Festivals of the World
By Jacqueline Boss
And I’m back after a long break! I’m excited to tell you about my new eBook, Bucket List Festivals: The 100 Best Festivals in the World, which has been in the works for quite a while. Based on my popular blog post “The 50 Greatest Festivals in the World“, the book features 100 articles, including pictures and 100 links to interesting YouTube videos to put you in the heart of the action, this book is full of great festivals that you’ll want to attend in your lifetime.
A stunning journey through the world’s most spectacular festivals, Bucket List Festivals is an adventure in itself. The one hundred carefully selected festivals represent all corners of the earth; they each bring something unique to the table, something magical, something to add to your bucket list.
This is your chance to experience a new world up-close and personal, to glimpse into exotic cultures and join in their celebrations, whether it be by releasing paper lanterns into the sky, viewing a dramatic battle reenactment on the lake, joining in a massive food fight, or dancing the night away under the stars.
The book is currently available for $4.99 on Amazon in Kindle format, and as a PDF file, which you can download to your computer and print if you prefer to hold your books in your hands.
Koninginnedag, or Queen’s Day, is a national holiday in the Netherlands, celebrated on April 30th, or April 29th if the 30th falls on a Sunday.
The holiday was first celebrated in 1885 as Prinsessedag (Princess’s Day) to honor Princess Wilhelmina on her birthday, but became Queen’s Day when Princess Wilhelmina became queen. The holiday jumped dates for many years– it was changed to fall on the birthday of Wilhelmina’s daughter, Juliana, and then on the birthday of her daughter’s daughter (Beatrix) on April 30th.
The celebrations traditionally involved a parade (for Wilhelmina), a floral tribute (for Juliana), and a tour of the towns of the Netherlands by Beatrix, who uses the opportunity to honor her country’s citizens and thank them for their service.
Today there are some vibrant and exciting traditions that accompany Queen’s Day, which provide a good excuse for many tourists to join in the celebrations.
Orenjegekte (also known as Orange Craze, Oranjekoorts, or Orange Fever), sweeps the nation each Queen’s Day. The Dutch people dress in all orange attire, often painting their faces, dying their hair, and wearing crazy orange accessories. Orange, though not represented in the Dutch flag, is the color of the Dutch Royal Family, the House of Orange, so named because of the Dutch acquisition of the principality of Orange in France in 1530. Orange was later annexed by France in 1660, but the title “House of Orange” stuck in the Netherlands.
The biggest celebrations take place in Amsterdam, with festivities starting a day early on “Queen’s Night” and taking over the streets, canals, parks, and buildings. Many Dutch take to the canals on vividly decorated (and often orange) boats, creating a gridlock bumper-boat party on the waterway.
Queen’s Day in Amsterdam boasts live music, DJ’s, and a city-wide flea market, because it is also a free market day (called Vrijmarkt). The city transforms into a giant yard sale; everyone and anyone sells stuff– stuff they’ve made, stuff they’ve bought, and stuff they want to get rid of. Many people sell out of transport bikes, a practical way to transport and display the goods among the crowds. On Queen’s Day no license is necessary to sell and no taxes are paid. There is even a dedicated section for kids to set up shop and sell their old toys for a few cents each.
If you want to join the festivities you’ll have to book a hotel early and walk to the event areas, because the streets will be impassable with crowds of excited, orange clad people. It’s recommended that you bring some snacks and water in a backpack because lines for food can get very long.
This festival takes place during the last weekend of April and first weekend of May.
Formally known as the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, the Jazz fest is a traditionally celebration of New Orleans and Louisiana culture, although the festival has become a vibrant and exciting melting pot of cultures.
The celebrations began in 1970 and were carefully planned out by New Orleans and George Wein, creator of the Newport Jazz Festival and Newport Folk Festival. Wein was commissioned to create a festival to celebrate New Orleans culture, and the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation was created. The Jazz Fest was born and became a great success.
Today the festival features live music, flavorful food, crafts, markets, parades, and demonstrations. Food is a big part of the fun; you can find things from the fiery to the refreshing, like crawfish bisque, cajun chicken, jambalaya, fried plantains, Creole cream cheese cake, sweet potato pie, and chocolate Azteca gelato. The Louisiana Folklife Village brings together artisans and experts in Louisiana tradition to get back-to-basics with traditional crafting skills. The Louisiana Marketplace is a representation of New Orleans and Louisiana culture as seen through the eyes of Louisiana artisans.
