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Reggae, Hurling and 3 More Traditions That Were Just Granted Special Status by UNESCO

Experience the world, one wrestling match at a time.

Every year UNESCO updates its Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists, which seeks to ensure that traditions of essential cultural significance are preserved. The result of the committee’s 2018 deliberations includes a number of sports, musical styles, dances, theatre, and even bathing from around the globe.


This uniquely Jamaican musical form became the medium through which marginalized people made their voices heard. And indeed, heard around the world as reggae is perhaps the most popular addition to the UNESCO list. “The basic social functions of the music–as a vehicle for social commentary, a cathartic practice, and a means of praising God–have not changed,” said UNESCO in its announcement of its decision, “And the music continues to act as a voice for all.”

Where to experience it:
The largest reggae festival in Jamaica, Reggae Sumfest, is held every year in mid-July in Montego Bay


This ancient sport is the national game of Ireland. Indeed, hurling (also called camogie when it’s played by women) is not only played by heroes in Irish folklore but it’s believed to predate the country itself, as one form or another has been played on the island for 4,000 years. The field game, wherein players use a wooden stick to hit a small ball between the opposing team’s goal posts, remains popular to this day.

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Where to experience it:

Every year the final of the All-Ireland Championship is held at Croke Park in Dublin.

Ssireum (Traditional Korean Wrestling)

This traditional form of wrestling has been a popular pastime (and indeed the national sport) in Korea since the fourth century. Each wrestler wears a fabric belt (called a satba) that wraps around the waist and one thigh. Wrestlers then grab their opponent’s belt and whoever forces the other to touch the ground with any part of their body knee-level or higher is the victor. Ssireum is a staple of holidays and festivals with everyone—men and women, children and seniors—stepping into the ring, determined to earn an ox (the traditional award for winners) and the title of “Jangsa.”

Where to experience it:

Ssireum is frequently a staple of such seasonal festivals as Dano and Chuseok.


During this Japanese folk ritual, people will dress up in outlandish costumes and masks that depict deities and visit the homes of their neighbors, a representation of the belief that gods visit communities in order to celebrate the New Year or the changing of seasons. These rituals are essential as they help strengthen the sense of community.

Where to experience it:

The tradition varies based on the region but in the city of Oga there’s a strong emphasis on the masked practitioners to scare and scold young children.


Khon (Masked Dance Drama)

As a performing art, khon has it all. Music, acting, literature, dancing, stunning visuals, and (of course) masks. Khon performances, which are all drawn from Thailand’s national epic, “Ramakien,” represents the highbrow as it was developed for the enjoyment of the Siamese court but its spectacular presentation makes it a thrilling experience that anyone can enjoy.

Where to experience it:

The National Theatre in Bangkok stages traditional Thai performing arts, including khon.

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