- The Carnival, Brazil
The greatest show of all times, the carnivals in Brazil and especially Rio de Janeiro are a big bash party of over a week! Celebrating 40 days before Easter, Carnivals are a party that precede Lent (a Christian ritual) enticing over half a million tourists each year. Records say that this is a Greek festival to honour the God of wine – Dionysus, and later adopted by Romans. Introduced in the 17th century, in ancient times the masters and servants would exchange their attires, come onto the streets and soak in an entire day of drunken celebrations. In the 1800s, there were some modifications in this celebration like having drums and music, aristocrats and emperors wearing masks and participating in the parade, glamorous balls at lavish venues and of course having samba dancers turning the entertainment notch up a little. The Carnivals supersede extravagance in every sense – the costumes, the music, the participation of millions of passionate Brazilians as well as international celebrities and ENERGY!
- La Tomatino, Spain
This tomato battle began in Bunol in 1945 and is celebrated on the last Wednesday of August. There are different versions of why this festival began in the first place, the most popular being about two boys getting into a squabble and attacking each other with the closest thing they could get their hands on – tomatoes. The following year the people of Bunol deliberately got into an argument leading into a battle of tomatoes. Interestingly the Government put in all their efforts to stop this weird custom, so in the late 1950s there was a tomato burial where these veggies were put into a coffin for a funeral. Finally the Police gave in and made this festival official. For the past 70 years the audience for this fun event has been getting bigger with over 20 thousand revellers in the last year. Sounds like a great plan to go and indulge in a new kind of battle!
- The Carnival of Venice
This fiesta is probably the oldest in the world with signs of inception in the 1100s! This is a two weeks gala where revellers drape themselves in fancy dresses embellished by the famous dramatic masks. There are a couple of stories as to why this celebration was introduced – one is when Venice became victorious against the Patriarch of Aquileia, the residents of Venice met in the square to celebrate over drinks and meat; the other says since these are the days before Lent when Christians give up alcohol, meat and parties for 40 days of penance, the carnival is where people indulge wholeheartedly in all these temptations! Like most historical significant events, the Carnival of Venice too went through a downfall because of political complications, but was revived in the 19th century and has become an identity of Venice ever since. Being a part of the Carnival of Venice means opulent masquerade balls where you need invites or pay steep prices for tickets, street performances and candle-lit gondola parades. The flowing alcohol and plates full of delicious meat preparations keep you up all night. The Italians surely know how to live life king size!
- Yi Peng Lantern Festival, Thailand
The Yi Peng festival is a spiritual and scared affair that is significant to let go of personal demons and negativity and turn into a new positive leaf. Celebrated on a large scale in Northern Thailand, this is to pat respect to Gautam Buddha. This is celebrated along with Loi Krathong – another festival of lights. A holy celebration, Buddhists chant in a serene environment spreading tranquillity, followed by an attractive display of lights, firecrackers, parades, musical and dance performances, and heaps of food! The highlight of this festival is of course, the lanterns that are left to fly into the dark sky – the sight of black sky dotted with yellow sparkles is truly magnificent. The Yi Peng festival takes place in the second (‘Yi’) month (‘Peng’) of the Lanna calendar which is usually in November. So if you are up for some spiritual journey, the Yi Peng Festival Chiang Mai is the place to be.
- Patricks Day, Ireland
Celebrated all over the world from New York to San Francisco to London to Dublin, March 17 marks a historical day in faith of the Almighty. St. Patrick, a saint who dedicated his life to the Lord, was a Roman British who was captured by the Irish as an adolescent and enslaved. When he escaped he vowed to return to Ireland which he did; as a missionary he educated people about the power of God in the country and witnessed people come to church under his guidance and follow Christianity. This day sees people dressed in green parading on streets, bands playing fun music, entertainers showing off their talent and people having a jolly good time. St. Patricks Day associates itself with the colour green and the shamrock. Everything is green; in some place even the beer. This day is fun and frolic day that celebrates a key landmark in Christianity. Cheers!