The music is a big part of what draws such a huge crowd; while plenty of Lousiana music is represented, there are also tons of well-known singers and bands from around the world. The festival boasts country music, pop, blues, R&B, folk, Latin, rock, rap, Cajun and much, much more.
The Jazz Fest falls on the same weekend each year as the newer Festival International de Louisiane, so many festival-goers feel torn between the two options. While the Festival International de Louisiane is said to have a more authentic, community-oriented feel (and is free), many think the Jazz Fest has a more intense atmosphere and is more culturally diverse. There is plenty to see and do.
Celebrated across Thailand, the Songkran Water Festival heralds the new year with a country-wide water fight. It is a Thai national holiday and workers and students are given the days (and often a full week) off. In its early years, the date of the festival varied because it was based on astrological calculations (the date the sun transits the constellation Aries), but now the date is fixed on April 13th-15th every year. The holiday is also celebrated in other Asian countries like Cambodia and Laos, but Thailand’s festivities are known to be the most exciting.
Songkran was originally a time to visit family and pay respects to elders, and to clean away the old year and bring in a fresh one. Many Thais washed away the old year by literally washing their homes and any Buddhas or Buddha images around the house. They would collect the water that ran over the Buddahs and pour it onto the shoulders of family for good luck. This tradition evolved to include throwing water on random strangers to help relieve the intense April heat.
Eventually the original purpose of the holiday became secondary to the national water fight that is so loved by Thais and foreigners today. People grab whatever they can get their hands on– buckets, water balloons, water guns, a hose– and douse each other with water. Sometimes chalk or menthol (the latter causes a cooling sensation) is mixed into the water to create a paste which people smear on each other’s faces for good fortune.
The holiday now draws a huge number of international tourists who are eager to join in the water battle. Popular tourists destinations (like Phuket) are some of the most exciting places to be during Songkran. Chang Mia hosts one of the biggest Songkran celebrations, with a festival of performances, street food, and a procession of an image of Buddha.
Those who celebrate the holiday more traditionally may scent the water with herbs and sprinkle it on their elders. Many people still visit temples to offer food and alms to Buddhist monks.
Traditional Thais, especially the elders, sometimes complain that the holiday has lost its original meaning and call for more stringent control of the holiday, especially traffic control, because there have been many accidents caused by people throwing water in the faces of riding motorcyclists.
Some traditionalist also complain of the lack of dress code; some clothing inevitably becomes see-through when doused in water. It is recommended that festival attendees dress as if they were going to the beach: light fabrics with a bathing suit underneath.
If you plan to visit Thailand, the days of Songkran are a great time to go to get plenty of exposure to Thai traditions. But rest assured, you will get wet.
Saint Patrick’s Day (also known as the Feast of Saint Patrick), was originally a celebration of the beginning of Christianity in Ireland but has expanded into a world-wide celebration of Irish culture.
St. Patrick was born in Roman Britain in the 5th century and forced into slavery in Ireland at age 16, and set to work as a shepherd. He relied on religion to get him through the long and lonely days. Eventually he escaped and studied to become a priest, but he returned to spread Christianity to the Irish people and build churches across the country. Legend tells that St. Patrick used the three leaves of a clover (shamrock) to explain the Holy Trinity. The color originally associated with St. Patrick’s Day was blue, but over time people began to replace the blue with green (even though green was believed to be the unlucky color of the leprechauns). Although nobody is quite sure why, some people believe the change has to do with St. Patrick’s shamrocks. Others say the green was inspired by the Irish flag or Ireland’s rolling green hills. Some even say that green garb will make you invisible to the leprechauns, who would pinch you if only they could see you!
After his death on March 17th, 460 AD, St. Patrick was remembered each year on March 17th by the Ireland and the Roman Catholic Church and his life celebrated with a day of feasting on traditional Irish food.
In the 1800’s, the holiday began to spread with the dispersion of Irish people around the world. Celebrations of St. Patrick’s day in America grew to include annual parades with bagpipes and drums. A few Irish groups in New York pooled their resources to create one big parade, which became the New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade, which now draws crowds of several million each year. In fact, New York was the first city to hold an official St. Patrick’s Day Parade, before even Dublin, which all but closed down each year in recognition of the holiday.
Each year in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day the Chicago River is turned green with powdered vegetable dye– a tradition that was born from a much more practical purpose. Before the annual dying of the river for enjoyment, plumbers used dye to trace sources of illegal pollutants in the river.
St. Patrick’s Day is now widely celebrated as a secular holiday, with many of its worldwide participants seeking to enjoy Irish culture in general instead of specifically celebrating St. Patrick’s contribution to the spread of Christianity in Ireland.
