One of the reasons many of us travel is to experience different cultures first hand and even to celebrate them through cultural events and festivals. These celebratory occasions are a great way to learn about new cultures by actively taking part in them and interacting with locals and other tourists alike.
Here are some of the best cultural events and festivals around the world every traveler should experience at least once in their lives. Should you visit any of these countries, try to schedule your trip to fall at the same time of the event.
Holi, also known as the Festival of Colors or Festival of Love, is a religious spring festival celebrated by Hindus to welcome the beginning of the new season in late February or March. It is celebrated mainly in India and Nepal and can last from two to sixteen days. In recent years, though, the celebration has spread all around the world due to its peculiar tradition of throwing colored powder between participants.
Yi Peng, also known as the Festival of Lights or Loi Krathong, is celebrated all around Thailand on the evening of the full moon of the 12th month in the traditional Thai lunar calendar. In the Western calendar, this usually falls in November or around the end of October.
In the festival, people release lotus-shaped receptacles, known as Krathongs, into the water to bring luck and fulfill their wishes. In the city of Chiang Mai, while they still release the Krathongs, they perform the celebration in a particularly different way. There, thousands of rice paper lanterns, known as Khom Loi, are released into the sky while participants make a wish. This is a symbolic act of releasing your worries and letting them float away. This particular festival is known as Yi Peng, and it presents one of the most surreal and magical sights. Imagine thousands of rice paper lanterns floating in unison in the dark night sky!
Carnival celebrations take place all around the world, but three of the most famous carnivals are Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro, Mardi Gras in New Orleans, and Carnevale di Venezia in Italy.
These festivals take place annually and are held between Friday and Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. In Rio de Janeiro, the main event is the parade in the Sambadrome, which features decorative floats from various samba schools. It is a full spectacle with dancers, acrobats, music and more. New Orleans has a similar parade on its famous "Fat Tuesday." Venice, on the other hand, is popular among people who love the tradition of dressing up in costumes and masks from the Victorian Era, dating back to the beginnings of this celebration.
It's no surprise that the traditional holiday of Chinese New Year, or Lunar New Year, is one of the biggest cultural festivals found around the world. It usually takes place from late January to early February and is always symbolized by the color red, along with dragons, lanterns and hundreds of fireworks celebrations. While China is the best place where you can experience this festival, you also have the opportunity to get a glimpse of it in any Chinatown around the world.
Also known as the Day of the Dead, this is a Mexican holiday that is celebrated throughout Mexico, though it has spread around the world, especially in Latin America. The celebration commemorates deceased friends and family by praying for them to help them in their spiritual journey. It takes place on November 1st and 2nd, and it is always adorned with colorful decorations of skulls and marigolds. November 1st is referred to as Dia de los Inocentes ("Day of the Innocents") while November 2nd is referred to as Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead").
Songkran is celebrated in Thailand as the traditional Thai New Year, going from the 13th to the 15th of April. And how do they celebrate it? By creating the biggest water fight in the world!
While Songkran started as the observance of the astrological passage and the payment of respect to one's ancestors and elders, this festival grew into an event where respect is still paid, but with a mix of fun and a lot of water. So, get your water gun ready and join the crowds. You'll be wet in no time and will stay wet for three full days if you step outside your hotel. There's no way to escape it, so join them in the water fight!
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Norbert Figueroa is an architect who hit the pause button on his career in 2011 to do a round the world trip. He's been blogging for over three years at globotreks.com, where he shares his travel experiences, budget travel tips, and a good dose of world architecture. From hiking Mount Kilimanjaro to diving with great white sharks, he is always on the search of adrenaline and adventure. Norbert is originally from Puerto Rico and he is currently based in Milan, Italy... when not roaming around the world, that is. He has traveled to more than 80 countries in 5 continents and his goal is to travel to all 193 U.N. recognized countries. Follow Norbert on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google Plus.
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