10 Quirkiest Lakeside Traditions from Around the World | LakeWizard

Key Takeaways

  • Lakes around the world are hotspots for some of the most unique traditions.
  • They range from playful food fights to ceremonial tributes to the dead.
  • These traditions provide an insightful peek into the cultural fabric of each region.

Ever stumbled upon a lakeside town with traditions that seem straight out of a storybook?

From tossing oranges in Italy to carving giant radishes in Mexico during the holiday season, the quirkiest customs are often found by the water's edge.

But why stick to the mundane when you could explore the outlandish?

Lake shores worldwide are not just about serene views; they're hubs of bizarre and vibrant traditions.

Imagine yourself in the midst of tomato hurling fests or cheering dragon boat racers!

You can trust us to sail you through tales of the weirdest lakeside rituals.

We've dipped our toes in global waters to bring you snapshots of unusual local customs that turn ordinary lakes into stages of cultural oddities.

These are the kind of stories that make travel books, and we're here to deliver them to your doorstep.

Table of contents


La Tomatina, Buñol, Spain

Ever fancied being part of the world's biggest food fight?

Well, pack your goggles and head to Buñol, Spain, for the wildly entertaining La Tomatina festival!

Just picture this: tens of thousands of people, a truckload of overripe tomatoes, and a small town ready to get painted red.

When Is This Tomatina Shenanigans?

It all goes down on the last Wednesday of August every year.

In 2024, grab your tomato-tossing arm on August 28th!

So, What's the Fuss?

This epic party began in 1945, all thanks to a spontaneous food fight among friends.

Now, it's a full-blown festival with approximately 20,000 participants ready to unleash their inner child.

Remember, it’s all in good fun!

  1. Location Highlights:
  1. Town: Buñol
  2. Province: Valencia
  3. Distance to Valencia: 40km (25 miles)

What Can You Expect at La Tomatina?

  1. Battle Stats:
  1. Participants: ~20,000 yearly
  2. Tomatoes: Thousands, sourced specifically for the event!
  3. Duration: One hour of pure, unadulterated tomato tossing

Don't worry; the town of Buñol is more than just tomatoes.

Before or after the event, explore its charming streets, historic sights, and yes, the nearby beautiful lakes and rivers if you need to rinse off!

So, are you ready to let loose and experience Spain's quirky side?

La Tomatina is not just a festival; it's a badge of honor for every fun-loving traveler’s bucket list.

Get set to say, "Tomato target acquired!"

Songkran Festival, Thailand

Have you ever drenched a stranger with water and received only laughter in return?

Welcome to Songkran, Thailand’s most energetic festival, where getting wet means good luck!

During mid-April, Thailand buzzes with excitement as the nation celebrates its New Year with a splashing water festival.

Imagine the entire country engaging in the world’s biggest water fight.

Exciting, isn't it?

The festival isn't just about water.

It's steeped in tradition, aimed at washing away bad luck and starting anew with a big, joyful splash.

Here's what you can expect:

  • Joyful Water Fights: Armed with water guns, buckets, and hoses, people roam the streets ready for playful warfare.
  • Cultural Rituals: Locals visit temples, offer food to monks, and gently pour water over Buddha statues.
  • Delicious Feasts: Savor mouth-watering Thai dishes as the festive air fills with scents of lemongrass and basil.

While the festival surrounds a variety of water sources, lakeside festivities are particularly enchanting.

Picture yourself by a serene lake, partaking in rituals that blend a sense of community with pure fun.

Did you know?

Songkran translates to "pass" or "move into", marking the beginning of a new solar year.

Make sure to enjoy both the modern and traditional experiences.

Have a go at water splashing on Khaosan Road, then wind down with a tranquil stroll beside a lake, reflecting on the past year and the new one ahead.

Remember, Songkran is all about renewal.

Embrace the camaraderie, relish the feasts, and let the water wash away the old, ushering in your fresh start.

Ready to get soaked?

Living with the Dead, Sulawesi, Indonesia

Ever wondered about lakeside rituals that might seem a bit, let's say, unconventional to you?

Well, have you heard of the Toraja people and their heartwarming yet bittersweet tradition?

In the lush highlands of Sulawesi, Indonesia, families form a unique bond with the departed.

But how, you ask?

By keeping the mummified bodies of their loved ones at home, not for days, but for years!

Why do they do this?

It's simple, yet profound: The Torajans believe that death is a gradual process, a journey rather than an abrupt end.

Lovingly, they care for their relatives’ preserved bodies as if they are sick and not yet passed away.

This deep-rooted tradition reflects their dedication to family and the community, transcending the physical world.

With the sacred lakes and rivers as a backdrop, the final farewell is anything but ordinary.

The Toraja perform intricate rituals, complete with feasts and processions, beside the water before the burial.

These picturesque sites are more than just pretty places—they're spaces filled with cultural significance, making the heart of Toraja a place unlike any other.

