Extreme Traditions

Get ready to turn tradition upside-down with these eccentric rituals.
By: Jennifer Plum Auvil

Get ready to turn tradition upside-down with these eccentric rituals. We've unearthed kooky customs like sexy Santas and nearly naked runners as well as the biggest pillow fight around.

Testicle Festival
Clinton, Montana
It takes balls to partake in this unusual food festival in the cattle town of Clinton, MT. The annual Testicle Festival, lovingly referred to as Testy Fest, features 5 days of balls, booze and a bull-testicle-eating contest. The festival first rolled into town in 1982 when ranchers would gather to brand and castrate their cattle. Locals turned it into a party and today more than 2,800 pounds of Rocky Mountain Oysters (a more palatable name for bulls' testicles) are marinated and grilled or deep-fried and washed down with lots, and we mean lots, of beer. Don't knock these tasty testes until you try them.

International Pillow Fight Day
New York, New York
Pillow fights are coming out of the bedroom and into the public eye for 1 day each year on the first Saturday of April. Pillow fights erupt in cities all over the world, but it's no surprise that one of the biggest blowouts is in New York. This social event isn't all fluff -- friends and strangers pummel each other in a goose down throw-down. There are some rules - soft pillows only, no glasses and no cheap swings at people who dont have pillows. Some take it to the next level and dress in kooky costumes, like a giant bumblebee, to fight the good fight with the fluffiest pillow available.

Santa Con
San Francisco, California
Santa Con puts a new spin on the jolly holiday hero as this Christmas-themed pub crawl jingles its way through Haight Ashbury and around San Francisco's Castro district. A small group of San Francisco-based artists held the inaugural crawl in 1994, and today more than 48 cities in 18 countries host their own parties. Revelers must dress as the man in red, but the costume is open to interpretation and yes, a pimp Santa might be seen sidling up to a sexy Santa at the bar. Santa keeps things high-tech and sends out tweets to let everyone know the next gathering point -- a park, pub or not very PG-rated strip club. It's hard to say if these Santas are naughty or nice, but they sure are full of holiday cheer.

Gilroy Garlic Festival
Gilroy, California
Gilroy, CA, grows nearly 1/4 of the garlic consumed in the United States each year, and any good garlic-lover would agree that's something to celebrate. For the past 3 decades, over 100,000 people descend on Gilroy in July for this pungent festival. There's no shortage of garlicky food including standards like garlic fries and garlic-doused bread, but true garlic aficionados push the limits with dishes like garlic ice cream and garlic cookies in the great garlic cook-off. Pass the breath mints, and celebrate these sweet, and sometimes stinky, bulbs.

Polar Bear Plunge
Coney Island, New York
On New Year's Day, most of the country is cozy in bed and many are sleeping off hangovers. Not so for the daring bunch who gathers every year at Coney Island for a dip in the Atlantic to battle water temperature hovering around 33 degrees. It was originally founded on the belief that cold water does the body good by strengthening the immune system. Whether or not that's true, people have been taking the icy plunge since 1903, creating a tradition that is older than the other Coney Island great -- the iconic Cyclone roller coaster.

Devil's Jump
Castrillo De Murica, Spain
Northern Spain is the sight of the daring and downright frightening El Salto Del Colacho, or the Devil's Jump. Dating back to the 16th century, this tradition has strong religious roots in a classic battle of good and evil. The public gathers to watch the story unfold as the devil, or el colacho, strolls into town, snapping a whip and looking for trouble. The Brotherhood -- a group of holy men and church leaders -- bands together to chase the diabolical one out of town. But the devil can't retreat until he encounters the town's youngest residents. Local mothers place their babies on mattresses on the town's streets and wait for the devil to leap over the little ones on his mad dash out of town. When the devil makes his leap, it's said that his action protects the children from evil. This, coupled with a special blessing from the priest, makes this adventure worthwhile.

Icebox Days Festival
International Falls, Minnesota
Who needs the sun when you can enjoy the fun and games of Icebox Days in the coldest spot in the continental United States? International Falls has been home to this below-freezing fest for 29 years, and the excitement shows no sign of melting soon. There are 4 days of icy events including frozen turkey bowling and smooshing, a wacky winter sport that's like 4 people sharing 1 extra-large pair of skis. Serious (or seriously crazy) runners lace up their sneakers for a 5K or 10K during the Freeze Your Gizzard Blizzard Run.

Undie Run
Austin, Texas
They say it's an homage to a rite of passage to adulthood that dates back 3,000 years to original Olympic athletes, but we think it's an excuse to hit the streets in skivvies. Students in the college town of Austin, TX, strip down and shimmy through the streets in skimpy underwear during the annual undie run. The undie run may have just started in 2008, but these scantily clad joggers are creating a new tradition that attracted over 1,000 participants in 2009. But don't write this panty parade off as downright pervy; the proceeds go to a good cause. There's no race admission fee, but participants donate the clothes off of their backs to local charities.

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