Across Ireland the festival is celebrated for a few days, but the magic really happens in Dublin. Thousands of wildly dressed and colorful performers entertain crowds of natives and tourists with music, street theatre, carnivals, and parades.
Food is an important part of the celebration, with many people turning to “traditional” Irish food, like corned beef and cabbage and soda bread. Many people now prepare green food for St. Patrick’s Day– anything from green pasta, green pizza, and green eggs and ham, to green desserts and pastries. And of course, there is plenty of beer and liquor, especially in the pubs. In fact, Guinness has even tried to make St. Patrick’s Day a national holiday in the United States.
St. Patrick’s Day brings out the Irish in everyone; the Irish celebrate their culture, those with an Irish heritage let it shine, and non-Irish declare themselves Irish-by-association for the day.
This video pretty much sums it up.
This strange festival is held each year on the first full weekend in March. The festival began in 2002 to celebrate winter and the frozen corpse of Bredo Morstel that was kept cryogenically frozen in a shack in the town.
Bredo Morstel was a Norwegian citizen. Upon his death, his grandson Trygve brought his body to the United States, using dry ice to preserve the body until it arrived at cryonics facility in California, where it remained stored in liquid nitrogen from 1990 to 1993.
In 1993 Bredo was transported to the town of Nederland, Colorado, where he was kept frozen by Trygve’s mother, Aud, in a cryonics shack behind her house. When the Aud was evicted she feared that Bredo’s body would thaw and explained the situation to a reporter, and the news snowballed into a big sensation.
In response, the town outlawed the keeping of dead bodies on a property, but left open a grandfather clause for Grandfather Bredo, who was allowed to remain in his frozen state. After that, someone was needed to transport dry ice to his body each month, and so Bo Shaffer, who answered a want ad in 1995, took the job and became known as the Ice Man.
The Frozen Dead Guy Days are celebrated during the cold of winter, when snow, ice, and chilly air can be incorporated into the festivities. Some of the most popular events include coffin racing, costume polar plunging (jumping into icy water in full costume), snow sculpture contests, Ice Queen & Grandpa look alike costume contests, a frozen T-shirt contest (contestants race to thaw and wear a T-shirt that has been frozen in a block of ice), and a dance called the “Blue Ball”.
Many businesses come out to promote themselves at the event, selling beer and themed foods like “frozen dead guy ice cream,” and some contest winners may even get helicopter tours from one Colorado company.
Frozen Dead Guy Days is one of the oddest festivals that exists– which is also why it is considered by many to be one of the most fun.
By Jacqueline Boss
This is a guest post written by Melissa Stanger.
What is the Festival of Colors?
Holi, originally known as “Holika,” is an ancient Indian festival, the significance of which has changed over the years. In the olden days Holi was believed to be a special rite performed by married women to ensure the happiness and well-being of their families.
Also known as the Festival of Colors, Holi is celebrated in the spring, on the last full moon day of the month Phalguna in the lunar calendar (usually falling between February and March).
More recently, Holi is significant to Indian culture in that it celebrates the beginning of spring, and with spring comes an abundance of color, hence “The Festival of Colors.” The festival also pays respect to traditional Hindu legends, though from a religious perspective this holiday is known to be one of the most secular in India.
On the eve before Holi, bonfires are lit and the celebrations begin. On the main day of celebration the color festival takes place. Days in advance vendors sell brightly colored powders and dyes on the street. People shower themselves and each other in the rich colors on the streets and outside Hindu temples. A truly breath-taking sight, Holi seems to produce an Aurora Borealis of people.
Where can I celebrate Holi?
So, as a tourist, where does one go to get the most spectacular Holi experience?
According to BBC news, “the biggest celebrations take place in the temples of Vrindavan, a town in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh” where, it is said, the Hindu god Krishna originated. In the majority of regions in India, Holi lasts about 1-2 days; in Vrindavan, and much of the Uttar Pradesh region, Holi starts earlier and lasts longer.
For a rowdy, college-type of celebration of Holi and the Festival of Colors, those who have traveled recommend visiting the town of Mathura, at the top of the country. For a more chill, folksy rendition, trek to the capital of New Delhi where Holi coincides with Holi Cow!, a music festival which, in 2012, featured such artists as Bombay Bassment and Menwhopause. And for a “bigger” kind of celebration head to the Old City of Jaipur where the Elephant Festival also takes place. You can join the street parade of intricately decorated elephants with some colors of your own.
