There are countless unique holidays around the world, but many people will never get to enjoy them. Fortunately, for those lucky enough to experience a land far from home. There’s always a few exciting traditions to take part in.
Getting people together is at the heart of what we love about planning parties and events around the world. So, why not take a tour of some of the world’s biggest celebrations? While not all celebrations can include pranking each other on 1st pf April or gifting a loved one a present for Valentine’s Day. Or so many other reasons to get family and friends in one place to uplift one another and carry on traditions that have been around for many generations. From the lantern festival in Chiang Mai to summer moon parties in Greece to a Japanese flower show, we’re on a world tour of what it looks like to celebrate culture.
Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, Albuquerque, New Mexico
For nine days in October, children and adults alike gather at the massive launch site for its festival-like atmosphere. And the absolute spectacle of seeing countless floating balloons of all shapes, sizes and colors light up the desert sky. Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta creates an enchanted world of special-shaped balloon rodeos; balloons glow. And vibrant balloon-filled skies. Brisk autumn mornings in the Rio Grande Valley create an otherworldly backdrop for the breath-taking majesty of our most popular event, Mass Ascension of the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.
AgitÁgueda, Águeda, Portugal
The best time of year to get to know the small Portuguese town of Ãgueda is during the music and arts festival AgitÁgueda. A celebration of local pride that residents and tourists alike can appreciate. Spanning almost the entire month of July. The festival brings live music, DJs, performances, street art, sporting events, and more to the city’s streets.
AgitÁgueda makes an unparalleled contribution to the cultural landscape of the city. Since 2006, some 500 music groups and artists have been on stage. The festival’s mission is rooted not only in presenting established artists but also in the promotion of new musical projects while organising “Talentos AgitÁgueda”. The competition is aimed at promoting the participation of new national artistic projects.
On the artistic scope of public art, the entire city of Águeda experiences contact with urban art and installations of the most different types: the installation of thousands of umbrellas over the city’s streets (the Umbrella Sky Project) creates a set that becomes complete with another project of urban art that has coloured the city even further. Dozens of spots were painted with appealing colour variations. From garden benches to long stairs resembling rainbows, and many other hotspots of drawing and colour. The gigantic tent is set up for the festival with the famous umbrella decoration. This is another point of interest for those visiting AgitÁgueda.
Yi Peng Lantern Festival, Thailand
The skies of Chiang Mai are set shining as thousands of lanterns are released throughout the city during the Yi Peng Lantern Festival. This citywide gathering takes place on the evening of the full moon on the 12th month of the Thai lunar calendar (usually November). And is often celebrated alongside Loy Krathong during three days of parades, markets, candle lighting and more.
You can expect to see locals’ homes and public places decked out in colourful hanging lanterns and flag decorations. The act of releasing the lantern and krathong symbolizes letting go of all ills and misfortunes in the previous year, and Buddhists also believe that if you make a wish when you set off the lantern, it will come true (but only if you do good deeds the following year, of course).
As part of this festival of lights, there are plenty of other activities that happen all over Chiang Mai. These include traditional Thai dance shows, the official ‘Yee Peng Parade’ around the Old City gate and down Tha Phae Road, live music and handicraft sessions.
You can also expect lots of food vendors setting up, firecrackers, fireworks, and hordes of tourists with selfie sticks (particularly around the Tha Phae Gate area).
The Fuji Shibazakura Festival, Japan
Fuji Shibazakura Festival (富士芝桜まつり) usually takes place between mid-April to early June. This springtime floral show sees the blooming of hundreds of thousands of Shibazakura flowers at the base of Mount Fuji in Japan. The festival usually consists of a scenery of 800,000 Shibazakura (pink moss or phlox moss in English) against the backdrop of Mt Fuji!
Pink moss is one of the most popular spring flowers in Japan. At the festival, 5 different colours of pink moss create colourful pink carpets in various designs. Mount Fuji is located 3 km away from Lake Motosuko within Fuji 5 Lakes (Fujigoko) site. Visitors enjoy an amazing contrast of pink flowers and the blue sky and mountains.
Holi Festival of Color, India
Holi is a religious spring festival, mainly celebrated by Hindus. It’s a celebration of the triumph of good over evil and the arrival of spring. Holi is catching on as a colored-powder-throwing party. Bonfires are lit on the eve of the festival, also known as Holika Dahan (burning of little Holi), in memory of the miraculous escape that young Prahlad accomplished when Demoness Holika carried him into the fire. Holika was burnt but Prahlad, a staunch devotee of God Vishnu, escaped without any injuries due to his unshakable devotion. The celebrations can last up to 16 days, with Hindus throwing coloured powder and water at each other in the street.
Oktoberfest, Munich, Germany
This is Germany’s most famous celebration for both locals and tourists. Oktoberfest began as the marriage ceremony between Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese on October 12, 1810. All of the townspeople were invited to attend the festival. It took place in the fields outside of the city gates. Following the wedding, the fields were named Theresienwiese after the Princess. And the party was such a hit that the townspeople asked King Ludwig to continue the celebration the following year.
Today, the remnants of the gates still stand and the fields, known by locals as the Wies’n, now host the largest beer festival in the world: Oktoberfest! What was a simple wedding celebration has transformed into a 17 or 18-day festival in which 7 million people from around the world participate, consuming more than 6 million liters of Bavarian beer.
