15 Festive International Holidays the U.S. Should Adopt

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istock

Americans have a pretty terrific slate of national holidays, but if we could just add these special days, festivals, and events from abroad, the calendar would be even more delightful.

1. Bolludagur (Iceland)

Two days before Lent, they celebrate Bolludagur, or "Buns Day," by eating cream puffs or “buns” of all sizes, shapes, and fillings. Kids get an especially sweet deal. According to tradition, they're supposed to wake up before their parents and gently beat them awake with a homemade Bun Wand. They earn one cream puff for every blow they land.

2. Feast for Monkeys (Thailand)

In the Hindu epic the Ramayana, the hero Rama gives Thailand's province of Lopburi to the monkey king Hanuman. On the last Sunday of each November, all of Hanuman’s real-life monkey descendants get the royal treatment. Townspeople set up a feast of more than four tons of fruits, vegetables, and even sodas for the local macaques to enjoy.

3. Hadaka Matsuri (Japan)

Men demonstrate their masculinity in many ways, but no ritual makes it as tough as Japan's Hadaka Matsuri. The men aren't completely naked, but most strip down to loincloths on a cold February night to test their manhood and battle for future happiness. The night gets off to a freezing start when men purify themselves in fountains or the Yoshi River. Then they try to catch sacred batons thrown into the crowd by priests. Meanwhile, somewhere very cozy, we’re guessing the ladies are probably a little relieved that there's no Naked Woman Festival.

4. La Tomatina (Spain)

You don't have to fight for the right to food fight in Buñol, Spain. On the last Wednesday of every August, thousands of people gather for La Tomatina. The events starts out tame at 10 a.m. with a game of palo jabón, in which competitors climb slippery greased poles to get to ham at the top. Once the meat drops, the one-hour food fight is on. A shot is fired, and trucks from Extremadura bring in some 150,000 overripe tomatoes.

Don't think this is a red-splattered free-for-all—La Tomatina comes with rules. For starters, tomatoes are squashed to avoid injuries, and goggles and gloves are advised. No other projectiles, fruit or otherwise, are allowed. Participants must keep their shirts on. And once the second shot goes off, the food fight is over.

5. Ystävänpäivä (Finland)

Finland’s answer to V-Day is actually Y-day, and it's about celebrating friendship, not romance. Men and women give cards, gifts, and candy to their platonic life partners. No one feels left out or expresses curmudgeonly anti Y-Day sentiment. At least, we hope not.

6. Laskiainen (Finland)

Laskiainen is another Finnish tradition we're ready to start. Seven weeks before Easter, Finns fuel themselves with pea soup and buns filled with jams and cream. It's all downhill from there: men, women, and children spend the rest of the day sledding. Since the 1930s, Palo, Minnesota has celebrated Laskiainen with authentic music, food, crafts, and high-speed snow racing. What trailblazers!

7. Chinchilla Melon Festival

Many towns celebrate local crops, but they take it to another level Down Under. Every two years, Chinchilla—the Melon Capital of Australia—plans a giant four-day shindig with lots of juicy fun. Activities include archery that replaces the dart with a melon, a fruity slip and slide, and even melon skiing. Yes, skiing downhill wearing watermelons on your feet.

8. Keirō no Hi (Japan)

Japan’s Keirō no Hi, or Respect for the Aged Day, on every third Monday of September is devoted to honoring older folks... even if they're not your own grandparents. Volunteers prepare and deliver free meals, children perform songs and dances at special ceremonies, and the media spends the day highlighting elderly people doing amazing things in their twilight years.

9. Up-Helly-Aa (Scotland)

This Scottish holiday at the end of each December starts with themed costumes and hundreds of people bearing torches. They march and then set fire to a replica of a Viking ship to depict the rebirth of the sun. It's a cross between Halloween, a good old-fashioned bonfire, and an action movie.

10. The Anastenaria (Greece and Bulgaria)

Revelers in Northern Greece and Southern Bulgaria get fired up twice a year for the Anastenaria. The dancing celebrations, dedicated to Orthodox Christian figures Saint Constantine and Saint Helena, last for three days and culminate in fire walking. But don't worry—dancers say they don't feel a thing, thanks to the protection of the saints.