When I myself have the privilege of visiting India during the celebration of Holi, I plan to start in Vrindavan a few days out of the main day of Holi at the famous Bakai-Bihari Temple, a spot of immense interest to tourists, where everyone really gets into the spirit of the holiday. From there I will find myself a spot in the shade at the Chaugan Station in the Old City of Jaipur (they say the area gets crowded fast, and it pays to get there early when shade is still available) to marvel at the enormous, beautiful trunked beasts mimicking the colors on everyone’s skin.
While the 2012 celebration has passed, the main day of Holi in 2013 takes place on March 27. Hope to see you there :)
Melissa Stanger is a curious and quirky individual living in New York City. When she’s not wearing the many of hats of her day job, she blogs at Fast and the Curious.
By Jacqueline Boss
This is the guide to the best and most interesting festivals in the world, organized by date to help you plan your travels accordingly. From hot air balloons to water fights, this list has it all. Many of the dates are variable, so be sure to check online to find out the specific dates for your festivals! And read the 100 Most Beautiful Places in the World in Pictures & the 100 Most Amazing, Unique, & Beautiful Hotels in the World
Get the eBook: Bucket List Festivals!
1- Harbin Ice and Snow Festival, China: January 5- February 5
People build incredible things out of ice and snow, decorating them with lights and lasers.
2- Chinese New Year: Between January 21 & February 20
The biggest Chinese holiday, with dragons, fireworks, symbolic clothing, flowers, lanterns, and celebration, everywhere in China, and even in other Asian countries.
3- Sundance Film Festival, Utah, USA: end of January
The largest independent film festival in the US. Watch both feature length films and shorts. You need to buy a ticket.
4- Magh Mela Festival India: January
Hundreds of thousands of devout Hindus bathe in the rivers.
5- Up Helly Aa Fire Festival, Scotland: January
Torches, tar barreling, parties, flamboyant costumes, and the burning of a replica viking ship make this an exciting festival.
6- Holi Festival, India: Late February/March, on the last full moon day.
Hindus and Sikh, in India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka celebrate the main day of this incredibly fun 16-day religious festival by throwing colored powder and water at each other. Learn more about the Holi festival.
7- The Carnival of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: February or March
A week of extravagant parades, dancing, colors, and alcohol makes this one of the most exciting and well-known festivals in the world.
8- Mardi Gras, New Orleans, USA: late February or Early March
Beads and booze. A crazy celebration before lent, aka the last day before giving up sinful pleasure.
9- Pingxi Lantern Festival, Taiwan: February
People write their wishes on fire lanterns and release them into the sky en masse, creating a beautiful spectacle of floating lights.
10- Carnival of Venice, Italy: between February & March
One of the most beautiful festivals in the world, people wear masks and elaborate costumes to hide differences among classes, and there are contests for the best costumes.
11- The Battle of the Oranges, Ivrea, Italy: February
An enormous food fight where people form organized teams and throw oranges at each other.
12- Desert Festival of Jaisalmer, India: February
Witness cultural events like camel races, and a moonlit concert. Want to get there? Take an SUV or camel safari.
13- Ultra Music Festival, Miami, Florida: Late March
A very intense electronic music festival for the partiers out there. Make sure to dress outrageously.
14- Calle Ocho, Miami, Florida, USA: March
An exciting Cuban street festival in Little Havana, with food and live music.
15- Las Fallas, Valencia: March 15-19
Fire, fireworks, smoke, and excitement make this festival a cross between Disney World and the apocalypse.
16- Saint Patrick’s Day Festival, Dublin, Ireland: March 17
There is a parade, costumes, music, comedy, film, and drinking. Learn more about St. Patrick’s Day.
17- Frozen Dead Guy Days, Nederland, Colorado: March
Dress up like a frozen dead guy and participate in events like a coffin race, a polar plunge, a parade, and partying. Learn more about the Frozen Dead Guy Days.
The Thai New Year festival falls on some of the hottest days in Thailand, and people celebrate by throwing water on each other, using water guns, buckets, hoses- whatever they can get their hands on. Learn more about Songkran.
This is a national holiday and a “free market” day, so everyone sells everything on the streets. There are games, concerts, performances, and parties on boats in the canals. Learn more about Koninginnendag.
20- Sandfest, Port Aransas, Texas: April
An amazing sand sculpture contest with live entertainment.
21- Glastonbury Music Festival, England: last weekend of June
The largest open air music and preforming arts festival in the world.
22- Festival of the Sun, Peru: June 24
Expositions, street fairs, and live music mark the celebration of the sun god.
23- White Nights Festival/Scarlet Sails, St.Petersburg, Russia: end of June
Scarlet Sails is just one part of the white nights festival, including spectacular fireworks, concerts, and a mock battle among pirates in boats on the Neva River.
