Festivals. A place where people looking to have a great time can dance, listen to great music, celebrate, party, have fun, and relax. They happen all over the world for many different reasons. Some celebrate religion, some the new year, some art, some the harvest- whatever the reason, every month, somewhere in the world, you’ll find people descending on a location to celebrate and share a common experience. If you don’t like crowds, they probably aren’t for you. But if you feel like getting wet, dirty, staying up late, dancing, or just want to enjoy the energy of tens of thousands of people, check out some of these festivals:
Carnival is a giant party held right before the Christian holiday of Lent. Brazilian Carnival is the most famous and attracts the most numbers of people to it, with their dancing, parades, and floats, music, and drinking. Vegas may be sin city but this is the sin holiday. Alternatively, if you can’t get down to Brazil, you can always head to Mardi Gras in New Orleans.
Holi is a Hindu holiday celebrated on the day after the full moon in early March and glorifies good harvest and fertility of the land. Moreover, Holi also celebrates the triumph of good over evil, at least according to a legend involving the god Krishna. It can last up to 16 days, depending on where in the world you celebrate it. There is music, food, and, of course, throwing paint on each other.
Thai New Year is one of the most fun events I’ve ever been to. For three days the country basically shuts down to party. Songkran is three day water fight that engulfs the whole country, you can’t walk two seconds out of your house without getting wet. No one is safe. The young and the old participate equally and there is nothing like having a little old lady say sorry and then dump a bucket of cold water on you. The most fun I ever had was riding in a Tuk Tuk and having a mobile water fight with the people in the lane over.
Bay to Breakers (May)
The Bay to Breakers is an annual footrace which takes place in San Francisco, California on the third Sunday of May. The complete course is 7.46 miles long. The footrace is more of an excuse to drink and dress in weird costumes along the way. It’s a very large event and is more like a moving party than a footrace. Also expect to see a lot of people running in the nude.
Every summer in June, Pilton, England becomes the stage for one of the largest music festivals in the world. Glastonbury is best known for its contemporary music, but also features dance, comedy, theater, circus, cabaret and many other arts. About 175,000 people come to this area for a few days of music, mud, and mayhem. The fields turn into giant tent cities as everyone camps out looking to have some fun!
Swedish Midsummer (June)
During the summer solstice, Swedes come out and celebrate the start of the summer. It doesn’t get warm often this far north so when it does, people like to celebrate it. Local Swedes head out into nature, dance around a pole, eat lots of fish, drinks lots of beer, and stay up to enjoy the longest day of the year. After all, the sun doesn’t set until about midnight. (The Swedes also have a good festival to celebrate spring too.)
Running of the Bulls (July)
During July, Pamplona is filled with white clothed and red scarf wearing people who quench their thirst with sangria and the daring few try to out run some angry bulls. It’s usually a recipe for one or two people getting hurt and not something I’d ever consider doing but the atmosphere and celebrations are not to be missed. By the end of the day, your white shirt will soon be sangria red.
La Tomatina (August)
For one hour, 20,000 people engage in a tomato fight in Bunol, Spain during the last Wednesday of August. The whistle blows and the tomatoes of La Tomatina fly. It’s fun, it’s dirty, it’s the food fight we all dreamed about as a child. After you have your fill of tomatoes, you go wash off in the river and then join the dance party in town where the sangria and food flow.
Burning Man (August)
At the end of August, tens of thousands of people head out in the Nevada desert for 6 days of alternative living. Burning Man brings out the arty, the alternative, and the eccentric. It’s 6 days of camping (bring lots of water!), art, and music. At the end, a giant wooden man is set on fire (hence the name).
Though really in September this two week beer festival in Munich attracts people from all over the world with its beer halls, lederhosen, giant steins of beer, and huge pretzels. No one I know ever lasted the whole two weeks but the 3 or 4 days you are there will be the haziest of your life. It’s the best place in the world to celebrate one of God’s greatest gifts- beer.
Day of the Dead (November)
With paper mache skeletons and candy skulls, Mexico’s carnavelesque Day of the Dead is one of the world’s most familiar festivals. Participants devote a day to cleaning their family graves, decorating them with candles and flowers, having picnics and dancing to mariachi bands. It’s an odd combination of remembrance and festivity.
All around the world and no matter what month of the year, you’ll find people celebrating. I’ve been to a large number of these festivals and my goal is to see them all. Not only are festivals fun they are also a great way to do something different than the normal sightseeing we do when we visit places. The next time you are looking for something wild, crazy, and festive, plan your trip around these celebrations of life.