11. International Camel Derby & Festival (Kenya)

Horse races, trail rides, and rodeos are great and all, but camels make for a more wild ride. Since 1990, Maralal, Kenya has been the site of the International Camel Derby & Festival. The event attracts riders from all over the world and is surprisingly open to novices. Even without prior camel riding experience, you can hire a camel and a handler for the 10-kilometer (6.2 mile) Amateur race. More seasoned camel riders are eligible for the 42-kilometer (26.2 mile) Pro Elite race without a handler.

12. Nyepi Day (Indonesia)

People worldwide are encouraged to reflect on their past, present, and future at the dawn of a new year. On Bali's annual Nyepi Day, quiet contemplation is actually enforced. People are supposed to spend the Lunar New Year at home in silence—avoiding the distractions of electricity, food, TV, and radio. Security guards patrol the streets, ready to bust anyone they catch outside. Sounds relaxing ... for a little while, anyway. After Nyepi Day, Balinese people turn the volume way up with cleansing rituals, demon exorcism, effigy burning, carnivals, and even the Omed-Omedan kissing festival for teenagers.

13. Holi (India and Nepal)

Each spring, revelers in India, Nepal, and elsewhere start the celebration of the Hindu Festival of Colors the night before by lighting bonfires in honor of a boy named Prahlada from Hindu legend and his triumph over his evil aunt Holika, who tried to burn him in a fire. The next morning is a beautifully messy free-for-all with colored powder, water balloons, and live music. Holi is a time to make new friends, make amends with former ones, and believe in the power of good.

14. Race the Train (Wales)

Who needs a running buddy when you can just follow a train carrying all your supporters? In the annual Race the Train event in Tywyn, Wales, participants run alongside the tracks of the Talyllyn Railway to and from the village of Abergynolwyn. (Incidentally, these names are even harder to pronounce after you've run a few miles.) Runners cross all kinds of terrain, from country lanes to rough pastures, as the train's passengers cheer them on. And if things don't go so well, it can't be that hard to hop aboard on the second leg of the trip.

15. Takanakuy (Peru)

The holiday season can be stressful. Each Christmas, people from the Peruvian province of Chumbivilcas take their aggressions out on each other in a series of minute-long public brawls. Takanakuy, which translates to "when the blood is boiling" in Quechua, is open to men, women, children, and the elderly to address civil or private matters. Interestingly enough, most fighters use martial arts-style moves, instead of a good old knuckle sandwich. Once their altercation is over, they shake hands or hug it out and consider the issue resolved.

6 Protective Mask Bundles You Can Get On Sale

pinkomelet/iStock via Getty Images Plus
pinkomelet/iStock via Getty Images Plus

Daily life has changed immeasurably since the onset of COVID-19, and one of the ways people have had to adjust is by wearing protective masks out in public places, including in parks and supermarkets. These are an essential part of fighting the spread of the virus, and there are plenty of options for you depending on what you need, whether your situation calls for disposable masks to run quick errands or the more long-lasting KN95 model if you're going to work. Check out some options you can pick up on sale right now.

1. Cotton Face Masks; $20 for 4

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This four-pack of washable cotton face masks comes in tie-dye, kids patterns, and even a series of mustache patterns, so you can do your part to mask germs without also covering your personality.

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2. CE- and FDA-Approved KN95 Mask; $50 for 10

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You’ve likely heard about the N95 face mask and its important role in keeping frontline workers safe. Now, you can get a similar model for yourself. The KN95 has a dual particle layer, which can protect you from 99 percent of particles in the air and those around you from 70 percent of the particles you exhale. Nose clips and ear straps provide security and comfort, giving you some much-needed peace of mind.

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3. Three-Ply Masks; $13 for 10

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These three-ply, non-medical, non-woven face masks provide a moisture-proof layer against your face with strong filtering to keep you and everyone around you safe. The middle layer filters non-oily particles in the air and the outer layer works to block visible objects, like droplets.

Buy it: $13 for 10 (50 percent off)

4. Disposable masks; $44 for 50

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Odash, Inc.

If the thought of reusing the same mask from one outing to the next makes you feel uneasy, there’s a disposable option that doesn’t compromise quality; in fact, it uses the same three-layered and non-woven protection as other masks to keep you safe from airborne particles. Each mask in this pack of 50 can be worn safely for up to 10 hours. Once you're done, safely dispose of it and start your next outing with a new one.

Buy it: $44 for 50 (41 percent off)

5. Polyester Masks; $22 for 5

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These masks are a blend of 95 percent polyester and 5 percent spandex, and they work to block particles from spreading in the air. And because they're easily compressed, they can travel with you in your bag or pocket, whether you're going to work or out to the store.