24- Food and Wine Classic, Aspen, Colorado: June
Participate in food and wine tasting, and watch cooking demonstrations, speakers, and a cooking competition. You need to buy a ticket.
25- San Fermin Festiva, Pamplona, Spain: July
There are many events including folkloric ones, but the most famous is the running of the bull.
26- Panafest, Ghana, Africa: July-August
An African cultural celebration with theatre, drama, music, conferences, fashion, and art.
27- Pflasterspektakel, Austria: July
A huge street art festival with all kinds of crazy performances.
28- Spice Mas Carnival, Grenada: July-August
An independence day celebration with Calypso music, a steel band competition, elaborate dress, and plenty of big events.
29- Music City, Nashville, Tenessee, USA: July 4
One of the biggest 4th of July festivals, with fireworks and country music.
30- La Tomatina, Buñol, Spain: last Wednesday in August
The whole point of this festival is to throw tomatoes at people. Yeah. Its awesome.
31- Lollapalooza, Chicago, USA: August
A metal, rock, punk, and hiphop festival with some craft and comedy mixed in.
32- Obon Fesitval, Japan: August
Families release floating lanterns into the water to represent their ancestors’ spirits being sent off.
33- Gay Pride Parade, Amsterdam, Netherlands: first weekend of August
A huge gay pride festival, include a canal parade down the river on boats.
34- Burning Man, Black Rock Desert, Nevada, USA: Last Monday of August- first Monday of September
A major, amazing festival where a self-relient community of radical art, self expression, and awesomeness is created and removed without a trace one week each year.
35- Oktoberfest, Munich, Germany: Late September-first weekend in October
One word: beer. This festival is now held all around the world. It is an important part of Bavarian culture.
36- Grape Throwing Festival, Mallorca, Spain: last weekend in September
Throw huge amount of grapes at people and participate in other fun events.
37- Fantasy Fest, Key West, Florida: last week of October
A colorful parade and parties in the notoriously liberal town of Key West.
38- Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, New Mexico: early October
Over 750 hot air balloons take to the skies, some are illuminated at night, and some are uniquely shaped.
39- Diwali Festival of Lights: October/November
A family-oriented festival with firecrackers, sweets, and the lighting of small clay lamps and candles.
40- Halloween Festival of the Dead, Salem, Massachusetts, USA: end of October
Costume balls, vampire masquerades, psychic fairs and ghost hunting make Salem one of the top Halloween destinations.
41- Keene Pumpkin Festival, New Hampshire, USA: October
Massive towers of Jack-o-Lanterns, fireworks, and music draw a huge crowd.
42- Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), Mexico: November 2
Friends and family gather to celebrate loved ones who have passed on, through elaborate traditions of food, art, colors, and culture.
43- Pushkar Camel Festival, India: November
An enormous camel fair with music, events, exhibitions, and cultural market stalls.
44- Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, New York, USA: 4th Thursday of November
Giant balloons shaped like characters, as well as floats, bands, and entertainment, are paraded around New York city.
45- Monkey Buffet Festival, Lopburi, Thailand: end of November
The point of this festival is to give fruits and vegetables to monkeys and attract tourism. It works.
46- Junkanoo, Nassau, Bahamas: December 26 & January 1
A street festival with art, music, culture, elaborate costumes, and a parade, to bring in the new year.
47- Natchitoches Christmas Festival, Louisiana: December
Parades, boats, lights, and Christmas celebrations.
48- Full Moon Party, Haad Rin, Ko Pha Ngan, Thailand: the night before or after every full moon
Like something straight from a movie, 20-30,000 people gather each full moon to spend the night partying on a beach and doing wild events like fire rope skipping.
49- Olympic Games: summer or winter every other year
Thousands of athletes from around the world participate in a variety of sports. The opening ceremony is always a spectacle. If you don’t know what the Olympics are… well, lets not go there.
50- Love Parade, Germany (canceled)
One of the world’s biggest festivals, celebrated from 1989-2003 & 2006-2010, it included electronic music, costumes, and “let-lose” behavior. Unfortunately due to the tragic deaths of 21 participants in 2010 due to over crowding, the Love Parade has been permanently canceled.
Bucket List Festivals features 100 articles, including pictures and 100 links to interesting YouTube videos to put you in the heart of the action, this book is full of great festivals that you’ll want to attend in your lifetime. It is available for $4.99 on Amazon Kindle and as a PDF file from eJunkie.
picture credit: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 ink photo source