Exploring the world is a treat at any time of year, but a traveler is especially lucky to take part in local celebration. Whether watching la Semana Santa parade from a Valencia balcony or firing super soakers for Thailand’s Songkran festival, nothing beats the awe-inspiring experience of participating in local fete. Holidays give the traveler a unique slice of colorful culture and tradition that may be dormant at other times of the year, so keep these celebrations in mind as you book your next trip!
For culture seekers: Looking for a dose of culture in your journey? These events will leave you with an insider perspective on your destination’s national pride.
Chinese New Year, China: The Spring Festival in China, known for ridding people of ill fortune and welcoming luck, wealth, longevity, happiness, etc. Each of the festival’s 15 days has a purpose, so you’ve got some studying to do if you want to fully participate.
Day of the Dead, Oaxaca, Mexico: A celebration of the lives of the dead and the continuation of life after death. Expect colorful skeletal costumes and the demystification of crossing over to the other side.
Bastille Day, France: French National Day, or the day to celebrate the start of the French Revolution in 1789. Paris is where the action happens, from military parades to lavish balls and ear-numbing firework displays. Paint your face like the French flag for extra Bastille Day points.
Tet Festival, Vietnam: Tet Nguyen Dan, or “the first morning of the first day of the new year.” Like the Chinese, the Vietnamese spend this time cleaning house, getting rid of bad fortune and buying new clothes. Make sure that’s really chicken you’re eating…it could be dog!
The Summer Redneck Games, Dublin, Georgia: A spoof of the summer Olympics in Georgia that is still going strong. Travelers can experience true redneck culture by bobbing for pigs feet, hub cap hurling or taking part in the mud pit belly-flop contest.
For holy travelers: Spiritual seeks will not be disappointed by the following celebrations around the world. Even the non-religious will feel a spiritual curiosity by simply witnessing these holy practices:
Diwali Festival, India: A five day festival of lights in which candles and lamps are lit to ward off evil spirits. Expect firework noise pollution and lots of spring cleaning! People use this holiday as a time to buy new things and clear out the old.
La Semana Santa (Easter) in Seville, Spain: The Catholic holy week is celebrated extensively in Seville. You’ll see over 100 religious floats and hear an entire week of musical processions. Be careful about making too much noise…some of the processions are rather serious.
Holi, India and other Hindu countries: A festival of color to mark the onset of spring and celebrate Hindu mythology. Holi lowers the strictness of many social norms, so count on men and women from different castes, social classes and ages celebrating together with scented colored powder.
St Patrick’s Day, Dublin, Ireland: The booze guzzling and rowdy parties may distract us from the true purpose of this day, but St. Patty’s celebrates not only the patron saint of Ireland but the entire arrival of Christianity to the country. Think of that the next time you’re funneling a green beer!
For food enthusiasts: You’d be surprised how many strange foods are devoured, worshipped, and even thrown around the world each year. Food is at the heart of human society, so it makes sense that cultures devote days and weeks to bizarre fun with their favorite kinds.
La Tomatina , Bunol, Spain: A massive food fight involving 40 metric tons of tomatoes. This isn’t entirely a free for all…Tomatoes must be squashed before throwing, the ripping of T-shirts is forbidden and you can’t throw tomatoes after the official end of the fight!
Battle of the Oranges, Ivrea, Italy: A battle of oranges that supposedly celebrates a 13th century rebellion in which the poor overthrew a feudal lord tyrant. Beans were originally thrown in this fight, followed by apples and finally, in the 19th century, oranges appeared as a symbol of the duke’s chopped off head.
Night of the Radishes, Oaxaca, Mexico: Once a marketing gimmick to encourage radish sales, the Night of Radishes is now a contest of local artisans who win cash prizes for the best radish carvings.
Monkey Buffet Festival, Lopburi, Thailand: An annual buffet for the province’s 600 monkeys to honor Rama, a hero who is said to have rewarded the Monkey King with the Lopburi province.
Cheese Rolling, Gloucester, England: A tradition dating back to Roman era, where competitors gather to run up a hill and chase a 7 kg. round cheese back down.
For the party animals: It takes a special kind of partier to survive and thrive in the throws of Germany’s Oktoberfest or Brazil’s Carnival. We may not all be able to party that hard, but there are fun celebrations around the world for every level of crazy!
Oktoberfest, Munich, Germany: Don’t be confused…Oktoberfest actually starts in late September! This Bavarian beer drinking event lasts for 16 days, so be prepared to leave with a few extra pounds.
Rio Carnival, Rio De Janeiro: A colossal festival held before Lent everyday. Over two million people attend this party every year, characterized by outrageous floats, costumes, music and samba dancing.
Full Moon Party, Koh Phangan, Thailand: What originally started as a small beach gathering is now one of the wildest parties in the world. The party begins at dusk and explodes into a massive trance of techno music and dancing that continues into the next day. Watch your drinks at this party, and your wallet!
Burning Man, Nevada, USA: An 8 day pop-up festival in the middle of the desert, this sun-soaked summer party ends with the burning of a 72ft wooden man. Survive by bartering goods for food and supplies, and bring your sunblock.