Okay, so what's the deal with the water?

Lakes and rivers aren't just geographical features here; they are the spiritual pathways that guide spirits to the afterlife.

So if you're ever cruising by Sulawesi’s scenic watersides, remember, you're near a place of reverence and love where the boundary between life and death is as delicate as the morning mist over the water.

Curious about numbers?

It’s not uncommon for these preparations and mourning periods to extend for several months to years, as families gather resources for the ceremonies.

Each ritual is a vibrant testament to the union of tradition, nature, and the everlasting bond of kinship.

Next time you're lakeside, chuckle as you think of the Torajans—might make you see your fishing trips in a whole new light, huh?

The Blessing of the Waters, Greece

Have you ever heard of swimmers braving chilly waters in winter, racing to retrieve a cross?

Well, welcome to the Greek tradition of the Blessing of the Waters!

Every January 6th, during the celebration of Epiphany, Greece lights up with this vibrant ritual.

Here's what happens: A priest casts a holy cross into the sea, and eager young men dive in right after it.

It's more than just a swim; it's a representation of Jesus Christ's baptism.

The lucky person who emerges with the cross is believed to be blessed with good fortune for the year.

  • Time of year: January 6th
  • Significance: Commemorates the baptism of Christ
  • Main event: Retrieving a cross from the water

Imagine the scene: crystalline waters, people lined up along the shores, and a buzz of excitement in the air.

It's chilly, sure, but the enthusiasm is enough to make you forget the cold.

The Blessing of the Waters isn't just confined to Greece.

Oh no, this quirky lakeside tradition has found its way to Greek communities all over the globe!

So, if you find yourself in Greece during Epiphany, don't miss out on this unique tradition.

Who knows, maybe you'll even get a splash of good luck watching the daring swimmers in action!

The Floating Lantern Festival, Thailand

Ever wondered what it feels like to see a river turn into a twinkling starry sky?

Well, at Thailand's Floating Lantern Festival, you get to see just that!

Loy Krathong is one of Thailand's most picturesque and enchanting traditions.

It's like a reunion of little constellations on water, where the main stars are the beautifully crafted lanterns.

Imagine standing by the waterside, holding a small boat made of banana leaves.

You've just adorned it with brilliant flowers and a flickering candle.

As you let go, releasing it into the calm river, you're actually taking part in a centuries-old ritual meant to pay respect to the Water Goddess.

Isn't that something?

  • What to Expect? A vibrant gathering along rivers and lakes, with thousands participating.

Intrigued by how these "boats" morph into floating lanterns?

It's all in the craftsmanship.

Locals shape these vessels with care, adding incense sticks and a candle to each, setting the scene for a night you're bound to remember.

It's a time for introspection too; you're symbolically casting away your grudges and mistakes as the candlelit lantern floats away.

  1. The Ritual Significance:
  1. Honor the Water Goddess
  2. Drift away sins and misfortune

This spectacle is not only a visual treat but a heartwarming communal event.

As you watch your lantern drift away, joining the luminous flotilla, you share a silent wish with strangers – a hope for luck and purification.

So, why not plan your trip to coincide with this festival?

You won't just witness it; you'll be an indispensable part of this fabulous lakeside tradition.

The Ice Swimming Festival, Finland

Ever wondered how Finns stay so cheerful during those long, dark winters?

One word for you: talviuinti, or ice swimming.

It's not just a quick dip in the water; this is a cherished tradition that will invigorate your body and mind!

Imagine carving out a pool in the thick ice, the chill in the air biting at your cheeks.

Got that picture?


Now picture yourself taking the biggest leap of faith into the freezing embrace of a Finnish lake.

Yes, you're literally swimming in icy water!

But here's the kicker—a steamy sauna session follows where you can thaw and relax.

Sounds like a perfect combo, right?

Why give it a go?

  • Bracing but Beneficial: The Finns swear by ice swimming's health perks, claiming it boosts both mental and physical wellbeing. And who would argue with the happiest people on Earth?
  • Sauna Magic: After the swim, you get to unwind in a sauna. It's like a warm hug after the bold chill of the lake.

Best time to join in?

Winter, of course!

Specifically, temperatures below 0°C create the ideal icy conditions for a refreshing plunge.

So, where can you experience this?

Every city in Finland boasts popular ice swimming spots, making it an accessible adventure wherever you're based.

Give it a whirl, and who knows, it may just become your coolest winter tradition!

Just remember: it's about embracing the cold, literally.

Ready to chill out, Finnish style?

The Dragon Boat Festival, China

Ever dressed up a boat like a dragon and raced it?

Well, if you find yourself in China during the Dragon Boat Festival, that's precisely what you might witness!

Let's imagine you’re lakeside as the fifth day of the fifth lunar month comes around; the air is electric with excitement and tradition.

What's it all about?

Dragon boats—think long canoes with dragon heads and tails—are the stars of the show.