Oktoberfest officially begins on the second to last Saturday in September at noon when the mayor of Munich taps the first barrel at the Schottenhamel Tent, crying “O’zapft is” (It’s open). The festival concludes the first Sunday of October following German reunification day on October 5.
Dia De Los Muertos, Mexico
Though death is often seen as a sad or sombre event, in Mexico, relatives who have passed on are honored with celebrations of their lives. Día de los Muertos or “Day of the Dead” is a celebration of family and of life. This celebration takes place on the 2nd of November.
Dia de Los Muertos is marked by bright colors, parades, face painting, and private remembrance. Families will often hang photos of their deceased loved ones with offerings of some of their favorite treats on an altar to show them how much they miss them.
Those who celebrate also take this time to go to the graves of their loved ones and decorate them with sugar skulls and bright paper and flowers. The holiday is about happily celebrating the lives of those who are no longer with us, rather than sadly mourning their loss.
La Tomatina, Spain
La Tomatina is a food fight festival. The celebration takes place on the last Wednesday of August each year in the town of Buñol near Valencia in Spain. Thousands upon thousands of people make their way from all corners of the world. To fight in this ‘World’s Biggest Food Fight’ where more than one hundred metric tons of over-ripe tomatoes are thrown in the streets.
Prior to 2013, anywhere from 40,000 to 50,000 people crammed into this huge tomato fight. Greatly expanding Bunol’s normal 9,000 person population. Since 2013, official ticketing has been in place limiting the number of participants to just 20,000 lucky people.
There is limited accommodation for people who come to La Tomatina, so many people take the easier option of staying in nearby Valencia just 38km to Bunol by bus or train. In preparation for the dirty mess that will ensue, shopkeepers use huge plastic covers on their storefronts in order to protect them from the carnage.
Songkran Water Festival, Thailand
Songkran is Thailand’s most famous festival. An important event on the Buddhist calendar, this water festival marks the beginning of the traditional Thai New Year. The name Songkran comes from a Sanskrit word meaning ‘passing’ or ‘approaching’.
Water is an important element of Songkran. Especially in more recent times, when the throwing of water has become a huge part of the annual celebrations. If you’re visiting Thailand during this period, prepare to get splashed! Crowds of people roam around throwing buckets of water, using water pistols and just generally soaking anyone in the vicinity.
Appreciation of family is another important aspect of the festival. Many Thai people make their way to their hometowns to spend time with older relatives. Buddhists also visit temples throughout Songkran where water is poured on Buddha images. And in the hands of Buddhist monks as a mark of respect.
Floating Lanterns Festival, Honolulu, Hawaii
The Hawaiian Lantern Floating ceremony is mirrored after Toro Nagashi; the Japanese Floating Lantern Festival, which takes place in late summer. The lanterns float out into the ocean carrying prayers or messages for deceased loved ones written on the sides.
The Hawaiian ceremony takes place on Memorial Day. As many Hawaiians traditionally use this day to honor both those who’ve fallen in service. As well as friends and family who have passed.
Organized by the Shinnyo-en Buddhist order, the Lantern Floating ceremony draws upwards of 40,000 people from all backgrounds. Lanterns are available free of charge from a tent on-site of the event. Those unable to attend can still have their prayers or messages included in one of the Collective Lanterns. You can visit the Shinnyo-en temple to write a prayer right up to the day before the ceremony. Or you can even submit your message online and the organizers will see to it that it’s sent out with the others.
Guy Fawkes Day, United Kingdom
Guy Fawkes Day, also known as Bonfire or Fireworks Night. It is a celebration of the failed assassination of King James I, by Guy Fawkes. The celebration takes place on 5th November.
Today, Guy Fawkes Day is one of the key celebrations in the United Kingdom. And in a number of countries that were formerly part of the British Empire. The Guy Fawkes Day celebration includes parades, fireworks, bonfires, and food. Straw effigies of Fawkes are tossed on the bonfire. As are—in more recent years in some places—those of contemporary political figures.
A major component of most Guy Fawkes Day celebrations is fireworks. It represents the unused explosives of the plotter. Guards perform an annual search of the Parliament building to check for potential arsonists. Although it is more ceremonial than serious.
Bloomsday might sound like a celebration of spring and flowers, but it’s actually far from that. The yearly celebration takes place in Dublin every June. This is a celebration of the life and works of James Joyce. He is Ireland’s most famous author, and who wrote the epic novel “Ulysses.”
Bloomsday takes its name after Leopold Bloom, the central character in Ulysses. The novel follows the life and thoughts of Leopold Bloom and a host of other characters – real and fictional. The plot in the novel took place from 8 am on 16 June 1904 through to the early hours of the following morning.
Each year on June 16, the recreation of the events of the novel takes place. Celebrations often include dressing up like characters from the book. And in clothes that would have been the style of the era. Or even readings, performances and visiting the places and establishments referenced in the book.
Cultural Significance in Anthropology
The things the world shares in common are what brings everyone together. From Earth Day to April Fool’s Day, there are countless celebrations everyone recognizes. Of course, it’s the unique celebrations that really stand out. And these are some of the most interesting. But nonetheless, if the holiday is known and cherished by many all over the world. Like La Tomatina, Spain, where people from all over gather in Buñol to take part in the world’s largest food fight. Which is a celebration truly recognized by the locals in the country. Like Bloomsday in Ireland where ( for most of them) locals celebrate the author’s book. One look at the different cultural holidays celebrated around the globe shows that people have far more in common than some would think.