The holidays can be a let-down, and spending time with family members—or feeling lonely without them—can even trigger psychological distress. (This is something advertisers are increasingly tapping into this year, with commercials that skip the familiar happy family montages in favor of more realistic scenes of couples fighting and old people dining alone.) But at least Thanksgiving and Christmas are fun in theory. If you’re celebrating one of these holidays, you never stood a chance.
Black Day in Korea
On April 14th, also known as “Black Day,” single people in Korea who didn’t receive gifts on Valentine’s Day commiserate by dressing in black and eating noodles coated in black bean paste. One participant described it to Reuters: “I had a miserable time on Valentine’s Day…and now I’m crying over a bowl of black noodles.”
Valentine’s Day in Saudi Arabia
This one isn’t designed to shame singles, but it’s still not festive: Concerned about the encroachment of debauched Western culture, the government has prohibited the sale of anything red or heart-shaped.
Kim Il-sung’s birthday in North Korea
Kim Il-sung’s birthday—the “Day of the Sun”—is the most important national holiday, which North Koreans celebrate by offering bouquets of fake flowers to statues of the Great Leader. There are mass dances and games, too, but they’re pretty much the definition of “forced fun.” And there’s always a chance the leadership will use the day to test rockets or threaten nuclear war.
Secession Day in South Carolina
How (or even whether) South Carolinians should commemorate the anniversary of their nineteenth-century ancestors’ decision to secede from the Union is controversial, but dressing in period costumes and going to a “secession ball” does not seem like the answer. (Especially with the NAACP protesting outside.)
Christmas in Portugal
Christmas morning in Portugal sounds more creepy than merry: At the “Consoda” feast to honor dead relatives, places are set and food is served for the ghosts of the departed.
Revolution Day in Cuba
As a national holiday celebrating Cuba’s revolution, it should be fun—but it keeps getting overshadowed by speculation about why its leaders are absent and whether the country can survive in its current state.
Tinku in the Bolivian Andes
The annual Tinku starts off with drinking and dancing—but can you enjoy the festivities, knowing you could end up injured or dead in the ritual fighting that makes up the second part of this ancient festival? According to Quechua tradition, blood spilled during Tinku brings luck for a good harvest.
Teej in Nepal
Women dress up, dance, and go to temple: Teej looks like a happy festival. But the premise—married women celebrating their husbands, unmarried ones praying to find husbands—is what puts Teej in the running for saddest holiday.
Semana Santa in the Philippines
During “Holy Week” in some Filipino villages, Catholic men reenact the death of Jesus: They walk through the streets for miles, beating their own backs with sticks— and some even spend a few hours nailed to a cross. One participant told a reporter afterwards, “I feel good because my suffering has ended.” With that attitude, any holiday would be bearable.