The world is full of diverse people and when these diverse people and over the ages many different cultures have developed on this planet. Distinct religious beliefs, political ideologies, ethnicity and lifestyles has left us with a abundance of events, some traditional a lot of historical background and some not-so-traditional developed purely for a specific need, that shed light into and allow us to experience cultures different from our own. People from all over the world travel to different countries to experience a different culture and live a different life. This experience for some is life changing, the few days that one spends in foreign lands transforms them into free spirits and pens their mind through art, music, poetry, performance. We have made a list of the 10 Best Cultural Festivals around the Globe
- Burning Man – Black Rock Desert, Nevada, USA
The burning man began as born fire ritual in 1986 on Baker Beach in San Fransico, where Larry Harvey burned a 9 foot wooden man with a small wooden dog as an expression of freedom and spontaneity. By 1988 the man was no 40 feet tall, soon barren unoccupied land in Nevada called Black Rock City was occupied to celebrate what the world will come to know as the Burning Man Festival. The festival sees various forms of self expression in terms of art, music and installations and sees more than 70,000 attendees every year. It is organized by the Burning Man Project NGO for 8 days. People from all over the world, not only attend but also volunteer for this festival. The best and most unusual part of this festival is the “Leave No Trace” policy where by the end of the event everything that was built disappears, the crew remains in the desert to clean and wipe off all traces of the festival.
- Holi, India
Holi is the festival of colors celebrated in India and Nepal. It is a two festival celebrated to thank Mother Nature for a good harvest. It signifies the arrival of spring and victory of good over evil. On the first day of Holi, people in India, light born fires and offer coconuts and sweet delicacies to it – this is called the Holika Dahan. On the second day i.e. Dhulivandan, people use natural colors to paint each other’s faces. Groups sing, dance and play the dholak. Sweets like Gujiya, Malpua are made and offered to the God and then everyone else. A distinct cooler called ‘Bhaang’ is prepared with cannabis, milk and spices and is distributed widely.
- Chinese New Year, China
The Chinese New Year is a centuries old festival celebrated in spring in China and countries surrounding it. It is the biggest holiday and celebrated for 15 days. Red is considered to be an auspicious colour, so everything is decorated with red – streets, houses, shops and even the gifts that are exchanged are wrapped in red paper. The streets are filled with fireworks, dragons and lanterns. Taking a family portrait at the end of the 15th day is a very important tradition where the head male of the family sits in the middle and the entire family is around him. It is believed that the loud beats of the drum and the deafening sounds of the cymbals together with the face of the Dragon or lion dancing aggressively can evict bad or evil spirits.
- Pingxi Lantern Festival – Taiwan
Also known as the Yuan Xiao Festival, the lantern festival started in the early 90s to celebrate to ward off evil and diseases from the land. A ceremony where firecrackers are burst on a 25ft high wooden stand in the Wumio Temple is the most important part of this festival. This festival sees thousands of attendants every year. The people release lanterns in the sky in the evening. These lanterns are decorated with flowers, colourful drawings and even messages.
- Oktoberfest – Munich, Germany
The Oktoberfest is the world’s biggest travel and beer funfair. It is attended by more than 6 million people from across the world. It showcases the German culture with a feast of food, alcohol and trade shows. Visitors also enjoy numerous attractions, such as amusement rides, side stalls and games. The festival runs for 17 days and the most peculiar feature is the costume parade where more than 1500 participants wear 150 different traditional outfits. Permanent and non permanent structures are constructed for people to stay in forms of tents. Traditional German food items like Schweinebraten (roast pork), Schweinshaxe Würstl (sausages) along with Käsespätzle (cheese noodles), Reiberdatschi (potato pancakes), Sauerkraut along with other Bavarian delicacies as Obatzda (a spicy cheese-butter spread) and Weißwurst (a white sausage) are prepared and enjoyed with high quality beers.
- The Rio de Janeiro Carnival – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
The Carnival in Rio de Janerio is held during Lent on the Brazilian streets since 1723. Parades with more than 2 million people on the streets are colourful and vibrant where one can see the Brazilian culture seep through. The parades take place in Samabadromes and various aspects of Brazilian music and art taken into consideration while preparing these. Big floats are led by different Samba schools from the country. The competition to crown King Momo and Queens of the Carnival is held on the last day where in the best dressed and best personality holding people are crowned.
- Full Moon Party – Haad Rin Beach, Koh Phangan, Thailand
The Full Moon Party tradition started in 1985 by a few travellers and today is celebrated by crowds of more than 30,000 people every full moon evening. These are parties organized every month on a full moon night. There is a wide range of music – trance, drum and bass, reggae and you will also see fire skipping ropes, poi dancers etc.
- Up Helly Aa Fire Festival – Scotland
The Up Helly Aa Fire festival is an annually celebrated festival in Scotland that marks the end of Yule season. Thousands of guisers gather together for a procession and the amin guizer, also called the ‘Jarl’ is elected every year. The procession ends with torches being thrown into a replica of the Viking Longship. Post procession the people go for private parties and excursions specially held for them.
- Carnival of Venice – Venice, Italy
Similar to the Rio Festival, the Carnival of Venice is held before lent. It is the world’s biggest mask carnival. People spend large portion of the year in disguise. The Ventitan masks are made using many different techniques like glass, porcelain and leather. The different types of masks worn are called: Bauta, Colombina, Medico della peste, Moretta, Servetta mutta, Volto, Pantalone, Arlecchino and Zanni. A contest for the most beautiful mask is also held.
- White Nights Festival – St. Petersburg, Russia
The White Night festivals are celebrated all over the world, but the original started in Russia. The name comes from the high latitude to the weeks around summer solstice in June when the sun doesn’t set until 10pm and the twilight lasts almost all night. Every year the best opera and ballet performances of the Mariinsky Theatre are performed. The Palace Square becomes a hub where celebrities perform and other large scale entertainment shows are organized in front of more than 50,000 fans.