Wat Phu Festival - Wat Phu, Laos
Wat Phu, Champasak (creative commons/Adam Jones)
February 4 - 6
Festivals that involve dancing, sack racing, bamboo climbing, elephant racing, and cock fighting are usually undignified, but put it against the backdrop of a candle-lit temple that's a designated UNESCO World Heritage site and magically the festival becomes regal.
Hurling The Silver Ball - St. Ives, England
Hurling the Silver Ball (creative commons/ennor)
On Feast Monday, the mayor of St. Ives throws a silver ball into a large crowd, and for the next few hours, the ball is passed around like a game of hot potato. When the clock strikes noon, the person in possession of the silver ball is declared the winner and receives a reward of five shilling... or about 50 cents. For the amount of time and effort put in, that's a dismal hourly wage. You'd make more pining for nickels on the boardwalk.
Sapporo Snow Festival - Sapporo, Japan
Sapporo snow festival in Sapporo, northern island of Japan (REUTERS/Kim Kyung Hoon)
February 6 - 12
With all the winter festivals last month, you're probably snowed out. But just in case you aren't, there's one more major winter festival held in Sapporo, Japan (you know, the city that brews that beer you always drink in sushi bars). It offers all the usual stuff like ice sculptures, rides, and games, but what makes this festival so special is the annual Snowman Competition, which features over 10,000 snowmen.
Empire State Building Run-Up - New York City, New York
Empire State Building Run-Up (REUTERS/Mike Segar)
If you're still trying to burn off all those holiday meals, a race up 1,575 stairs to the 86th floor of the Empire State Building should do the trick in one fell swoop (or, at the very least, help you drop a few pounds by inducing vomiting).
World Shovel Race Championships - Angel Fire, New Mexico
World Shovel Race Championships (The Jetpacker)
February 10 - 12
It's terribly unsafe to ride a steel shovel down a snowy mountain, especially when it's capable of reaching speeds of 75mph. But that doesn't stop men, women and children from doing it every year at the World Shovel Race Championships. At least the shovels come in handy when you have to scrape a body off the mountain.
Hadaka Matsuri - Inazawa City, Japan
Hadaka Matsuri (creative commons/filmmakerinJapan)
Never has groping men in public been more acceptable than at Hadaka Matsuri. At this festival, over 10,000 men wearing nothing but loincloths and sandals crowd the streets in an effort to touch a fully shaved naked man (called shin-otokoa) who, according to legend, absorbs all the bad luck and evil deeds from the men who grope him. After that, the naked man is cast out of town so he can take all the evil away.
Argungu Fishing Festival - Argungu, Nigeria
Fishermen fish in the Matan Fada river during the Argungu fishing festival in Nigeria's Kebbi state (REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye)
This three-day festival was originally designed to build peace between the people of Argungu and nearby Sokoto. But it's become famous for a fishing competition in which 17,000 pairs of fishermen wade through the muddy Fada River to catch fish with their bare hands. The team that catches the largest fish wins a cash prize equal to $8,000 US and a minibus (and let's not forget about the fish dinner).
Biikebrennen - Sylt, Germany
Biikebrennen (creative commons/arne.list)
On the Fresian Islands in Germany's North Sea coast, small towns burn effigies to mark the end of winter. But the largest and most popular takes place in Sylt where spectators bask in the warmth of the fire before retreating to local restaurants to eat potatoes and sausage.
Berkeley Springs International Water Tasting - Berkeley Springs, West Virginia
(creative commons/Jess J)
This is the largest and longest running water tasting competition in the world, featuring over 100 sparking, bottled and municipal waters. Suddenly wine snobs don't look so pretentious anymore.
Pasola - Sumba, Indonesia
Pasola (the Jetpacker)
Sometime in February
February already has an unreasonable number of dangerous festivals, but this might be the worst. When a type of sea worm called nyale begins to appear off the coast, it heralds a deadly tournament in which teams of horsemen wielding spears attack each other in an effort to spill blood to appease the spirits and bring a good harvest. Occasionally combatants are killed despite the use of blunt spears.
Punakha Dromche - Punakha, Bhutan
Punakha Dromche (the Jetpacker)
February 27 - March 2
This annual festival held in the ancient capital city of Bhutan features musical performances, religious masked dances and a reenactment of the seventeenth century battle against a Tibetan invasion.