Location: Market Square, Sonkajärvi, Finland
Date: first Saturday in July
Level of participation: 5 - grab your partner by the legs
Running since 1992, this bizarre festival has its roots in the less humorous custom of pillaging neighbouring villages for womenfolk. A 19th-century brigand called Ronkainen was particularly keen on the practice. Today, aspiring Ronkainens will be disappointed to discover they’re not allowed to keep their partner at the end, unless she is actually their wife, of course.
The good news for unreconstructed bandits is that the course offers plenty of opportunities to prove manly prowess. Over a distance of 253.5m, contestants must tackle sand, grass and gravel surfaces, two dry obstacles and a 1m-deep water section. The only equipment carriers are allowed is a belt, and they receive a 15-second fine if they drop their load.
While runners-up are consoled with awards for the most entertaining ouple, the best costume and the strongest carrier, the winning couple receives the woman’s weight in beer and a range of wife-carrying memorabilia. Gluttons for punishment can also tackle the 100m sprint and the relay, in which men have to down a special ‘wife-carrying drink’ when they pass their man-sized baton.
Essentials: ‘wives’ must be aged over 17 and weigh more than 49kg.
Local attractions: relax after wife-lugging exertions in that fine Finnish invention, the sauna. Finding one should be easy - there are 1.6 saunas per Finn.
More info: www.sonkajarvi.fi
See other top festivals in July here.