- Diwali, India
The Festival of Lights is the most celebrated time in the world of Hindus and comes in usually around the pleasant season of November. The celebration lasts for five days, each day having its own significance. The main reason for celebrating this festival is because Lord Rama (an avatar of Lord Vishnu) returned to his kingdom after defeating a dangerous demon called Raavan. When Rama was returning to his kingdom, it was a new moon night, so the residents lit lamps to light his path which is why diyas are a symbol of Diwali. Goddess Laxmi, who is the Goddess of good fortune and wealth also joined in these celebrations and that is why one day is dedicated Her; rituals invite Her to bring along purity, happiness and wealth into each home. This week long festival sees happy scenes of firecrackers, exchange of sweets and lots of positivity in the air.
- Oktoberfest, Germany
A sixteen day festival traditionally held in Munich and few other places in Germany, the Oktoberfest is all about German brewed beer! However, this festival did not revolve around beer in the initial years – Oktoberfest began as a commemoration of the marriage of King Ludwig I and Princess Therese in 1810. A grand horse race was organized five days after the wedding on October 17 and in the years to come this became an annual phenomenon with thousands of Bavarians walking down streets of Munich’s in traditional costumes. Along with the legendary horse race, there was other amusement too like a carousel and swings and beer stands to quench thirst. By 1896 the set-up had transformed into a fun fair where beer stands were replaced by the first beer tents and halls set up by the enterprising landlords with the backing of the breweries. Years later, this festival now identifies with beer from the Big Six breweries of Munich along with traditional food like Schweinsbraten (roast pork), Steckerlfisch (grilled fish on a stick), Würstel (sausages), Brezel (Pretzel)), Knödeln (potato or bread dumplings) and Sauerkraut or Blaukraut (red cabbage). Oktoberfest is celebrated in many countries today, however the locally brewed beer of Munich is what drags tourists to its home-city. This is the biggest people festival in the whole world which sees over 15% travellers from other countries that come to experience some authentic German culture.
- Chinese New Year, China
Although the Chinese follow the Gregorian calendar on a daily basis, for its festivals it works around the Chinese calendar. According to the Chinese calendar, the New Year for this community falls between the December Solstice and March Equinox which is usually around January third week or February first week. Being a traditional community, families get together for this week long holiday and bring in the New Year surrounded with love and friendship. Streets and buildings are decorated in red as red is considered an auspicious colour in Chinese culture. Cities and rural places also have parades with lion and dragon dances along with firecrackers; the animal of the year is given specifically celebrated in these parades. Another tradition the Chinese follow is eating fish in the New Year as it signifies good luck. Red confetti and decoration, dragon dances, family dinners, lanterns and firecrackers are all significant symbols of the Chinese New year; and be it Beijing, Xiamen, New York, London or Singapore you will feel the joy and happiness in the air in this week long celebration!
- Dia de Muertos, Mexico
The Day of the Dead, Dia de Muertos, is celebrated by the Mexicans in memory of their near and dear ones. Celebrated on November 1st and 2nd, these are the days of the Catholic All Souls and Saints Day which is usually a mourning time in countries across Europe. In Mexico, however, they believe to invite the spirits for a happy reunion and make merry by indulging in all the things their beloveds used to enjoy. The graveyards are merrily decorated and many have picnics where the locals bring in food, good music and drinks to have a family get together. Specially cooked food is prepared and it is believed that the spirits will come down and savour the fragrance after which the family will eat their meal. Quite unusual from the rituals most communities have for the deceased, the Mexicans believe in happiness even after death.
All cultures across the world have are peculiar in their own way, yet the main idea revolves around spreading positivity, purity and simply having a good time. It is a lifetime experience to be a part of such celebrations and understand how different communities follow different ways but ultimately reach the same destination of love and happiness. Happy Holidays!