They Do What?
A Cultural Encyclopedia of Extraordinary and Exotic Customs from around the World
by Javier A. Galván, Editor
June 2014, 374pp, 7x10
1 volume, ABC-CLIO

Hardcover: 978-1-61069-341-7
$108, £84, 94€, A148
Please contact your preferred distributor for pricing.
eBook Available: 978-1-61069-342-4
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The ritual of finger amputation at funerals is practiced in several cultures.

This single-volume work covers many traditions, customs, and activities Westerners may find unusual or shocking, covering everything from the Ashanti people's funeral celebrations to wife-carrying competitions in Finland.

In Maharashtra, India, a tradition exists to throw newborn babies off the tops of buildings. At the Vegetarian Festival in Phuket, Thailand, some people ritualistically pierce their cheeks and faces with swords and knives. How did these surprising customs come to be? From camel wrestling to cheese-rolling competitions to a tomato-throwing festival, this fascinating single-volume encyclopedia examines more than 100 customs, traditions, and rituals that may be considered strange and exotic to U.S. readers.

This work provides high school and undergraduate students with a compelling and fascinating exploration of world customs and traditions. Comprising entries by anthropologists, religious leaders, scholars, dancers, musicians, historians, and artists from almost every continent in the world, this encyclopedia provides readers a truly global and multidisciplinary perspective. The entries explore the origins of the custom, explain how it was established as a tradition, and describe how and where it is practiced. A thematic guide enables readers to look up entries by the type of tradition or custom, such as birth, coming of age, courtship and wedding, funeral, daily customs, holidays, and festivals.


  • Provides a unique global perspective via content from 48 authors currently working, living, or traveling in most continents of the world
  • Supplies interdisciplinary points of view by incorporating aspects of religion, food, festivals, history, social practices, funeral traditions, and grand community celebrations
  • Serves to highlight distinct cultural differences while also enabling readers to discover how much people have in common and to consider how certain American traditions might seem "strange" to people from outside the United States
Javier A. Galván, PhD, is professor of Spanish and history at Santa Ana College. He holds a doctorate degree and three master's degrees. His approach to education is to offer an inter-disciplinary perspective that enables students to make meaningful connections across different fields. His recent publications include ABC-CLIO's Culture and Customs of Bolivia and Culture and Customs of Puerto Rico as well as Latin American Dictators of the 20th Century: The Lives and Regimes of 15 Rulers.


"What a delight this title is and how fun to browse through it. . . . This volume is highly recommended for general reference, human geography, cultural anthropology, international studies and sociology collections."—Reference Reviews, May 21, 2015
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