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UNESCO's Dubious Intangible Culture Awards

It's even better than reading The Onion. The UNESCO Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage has just released its latest list of cultural practices worth preserving. While some of them are obvious choices (French gastronomy, flamenco), others are certain to leave you baffled—and perhaps even asking, "Do we really want to preserve some of these things?!" Once you read the list, you'll be left wondering why they forgot to add goldfish swallowing, 1K charity walks, and the Macarena.

Here are some doozies from the 2010 list, along with our 10-point Intangible Rating Scale (IRS) score and commentary:

Human Towers (Spain): Popular with the Catalan people, these towers begin with a group of big guys standing in a circle, followed by a smaller group of guys who read Men's Health standing on their shoulders, followed by higher levels often made up of women and children. Someone should call Family Services. IRS: 3.5. Not much different than a dorm party with a case of Four Loko.

Krikpinar Oil Wrestling Festival (Turkey): The only thing more off-putting than watching wrestling matches between big, hairy men in water-buffalo-leather trousers is watching wrestling matches between big, hairy men in water-buffalo-leather trousers...covered in oil. IRS: 5. We give this a decent rating because the winner gets the Golden Belt (presumably after he has rinsed off the body oil). And who doesn't like a Golden Belt?

The Hopping Procession of Echternak (Luxembourg): Every year, the residents of the oldest city in tiny Luxembourg bounce along their cobbled thoroughfares, much as they have since 1100 AD. Their procession is actually a devotion to St. Willibrord, known for his missionary activities and, apparently, his urge to hop. The Catholic Church has attempted many times over the years to ban the procession. To which we say, why give up now? IRS: 2. In addition to hopping there is a marching accordion band. Okay, change that rating. IRS: 1.

To see the whole list of this year's 41 inductees, as well as those from previous years, check out the UNESCO Intangible Heritage Lists.

Mark Orwoll

Smart Traveler Mark Orwoll is the Intangible Editor of Travel + Leisure.

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