If there’s one thing that unites people from all around the globe, it’s our love of celebration. One of the best ways to have fun and experience a brand new culture at the same time is to attend a large event important to the history of a country’s people. Attending any one of these events would make for an unforgettable experience; attend several and you’ll have even more fun.
1. Rio Carnival – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
For the party animal eager to go all out with a lively and vivacious celebration, this event is sure to please. Carnival takes place during the five days before Ash Wednesday (the start of the Catholic observance of Lent). Known for its millions of attendees, fiery samba dance performances, and vivid costumes, it’s no wonder this festival has earned the title, “The Greatest Show on Earth.”
2. Oktoberfest – Munich, Germany
If you’re a big fan of beer and Bavarian culture, you’ll definitely want to mark this event on your calendar. This celebration takes place for about 16 days, with the first Sunday in October marking the end of the party. More than 200 years ago, a royal wedding in Munich was accompanied by heavy partying and drinking, and the event was such a hit that the tradition is still carried on to this day. Attend this celebration to enjoy Bavarian music, traditional garb from the region, and of course, lots of beer from local Munich breweries.
3. Chinese New Year – Various Locations in China
The most important celebration in China, this Spring Festival celebrates the dawn of a brand new year according to the traditional Chinese lunisolar calendar. This event falls somewhere between January 21st and February 20th. People use this time to clean, cook, visit their families, pay respects to their ancestors, exchange red envelopes, set off firecrackers, and more. Visitors can enjoy the spectacle of glowing lanterns, impressive dragon dances, and delicious traditional dishes.
4. Diwali – Various Locations in India
The most important event in India, Diwali is a celebration of good defeating evil. However, different Hindu people interpret the true meaning of the holiday a bit differently depending on the region they’re from. This Festival of Lights spans five days and involves prayer, amazing feasts, and fun festivities. People decorate their homes with clay lamps and they even use colored powder to create intricate designs.
5. Day of the Dead – Mexico City, Mexico
Although it may take place close to Halloween, Día de los Muertos is very different. Important to the culture of Mexico, this celebration taking place on the first two days of November is all about conveying love and reverence for lost family members. Anything but a solemn occasion, this event is marked by colorful costumes, social gatherings, eye-catching art pieces, and grand parades.
6. Songkran Water Festival – Thailand
Observed from April 13-15 every year, this event celebrates the healing and purifying power of water. Today, this fun festival involves some water fighting, which can be a great way to cool down from this month’s hot temperatures. Visit Khao San Road in Bangkok to witness huge water guns, pressure hoses, and even buckets for dousing people with water, but remember that it may be difficult to stay out of the splash zone.
7. Carnival of Venice – Venice, Italy
This 10-day festival celebrates a time when the Venetian Republic had great power. Spectators can enjoy delicious food, inventive costumes, and historical music. It won’t cost you much money to have fun here, because there is a wealth of activities to enjoy such as free parades and guided museum tours. This event always finishes on Shrove Tuesday, which is the day before Ash Wednesday.
8. Lantern Festival – Taiwan
Lighting lanterns is an important cultural tradition in Taiwanese culture, and it originates from Buddhist practices which are more than 20 centuries old. Many tourists flock to witness this beautiful spectacle, which takes place on the 15th day of the first month in the lunar calendar to mark the end of New Year celebrations. Enjoy delicious Taiwanese dishes in the streets as you light a lantern to symbolize hope for a bright future.
9. Running of the Bulls – Pamplona, Spain
Would you classify yourself as a bit of a wild spirit or even an adrenaline-junkie? If so, this event might be ideal for you: so mark your calendar for July 7th-14th. You can join thousands of runners in participating in the event, or you can stay safe on the sidelines and simply enjoy the show. It’s always a spectacle when 6 Spanish fighting bulls and 6 steer run from the Corrales de Santo Domingo to a famous bullfight arena.
10. Bastille Day – Paris, France
If you’re looking for a summer celebration, this event takes place on the 14th of July annually. It commemorates the Storming of Bastille, which occurred in 1790 and involved a revolutionary mob taking action against royal authority, starting the French Revolution. Today, a large military parade takes place on the morning of Bastille Day, which is the oldest regular military parade in all of Europe.
11. Cherry Blossom Festival – Tokyo, Japan
During late March and early April, sakura season takes place in Japan. Thousands of beautiful pink blooms will spring to life and shops will hold special sakura-themed events. Take memorable photos in front of the flowers, picnic underneath the blooming trees, and try out some cherry blossom-inspired items and snacks from local stores.
12. Glastonbury Festival – Somerset, England
Fans of music absolutely must pay a visit to this celebration: Glastonbury is the largest greenfield music and performing arts festival in the entire world. Taking place in the middle of June, this outdoor celebration of bands is the best place to see some of the biggest and most popular musicians perform to a raving crowd. Find a good spot to camp in a tent or trailer and prepare for an unforgettable experience.
13. St. Patrick’s Festival – Dublin, Ireland
At this lively event, Irish music, theatre, art, food, and beverages abound. Visitors can even enjoy amazing parades that celebrate Irish culture. The most important event on Ireland’s calendar, this five-day event centers around the core holiday of March 17th. A great option for family-friendly fun, this occasion is a beautiful and longstanding tradition.
14. New Year’s Eve in Times Square – New York City, USA
Every year on the night of December 31, there’s nowhere more exciting to be than in the heart of NYC. In Times Square, the New Year’s Eve Ball is dropped when the clock reaches midnight. People from all around the world watch as the crowd in Manhattan celebrates the coming of a new year. It’s an experience that everyone should partake in at least once in their lifetime.
15. Inti Raymi – Cusco, Peru
Taking place on June 24, this “Sun Festival” involves special cultural activities that celebrate the history of Cusco and the Inca legacy. Actors, dancers, and musicians put on magnificent shows for attendees to enjoy, where mystical spirituality is embraced, and people make offerings to the Sun God. For those interested in experiencing the rich religious and cultural history of Peru firsthand, this annual event is a must.
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Karee Blunt is a nationally syndicated travel journalist, focused on discovering destinations and experiences that captivate and inspire others through her writing. She is also the founder of Our Woven Journey, a travel site focused on inspiring others to create memory-making adventures with their loved ones. Karee is passionate about encouraging others to step out of their comfort zone and live the life they dream of. She is the mother of six kids, including four through adoption, and lives with her family in the Pacific Northwest. You can learn more about Karee on her about me page.