The quirkiest, most memorable, and most unusual Reuters Life! stories of 2012.
GRAPHIC SLATE (REUTERS) -
FESTIVALS - TITLE GRAPHIC
The festivals of 2012 kicked off with China's spectacular annual snow and ice festival held in Harbin and its spectacular colours and fireworks.
But it was once again proved that a surprising number of the world's festivals involve people throwing things at each other.
For a start in February, hundreds of people descended upon the northern Italian city ofIvrea to re-enact the Battle of the Oranges.
Residents dressed up in medieval costumes engaged in a spectacular citrus clash, bombarding each other with juicy oranges from Italy.
Over in Spain, tens of thousands of people armed with loads of plum tomatoes engaged in the Tomatina festival in August.
But not to be outdone, Chile staged a similarly messy tomato-flavoured event with a mass fight in a small town in the south of the country.
Over in Greece, some revellers tried to put the country's economic woes behind them with a messy tradition called the flour war.
The battle in the town of Galaxidi, 200 kilometres west of Athens, has become one of the most popular events in the country to mark Shrove Tuesday and sees opposing teams throwing bags of cooking flour at each other through the streets of the town.
Meanwhile hundreds of clowns painted their faces and donned their wigs, hats, big shoes and red noses to take the streets of Lima in May for the locally celebrated Peruvian Clown Day.
In another spectacular display of colour, a laser light show accompanied by a 21-meter-tall dragon lantern warmed up the Taipei skyline and also lit up the festive spirit in February as Taiwanese people in the capital and around the island celebrated the annual lantern festival.
People enjoyed the colourful carnival atmosphere and street parties of Rio's carnival in February, while visitors to a quaint South Korean coastal village got down and dirty at the 15th annual mud festival.
COMPETITIONS - TITLE GRAPHIC
Throughout the year we have been celebrating some of the more unusual competitions which have taken place across the world.
For those wanting to get back to nature, Denmark's Roskilde Festival is always a tonic as its signature event involves stripping completely naked and racing for charity.
The winners were 'Evalina' from Sweden and Petur Geir Gretarsson from Iceland
Exposure of one's body to the elements wasn't the concern in one unusual race in thePhilippines -- there the main aim was to get to the finish line without getting 'devoured' by the hordes of 'zombies' hiding along the five kilometre stretch of land in a survival-themed race.
Survival was also the name of the game in a running race with a difference in Moscow -- the stiletto dash which was held in July.
The 50-meter race in the city centre had dashing divas sprinting for the first prize worth around a 100, 000 roubles (about 2,500 euro).
More practical footwear was used by the ladies taking part in Finland's wide carrying World Championship Competition in Sonkajarvi. But only one lucky winner took home the coveted liquid trophy of this bizarre context: the weight of the winner's lady in beer. A Finnish lawyer from the capital Helsinki, Taisto Miettinen, completed the 253.5-metre track, with his wife Kristiina on his back, in 01.00.22sec.
The fairer sex was also the focus of Israel's 'Fat and Beautiful' contest which saw 16 contestants, coming in all shapes and sizes, strutting down the runway in a packed hotel auditorium in the southern desert city of Beersheba in June.
A quirky British competition is the 'Russian Egg Roulette' championships held in the northern country of Lincolnshire. It sees competitors go head-to-head with each other taking it in turn to select from six eggs, however 5 of the eggs were hard boiled and the remaining egg was raw. As each egg was selected during this tense face off, they had to smash the egg against their foreheads on the count of three. The contestant who selected the raw egg was eliminated in this knockout competition.
It was cups and not eggs that competitors grabbed in Tokyo in March to grab the title of fastest hands in the 2012 Sport Stacking Competition.
The Japan competition was part of the world-wide Sport Stacking Championships, which sees participants competing to see who can stack cups into a pyramid in the shortest amount of time possible.
People gathered in the Taiwanese capital to hit and duck in a pillow fight in April for an event held on International Pillow Fight Day. Around 100 participants held pillows above their heads as organisers counted down before the 15 minute fight.
It was an altogether dirtier affair at the swamp soccer world championships in Hyrynsalami, Finland on Saturday (July 14), while a Finnish team won the men's finals on penalties.
Some 5,000 participants, in 500 teams, had tackled thick mud on 22 pitches during the two-day tournament.
An even odder sport - toe-wrestling - saw its world championships held in England in July at Bentley Brook Inn, Fenny Bentley in Derbyshire.
The sport began in 1976 when regulars at the Ye Olde Royal Oak Inn, in Wetton,Derbyshire set about searching for a game that the British could win. With a lack of any talent in existing sports, a decision was made to invent a new one, or so the story goes.
And the French contribution to the world's most unusual competitions? Well, it involves racing snails, of course. And as Usain Bolt was hanging up his running shoes after the 2012 Olympic games in August, the world's fastest snails were descending on the small French village of Lagardere for the annual world snail racIng championships.
Enthusiastic racers took to a muddy field in southeast England in October for the British Grand Prix for Lawnmower Racing, marking the end of this year's racing season.
Considered by many as one of Britain's favourite motor sports and surely one at the most grassroots level, the eccentric event is perhaps not surprisingly devoid of the big business sponsors that dominate Formula One
FOOD - TITLE GRAPHIC
Food is always a subject of fascination and 2012 proved no exception, with perhaps the most unusual feat that of getting a burger into space.
Five friends, all students at Harvard University, managed to launch the burger and a video camera into space. With a nod to topicality and perhaps seeking a cross-promotional opportunity, the quintet dubbed their project "Operation Skyfall."
Even that crazy culinary feat seemed to pale as against the world's largest doner kebab which broke the previous Guinness World Record in Turkey in June.
Measured by the Guinness official, it set a new record with 1198 kilograms (2641 pounds).
Food records were also tumbling in South America. Dozens of people in Mexico City in August crafted a 53-metre-long (173-feet-long) monster sandwich - making it the biggest sandwich ever made in Latin America.
That, at least, looks edible, but how would you feel about eating some 64-year-old lard? Hardly a delicacy even in its freshest form, German pensioner Hans Feldmeier insists the decades-old lard, which he held onto since being given it in an aid package after World War II, tastes great. He and his wife say it's a tasty treat.
The lasagne took 10 hours to cook and was sliced into 10,000 portions.
Finally, it's an annual event that draws nearly 40 thousand people - and the crowd's favourite hot dog eating champ Joey Chestnut certainly didn't disappoint.
Chestnut was top dog for the sixth time in the men's section of Nathan's Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest.