WTF Fun Fact 13241 – Peru’s Christmas Fighting Festival

The festival called Takanakuy is a Christmas tradition in the Peruvian Andes, specifically in the region of Cusco. The Christmas fighting festival takes place on December 25th and is known for its tradition of resolving conflicts through physical combat. The festival is a blend of both pre-Columbian and Spanish cultural influences.

What’s the story behind Peru’s Christmas fighting festival?

The festival known as Takanakuy is an indigenous custom of the Quechua people, and it has been practiced for centuries. In Quechua, Takanakuy means “to hit each other.” And that is precisely what happens during the festival.

However, the fighting is not violent or aggressive, and the purpose is not to harm or injure anyone. Instead, the fighting is more of a symbolic gesture that aims to release any tension or pent-up emotions that may have built up over the year.

Takanakuy is a way to start the new year with a clean slate, free of any grudges or resentments.

How does the Takanakuy festival work?

The festival starts with a parade, in which participants dress up in colorful costumes and march through the streets playing traditional music and dancing. The participants are divided into different groups, each representing a different neighborhood or community. The groups then make their way to a designated central location. This is where the fighting will take place.

Once they reach the central location, the participants form a circle. Then, one by one, they step forward to challenge someone from another group.

The challengers will then take turns exchanging blows until one of them falls to the ground. Once a person falls, the other person stops hitting them and helps them up. The fallen person then has the opportunity to challenge someone else.

The fighting is conducted in a controlled manner, and there are judges present to ensure that it remains a safe and fair fight.

While the fights are the main attraction of the Takanakuy festival, there are also other activities and rituals that take place. For example, before the fighting begins, the participants will often make offerings to Pachamama, the Inca goddess of the earth, to ask for her protection during the festival. Additionally, there are often dance performances, music concerts, and food stalls with traditional Andean cuisine.

What’s the point?

The festival is a way for the Quechua to honor their heritage and promote unity among different communities. During the festival, old rivalries and grudges are put aside for the sake of a peaceful future. (Maybe this is where the idea for Festivus’ Airing of Grievances came from!)

Of course, Takanakuy comes with some controversy. There are people who view the festival as violent and barbaric. There are also concerns about the safety of participants. However, supporters of the festival argue that it is a vital part of their cultural heritage and should be preserved.

In recent years, Takanakuy has gained international recognition after being featured on numerous travel sites. As a result, it has become a popular tourist attraction.

While tourism brings economic benefits to the region, it also raises concerns about the commercialization of the festival and the potential for its cultural appropriation. And don’t the rest of us already experience enough fighting around Christmas?  WTF fun facts

Source: “Peru’s Christmas fighting festival” — BBC

Photo via Mídia NINJA

WTF Fun Fact 12601 – The Origin of Gingerbread Men

People ate well in the court of Queen Elizabeth I, who reigned in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. Ok, it was British food, but the desserts were good.

Decadent royal banquets were stocked with sweets like marzipan and shaped into elaborate designs of castles, animals, and even other foods. The queen also had a personal gingerbread maker.

At one of these events, she had this gingerbread maker bake cookies to resemble the foreign dignitaries she had invited. Prof. Carole Levin, an expert on Queen Elizabeth I’s court surmised that in a time of political turmoil, the amusing gesture may have even been a part of diplomacy. (We just hope the cookies were flattering and the people they resembled had a sense of humor because it’s easy for those sorts of things to backfire.)

While we don’t know which came first, around the same time, there was another, very different use of gingerbread “men.” Folk doctors (which were more along the lines of what we might think of as witches) would “prescribe” them to women looking for love. According to Levin, the woman would buy the cookie and attempt to get the man she had her eye on to eat it. They were believed to be imbued with magic that would make the man fall in love with the cookie-giver.

We’re not sure how often it worked, but it’s not NOT true that the way to some men’s hearts is through their stomachs.

The delicious-smelling cake had been around for centuries before all of this, but baking them into the shape of little people is a culinary curiosity that traces back to a specific time and place. – WTF fun facts

Source: “The Surprising Reasons Why Gingerbread Men Became a Holiday Classic” — TIME Magazine

WTF Fun Fact 12596 – Martin Luther’s Christmas Tree

Christmas trees are a pagan tradition that predates Christianity (and, therefore, Christmas). That might lead someone knowledgeable about theology or Christian history to believe that the Protestant reformer Martin Luther wasn’t a fan since he wasn’t exactly known for going all-out on the holidays.

In the 16th century, so the story goes, Martin Luther was taking a Christmastime walk and was inspired by the twinkling stars above him. That’s when he got the idea to gussy up a Christmas tree. He used candles, of course, since they didn’t have those infuriating strings of lights yet.

It became a wider German tradition after that (since Martin Luther was also known for spreading his ideas around). And when German emigrated all over Europe and North America, they brought that tradition with them.

Decorated trees became an even more visible tradition when Queen Charlotte introduced the practice to her new husband, King George III, and his English court in the mid-18th century. After that, Queen Victoria’s Christmas tree was illustrated in an 1848 edition of Illustrated London News. That immediately made it more fashionable.

The tradition of lighting up Christmas trees probably came to the US around the 18th century as well when Hessian troops came to back up the British during the Revolutionary War. When German immigrants moved over in later decades under more polite circumstances, they reinvigorated the trend that others then found fascinating and decided to copy.

So just remember to blame Martin Luther when you’re untangling those lights next Christmas. – WTF fun facts

Source: “Why do we have Christmas trees? The surprising history behind this holiday tradition” — National Geographic

WTF Fun Fact 12415 – Santa Cash

David Wayne Oliver has a bit of a bank-robbing problem. In 2019, at age 65, he walked into a Colorado Springs bank claiming to be armed, stole an undisclosed amount of money, and then took the bag out to the street and tossed the cash in the air while shouting “Merry Christmas.” Interestingly, many passersby took the money right back into the bank.

Dubbed the “Santa Claus Bank Robber,” Oliver then sauntered over to a Starbucks where he watched the commotion and waited for his inevitable arrest.

But the story doesn’t end there. Oliver was armed in 2021 when he brandished a gun in a bank at another robbery in Teller County, Colorado. This time, he also led police on a car chase before his arrest.

During the 2021 chase, Oliver held his gun outside his car window, alerting the police that he was armed and was not going back to jail. During the chase, he tossed the gun but kept driving. Strangely enough, the deputies chasing him decided not to pursue.

He eventually turned himself in, but not before becoming the star of a viral Tik Tok video of the encounter. In the clip, he can be heard saying: “I’m an outlaw and a renegade, ok? The sheriff is down there, and they’ve got a roadblock looking for my a**. Get on the radio, you mister, get on your smartphone. I surrender to you boys; I’m not surrendering to the sheriff. I’m surrendering to the Honeycutt boys. I’m the Santa Clause bank robber from last year!”

Oliver was eventually charged with felonies, including menacing, vehicular eluding, possession of a weapon, and a misdemeanor charge of driving under the influence of alcohol. His bond was set at $2,000. – WTF Fun Facts

Source: “Bearded man robs bank, gifts money, then yells ‘Merry Christmas'” — BBC News