Picture this: you're in the midst of an energetic crowd, the rhythmic beat of drums pulsating through the air, as teams vigorously paddle these ornately decorated boats in sync.

It's a feast for the senses!

Here's what goes down:

  • Date: Falls on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month.
  • Activity Highlight: Dragon Boat Racing—a tradition over 2,000 years old.
  • Locations: Races occur on various lakes and rivers across Southern China.

Each team races to the finish, propelled by their own heartbeat thumping in time with the drums.

Crowds cheer, adding to the festival's vibrant atmosphere.

Apart from the racing, you might see participants wearing five-color string bracelets for good luck—each color a nod to ancient Chinese beliefs.

Got kids?

They'll be fascinated by the legend of Qu Yuan—the patriot poet whose story adds historical significance to the festival's revelry.

So, what's stopping you?

Dive into the color and drama of the Dragon Boat Festival, where tradition and competition paddle side by side, leaving you with memories as vivid as those five colored strings!

The Walpurgis Night, Germany

Ever danced around a bonfire to shake off the winter chills?

If not, Walpurgis Night in Germany is your kind of gig, happening lakeside on the cusp of April and May.

Traditionally celebrated on April 30, this quirky festival has its roots deep in pagan customs.

It's all about warding off those pesky evil spirits!

Are you imagining folks dressed like witches?

Because that's exactly what goes on.

Gather 'round the bonfire as the air fills with the sounds of folk songs and hearty laughter.

And yes, this is a legit way to welcome spring—with a touch of the mystical.

Did you know that the German term for this night is "Walpurgisnacht"?

Now, don't stress about pronouncing that; just feel the magic in the air as costumes and pranks abound, all in good fun to keep the bad vibes at bay.

If you're curious, this night is named after Saint Walpurga, an abbess whose feast day follows on May 1st.

On Walpurgis Night, her protective powers are invoked against darkness.

Here's the action plan for a classic Walpurgisnacht:

  • Dress up in costumes, the wackier, the better.
  • Play pranks on friends—nothing like a harmless joke to get the party started.
  • Create loud noises; apparently, evil spirits aren't fans of a good racket.

So why not join in?

Whether it's grooving beside the flickering flames or belting out a tuneful spring song, this lakeside tradition is worth diving into.

See you by the fire!

The Up-Helly-Aa Festival, Scotland

Ever heard of a place where Vikings torch a boat every year?

Well, it's not a Hollywood set—it's Shetland, Scotland's fiery tribute to its Norse roots.

Welcome to Up-Helly-Aa, a spectacle of flames and festivity like no other.

You'll find Shetland north of mainland Scotland, where January sees a blaze of celebrations.

The name "Up-Helly-Aa" might sound quirky, but it's steeped in history. "Up" signals the end of the Yule season, and "Helly-Aa" translates to a holy day or festival.


Here's what you need to know:

  • When: Held annually from January to March.
  • What: A fire festival, culminating in a torchlit procession.
  • Why: It marks the end of the Yule season, honoring Shetland's Norse heritage.

Imagine over 1,000 participants, clad in Viking gear, marching through the chill, their torches lighting up the night sky.

The grand finale?

A full-size Viking longship, lovingly crafted, is set ablaze and sent into the waters, embodying the spirit of those seafaring warriors of old.

Don't think it's all about watching, though.

Join in as squads of costumed guizers sing and perform, the community united in a shared, breathtaking experience.

Each year, one guizer is elected the 'Guizer Jarl', the leader of the pack, and what a sight that is!

So, pack your warmest cloak, grab a torch, and dive into history with Shetland's unique lakeside tradition that'll kindle your inner Viking.

Who knows, you might just leave wanting your very own longship.

The Polar Bear Plunge, USA/Canada

Ever heard of folks jumping into freezing water—for fun and charity?

You betcha, it's called the Polar Bear Plunge!

So, what's the scoop on this frosty dip?

Every New Year's Day, brave souls across the USA and Canada strip down to bathing suits and costumes to make a splash in icy lakes and rivers.


To snag some good luck and perhaps a healthy start to the year!

Not just a test of endurance, this shivery tradition is also a heartwarming effort to help those in need, raising money for various charities.

Notable numbers, you ask?

Well, the Canadian Polar Bear Swim notably hit a record with 6,000 registered swimmers in 2020.

Impressive, right?

And it's not just for seasoned swimmers—first-timers and spectators are always welcomed with open arms and hot cocoa.

Thinking about taking the plunge?

Here's a quick dive into what to expect:

  • A fresh, maybe shocking, start to the New Year.
  • An opportunity to do some good by raising funds for charity.
  • Loads of laughs and memorable moments with friends and strangers alike.
  • That electrifying feeling of "I can't believe I just did that!"

Remember, a hot shower and warm clothes are your best friends afterward.

So, are you ready to dive into 2024 with a splash and a shiver?

Get your towels ready!