florida, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Illinois. So far, over 5,000 people have already signed up for the Virginia event, which requires participants to sign a waiver and recognize that while the U.S. run will be safer than the run in Spain, there’s still a chance of being trampled. The event planners assure that the bulls are healthy, won’t be provoked prior to the run, and won’t be killed once the day is over.

Spain isn’t the only country that has some cool traditions. Here are a few other traditions that should make a U.S. appearance.

1. Spain – La Tomatina. Okay, I’m starting the list with Spain, but hear me out. This tradition is actually loosely linked with the (U.S.) bull run, and I was going for a sense of continuity.

Next to Valencia, there is a town called Buñol which annually hosts La Tomatina on the last Wednesday of August. La Tomatina is, in short, the world’s largest tomato fight. It is unclear why the town’s inhabitants started this tradition of throwing mature tomatoes at each other fifty years ago, but today the event attracts thousands of visitors from all over the world. I imagine it’d make someone feel like a stereotype of the world’s worst stand-up comic.

All U.S. Bull Run participants will also be able to enjoy the ability to throw tomatoes at their friends and loved ones. In fact, that’s yet another perk you get for registering.

2. Germany – St. Thomas Day. December 21st is supposedly the shortest day of the year, and it’s dubbed “St. Thomas Day”. In certain parts of Germany, whoever wakes up late or arrives late to work on that day is issued the title “Thomas Donkey.”

Being the “Thomas Donkey” entails getting a cardboard cut-out of a donkey, and being the center of ridicule for the entire day. After this (light) abuse, the day is celebrated with iced currant buns called “Thomasplitzchen.”

In short, make sure you set about 15 alarm clocks on December 21st.

3. Sweden – Knut’s Day.  In Sweden, January 14th is the day appointed to discard the Christmas tree and devour all of its edible decorations. Young children, high on Christmas glory, are known to occasionally dress as “Old Knut” and play practical jokes and chant, as they fling the old tree into the snow.

Finland celebrates something similar, but with a small dash of horror. A male dresses up like Nuuttipukki, or “Krampus”, which is their scary version of Santa Claus, and wanders around the neighborhood demanding food and alcohol. While the tradition has since been softened, that did happen.

4. New Zealand – Mid Winter Swim. Know when a terrible time to go swimming is? The middle of winter. However, New Zealand makes the Mid Winter Swim sound pretty cool. Not only do participants dive in wearing silly costumes, but often times they raise money for charities while doing so. It’s a daring event that requires a lot of passion and teamwork.

And unlike the bull run, nobody dies.

5. Africa – Using Beads For Communication and (Sometimes) Currency. It is an African tradition for young girls to send a boy a beaded bracelet of different colors. The boy will court her for a while, and eventually ask her the meaning of the beads. And in Africa, beads can represent numerous things.

In South Africa, blue beads are thought to enhance fertility. Red beads are for ceremonies like tribal festivals, harvest dances, and funerals. Black implies age and wisdom, yellow means high rank, and gold indicates a long life.

Beads are also commonly given out to brides on their wedding day, made of materials such as bone, wood, amber and glass. In the past, they’ve been used as currency, in exchange for food and livestock.

In short, beads from Africa are absolutely breathtaking. Here’s a good website if you want to learn more, and possibly purchase some of your own handcrafted jewelry.

6. Bolivia – Colored Undies on New Years. Some of you might be familiar with the Bolivian tradition of leaving 3 stones outside the door on New Years for health, prosperity and love. But Bolivians also choose to wear yellow-colored undies that night to bring themselves a new year full of money. Red undies, on the other hand, supposedly brings love. While those are the most common colors, it doesn’t stop there – Green is for prosperity, Pink is for friendship, and White is for peace. Wearing any of these colors backwards indicates you’re hoping for a new wardrobe in the new year.

New Years is only a few months away. What will you be wearing?

Are there any other traditions you’d like to see adopted in the United States? Let’s talk about them in the comments section!

Image Credits: scoop.co.nz (Mid Winter Swim), backpackertours.co.uk (Tomatina), underwearhut.com (Yellow Undies), espn.go.com (Featured)

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