Europe's wackiest festivals

AIMEE GULLIVER
Last updated 11:26 29/10/2013

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Some of these European festivals require a trip off the beaten track, but if you are willing to celebrate with the locals, why not throw oranges at an Italian, have a wine fight with a Spaniard or take part in one of the "racier" options... just don't drop your wife!

Baby Jumping Festival, El Colacho, Spain

Considered one of the riskiest in the world, this annual festival dates back to 1621 and features a man dressed as the devil, called El Colacho, taking away the evil from the babies as he jumps over them.

Parents put their babies on a mattress in the village square, and a man dressed in yellow takes a running jump over the children, while a man dressed in black marches around beating a drum.

The medieval religious custom is believed to put the babies on a path to a good life, and drives sin from the town in the process.

Castrillo de Murcia has a population of only 500 but is well-known in Spain thanks to the festival.

In the history of the festival, there have been no reports of injuries among the babies, but more than a few tears shed.

If you thought meeting Santa at the mall was terrifying, try having a man dressed as the devil jump over you.

Wife Carrying World Championships, Sonkajärvi, Finland

The name says it all for the Wife Carrying World Championships, but there are some rules.

If a contestant drops his wife, he will be penalised 15 seconds a drop - and probably receive a good ear-lashing for his troubles, too.

The "wife" (some guys use a ring-in for the contest) must be over 17 years old and weigh more than 49 kilograms.

The lucky lady has a choice of technique in how she is carried - traditional piggyback, the sack-of-potatoes option, the fireman's lift or the increasingly popular Estonian style, where the wife hangs upside down against the man's back, her legs wrapped around his shoulders, arms clasped around his waist.

The annual contest in Finland has been held since 1992 and draws more than 40 couples each year and nearly 8000 spectators.

The couple who make it through the course, which is punctuated with sand, hurdles, water obstacles and gravel pits, the fastest win the wife's weight in beer.

The record for the event is 56.9 seconds.

Ivrea Battle of the Oranges, Italy

The Battle of the Oranges is a cross between a food fight and urban warfare.

The two sides in the battle mirror the revolutionary attitudes that were circulating at the time the festival came about.

Orange-throwers on horse-drawn open wagons are heavily protected but vastly outnumbered by the people on the ground, representing the revolting masses.

Observers during the three-day festival award prizes for bravery and accuracy.

Witches Downhill Race, Switzerland

Hundreds of "witches" take to the slopes in Switzerland's Belalp Hexe 12-kilometre mountain-skiing race in January each year.

Wart-covered prosthetic noses, black pointy hats and broomsticks are all part of the tradition that draws its inspiration from a legend of a witch who apparently tortured villagers was burnt at the stake, and the townfolk of Belalp celebrated by putting their skis on.

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Amsterdam Stiletto Run, the Netherlands

Running in heels takes on a whole new meaning at the annual 350-metre Amsterdam Stiletto Run.

The 150 competitors have to qualify at one of the preliminaries held in cities throughout the Netherlands and Belgium, so it is a serious business, although there have been no serious injuries reported in the race so far.

Each participant must wear shoes with a minimum heel height of 9 centimetres for the dash down the city's P C Hooft fashion street.

Wine Battle, La Rioja, Spain

Europe is a haven for wine-lovers, but this festival in Haro, in the heart of La Rioja in Spain, puts a new spin on wine appreciation.

Every year on June 29, hundreds of Spaniards celebrate La Batalla Del Vino by having a water fight, but with wine.

After celebrating early-morning mass for their city's patron saint, most dress in white from head to toe and descend on the main plaza while bands play traditional music.

Wine carried in bottles, bota bags, boxes, squirt guns and even sprayers with backpacks is used to soak other revellers.

Alternatively, you could just run around the plaza with your mouth open and enjoy the Spanish wine, although we make no guarantees for what state you will be in by the end of the festival.

What's the wackiest festival you've been to? Leave a comment below.

- Stuff

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