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6. Mask Protector Cases; $15 for 3

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Buy it: $15 for three (50 percent off)

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How the Doughnut Became a Symbol of Volunteerism During World War I

National WWI Museum and Memorial
National WWI Museum and Memorial

If you’ve ever eaten a free doughnut on the first Friday in June, you’ve celebrated the Doughnut Lassies—whether you realized it or not. National Doughnut Day was established to honor the Salvation Army volunteers who fried sugary snacks for World War I soldiers on the front lines. Some Doughnut Lassies were even willing to risk their lives to provide that momentary morale boost. One story from The War Romance Of The Salvation Army (written by Evangeline Booth, daughter of the Salvation Army’s founders) describes a volunteer serving doughnuts and cocoa to a troop under heavy fire. When she was told by the regiment colonel to turn back, she responded, “Colonel, we can die with the men, but we cannot leave them.”

Frying on the Front Lines

The decision to serve doughnuts on the battlefield was partly a practical one. When the U.S. entered World War I in 1917, the Salvation Army, a Christian charity organization, sent roughly 250 “salvationists” (who were mostly women) to France, where American troops were stationed. The plan was to bring treats and supplies as close to the front lines as possible. But the closer the volunteers got to the action, the fewer resources they could access.

“It was difficult creating the pies and cakes and other baked goods they thought they might be making,” Lora Vogt, curator of education at the National WWI Museum and Memorial in Kansas City, Missouri, tells Mental Floss. “Instead, they realized the doughnut was a very efficient use of both the time and the ingredient resources. And you could make thousands of doughnuts in a day to feed all the men serving.”


Ensign Margaret Sheldon and Adjutant Helen Purviance are credited with bringing doughnuts to the Western Front. They had a handful of ingredients at their disposal, including flour, sugar, lard, baking powder, and canned milk. Doughnuts were one of the few confections they could make without an oven, and once they had a fire hot enough to heat the oil, they could fry them up fast. The women had the pan to cook them in, but for other parts of the recipe, they had to get creative. In a pinch, grape juice bottles and shell casings became rolling pins; an empty baking powder can became a doughnut cutter; and a tube that had come loose from a coffeemaker punched the holes.

Sheldon and Purviance's pan could fit seven doughnuts at a time, and on day one, they made just 150 doughnuts for the outfit of 800 men. Those who were lucky enough to grab a morsel were smitten, with one exclaiming “Gee! If this is war, let it continue!” according to The War Romance Of The Salvation Army. The salvationists fine-tuned their operation, and were eventually making 5000 doughnuts a day. The snacks were so beloved, the volunteers earned the nickname Doughnut Lassies, while the soldiers they served were dubbed Doughboys.

The All-American Doughnut

The Doughnut Lassies’s impact didn’t end with World War I. Prior to the war, Americans hadn’t fully embraced the doughnut. Dutch immigrants enjoyed doughnuts in the country for decades, but they weren’t considered an integrated part of American cuisine. It was the U.S. soldiers’s experience with doughnuts overseas that popularized them back home. “You have millions who are serving on the front lines who then have a really lovely association with the doughnut who may not have had one before,” Vogt says.


World War I also contributed to doughnuts' popularity in a less direct way. The dessert appealed to U.S. bakers during wartime for the same reason the salvationists chose it: Recipes were adaptable and didn’t call for a ton of hard-to-source ingredients. “Crisco was putting out recipes for wartime doughnuts, and they suggested using Crisco as an alternative to lard because lard should be saved," Vogt says. "So you have this movement both on the front line and on the home front that let all Americans realize how delicious doughnuts could be.”

The Rise of National Doughnut Day

In 1938, the Salvation Army took advantage of its unofficial, sugary symbol and established National Doughnut Day to raise awareness of its charity work. Today, brands like Dunkin' and Krispy Kreme use the holiday as a marketing opportunity, but according to Vogt, the day is meant to be more about the Lassies’s service than the doughnuts they served. “National Doughnut Day is actually not about the doughnut. It is all about the Salvation Army volunteerism,” she says. “That concept of service and being able to share and build your community is part of what doughnut day is about.”

National Doughnut Day isn’t the only day dedicated to the treat in the U.S. A second National Doughnut Day falls on November 5, but the origins of that holiday aren’t as clear. If you want to enjoy some fried dough while commemorating a lesser-known part of World War I history, the first Friday in June—June 5, in 2020—is the day to remember.