9 Cultural Celebrations You Need to Experience in Your Lifetime
There’s nothing like a trip to an unknown place—near or far—to ignite your passions and encourage new ideas, not to mention leave you happier and more inspired than ever. No matter what motivates you—be it an insatiable wanderlust or a quest for the perfect Instagram (no judgment!)—traveling is one of the most worthwhile things you can spend your hard-earned cash on. If you’re nodding your head in agreement, read on. We’ve rounding up nine spectacular celebrations around the world that are not only crazy fun but also tied to rich, unique histories, too. That's what we call a travel win-win.
The world-famous parade is legendary for its off-the-charts merriment and ornately costumed (and/or scantily clad) participants and huge floats. Dating back to 1723, the Carnival festivities show off Brazil’s unique cultural heritage with Portuguese and Afro-Brazilian elements.
Where: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
When: February 5-10, 2016
Celebrated at the turn of the Chinese calendar, this celebration—also known as the Spring Festival—is centuries old, and honors several deities and ancestors. Today, it is celebrated with parades and various practices leading up to and during the welcoming of the new lunar year.
When: February 8, 2016
India’s color-filled spring festival, originally known as Holika, dates back to ancient times, and is said to have existed centuries before Christ. A joyous holiday, Holi celebrates the triumph of good over evil, inviting revelers to douse each other in a rainbow of colorful pigments. Today, Holi is celebrated in various countries around the world.
Where: India, worldwide
When: March 23, 2016
Infamous for its rowdy revelry, Mardi Gras actually refers to a single day in a series of Carnival celebrations, beginning on Three King’s Day and culminating on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday’s period of fasting for Lent (“Fat Tuesday”). Mardi Gras has become synonymous with the vibrant culture of New Orleans, but the festivities actually trace all the way back to medieval Europe and the city’s history as a French colony.
Where: New Orleans, Louisiana
When: February 9, 2016
Celebrated across many Northern European countries, Sweden’s celebration of the summer solstice after the long, dark Scandinavian winter rivals even Christmas-level celebrations. With roots in a pre-Christian solstice festival and medieval festivals in France, celebrations involve decorating and dancing around the maypole, collecting flowers, and inviting bounty, good health, and fortune in the open air.
When: June 24, 2016
You have the next-level celebrations of a royal wedding in 1810 to thank for this monthlong love letter to beer, pretzels, bratwursts, and all things Bavarian. The 16-day folk festival attracts more than six million people from around the world who flock to fairgrounds to enjoy the festivities.
Where: Munich, Germany
When: September and October 2015
Held in the Andalusian capital of Seville, Spain, the Seville Fair dates back to 1847 and to this day remains one of the most popular celebrations of Spanish culture. Parades of decorated horses and carriages, rousing bullfights, dancing, and costumes of traditional boleros and faralaes (flamenco-style dresses) show off the vibrant culture of the region.
Where: Sevilla, Spain
When: April 2016
It’s the national holiday celebrated in more countries around the world than any other, so you’ve likely participated in some manner of St. Paddy’s Day revelry—sipped a shamrock-hued beer or two, enjoyed wearing green. But head to Dublin, and you’ll really be doing it right, what with a massive parade and plenty of good times.
Where: Dublin, Ireland
When: March 14-17, 2016
Just as Rio and NOLA’s Carnival are timed to coincide with the Christian celebration of Lent, so too is the Carnival of Venice. The difference, however, is in the nature of its celebrations. Renowned for the elaborate Venetian masks that festival attendees wear, the Carnival of Venice became official way back during the Renaissance and continues to attract visitors to its stylishly baroque celebrations.
Where: Venice, Italy
When: January 31-Februrary 17, 2015
Thousands of khom loi, or paper lanterns, are sent into the night sky like illuminated jellyfish during the Lanna (northern Thai) festival of Yi Peng in Chiang Mai, the ancient capital of the Lanna Kingdom. The act of releasing these floating lanterns symbolizes letting go of past transgressions and any grudges one might be holding onto.
Where: Chiang Mai, Thailand
When: October or November; date changes yearly according to the lunar calendar