Discover The Best Things To Do Around The World With The Cultural Calendar 2016
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Discover The Best Things To Do Around The World With The Cultural Calendar 2016

Picture of Grace Beard
Assistant Editor
Updated: 28 November 2017
We’re helping you create your 2016 bucket list with a comprehensive guide to the world’s biggest, best and quirkiest cultural events to attend this year. From major film festivals like Sundance and Cannes to February festivities like Rio’s Carnival and New Orleans’ Mardis Gras to weird and wonderful traditions like Italy’s Battle of the Oranges, make a resolution to be a part of as many of these exciting events as possible.



Harbin Ice & Snow Sculpture Festival, China

When: January 5th – February 28th
Where: Harbin, China
What: Harbin, one of China’s coldest cities, hosts the world’s most freezing festival with their annual two-month showcase of ice sculptures and arctic art.

No Pants Subway Ride

When: January 10th
Where: Various, Global
What: Started in 2012 by organized pranksters Improv Everywhere, No Pants Subway Ride started out in New York City, but since then this now yearly event has spread to cities around the world. Check to see if your city is participating and dare to bare your legs – and underwear – this Jan.



World Buskers Festival, New Zealand

When: January 14th – 24th
Where: Christchurch, New Zealand
What: The world’s best street performers, from acrobats to hoola-hoopers, gather every January to put on an exciting, eclectic show at this New Zealand festival.


Full Moon Party, Thailand

When: January 23rd
Where: Koh Pha Ngan, Thailand
What: Every month, Koh Pha Ngan draws hordes of revelers to its notoriously wild Full Moon Party, with the first of the year promising to be a big night, falling in Thailand‘s peak season. Expect fire dancers and buckets of booze.


Sundance Film Festival, USA

When: January 21st – 31st
Park City, Utah, USA
One of the largest independent film festivals in the world, Sundance is known for giving some of the greatest filmmakers and movies — from Quentin Tarantino to (500) Days of Summer — their big breaks. If you want to catch the next big thing in film, Sundance is the place to be.

Venice Carnival, Italy

When: 23rd January – 9th February
Where: Venice, Italy
What: Kicking off the Carnival season is arguably the biggest and well-known Carnival out there. Take part in the many traditional events over the two weeks, or soak up the atmosphere and admire the dazzling costumes and masks worn around Venice.

Up Helly Aa Fire Festival, Scotland

When: 26th January
Where: Shetland, Scotland, UK
What: Mark the end of the Yule season in Scotland with this tradition festival dating back to the 19th Century. As the name implies, Up Helly Aa is all about fire with a series of torch processions through the major towns in the Shetland isles and finally ending with a replica of a full-sized Viking galley being burnt. Followed by much drinking and dancing, naturally.



Mardi Gras

When: February 9th
Where: New Orleans, Louisiana, USA
What: Taking place in New Orleans — a melting pot of a half-dozen cultures and dialects — Mardi Gras is French for ‘Fat Tuesday.’ While it’s known to be the wildest party in the States, the festival has something for everyone, including family-friendly parades, jazz-inspired music and uninhibited parties. The festival’s official colors — purple, green and gold — represent justice, faith and power.


Rio Carnival

When: February 5th – 10th
Where: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
What: Known as ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’ by locals, Carnival in Rio is one of the biggest and most famous dance parties in the world. The parade takes place at the Sambodromo, and you can expect to find upwards of two million festival attendees on the streets every day surrounded by colorful costumes, dancing and parades.


Viareggio Carnevale

When: February 7th, 14th, and 21st
Where: Viareggio, Italy
What: Considered as one of Europe’s most famous and largest Mardi Gras-style festivals, it is only second in popularity to the Venice Carnevale. The start of Carnevale in Viareggio is announced by a triple cannon shot from the sea. The parade then moves along the Lungomare promenade with lavish floats topped with huge papier-mâché figures, reaching up to four stories high. The Carnevale’s lively and fun Fat Tuesday parade is broadcast live on national TV each year.


Trinidad and Tobago Carnival

When: February 8th – 9th
Where: Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago
What: This is a feast for the senses, with elaborate dancing and costumes as well as eating and drinking. The costumes are as elaborate as the events, with dancers and participants sporting sexy sequin and brightly colored negligees. One of the most popular traditions of this Carnival is the festive dance known as the wine — when dancers gyrate their hips in response to their partner’s movements.

Chinese New Year

When: February 8th
Where: Hong Kong, China
What: The Chinese New Year is a celebration of renewal that includes traditions such as giving little red envelopes, praying for prosperity at the Man Mo Temple and seeking a fortune teller. There’s also a Well-Wishing festival at Lam Tsuen in Tai Po where you can jot down your wishes on a piece of paper, tie it to an orange, and throw it up into an artificial tree. The higher the fruit lands on the tree, the more likely it is that your wishes will come true. In the evening, there is a parade through Tsim Sha Tsui with floats and performers. The highlight, however, is undoubtedly the fireworks display over Victoria Harbor.

Battle of the Oranges

When:February 6th – 9th
Where: Ivrea, Italy
What: The Battle of the Oranges is highly steeped in history and contains some competitive elements. There are nine competitive teams of almost 4,000 individuals and nearly 100,000 spectators every year amongst the orange throwing.

Tapati Rapa Nui

When: January 29th – February 13th
Where: Rapa Nui National Park, Easter Island, Chile
What: The Tapati Rapa Nui Festival is for locals and by locals; however, tourists are welcome to be spectators. Easter Island comes to life with truly authentic festivities celebrating a deep appreciation and respect for the culture by the Rapa Nui people, complete with music, dance, traditional sports, competitions, feasts and fireworks.

Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival

When: February 19th
Where: New Taiwan City, Taiwan
What: This holiday is celebrated all over Asia; however, nowhere in the world is it more recognized than in Pingxi, a remote mountain town an hour’s drive from Taipei. Following a 2,000-year-old tradition, today 100,000 to 200,000 lanterns are sent up to a moonlight sky. The main activity during the festival is to buy a lantern, write your desires and ambitions on it, and then send it into the sky.

Sapporo Snow Festival

When: February 5th – 11th
Where: Sapporo, Japan
What: Here you can celebrate all things winter in Japanese style, with 400 ice and snow sculptures, snowboarding, and native winter foods such as noodle dishes, ramen, fresh grilled seafood, curry soup, and veggies like potatoes and corn. The main action is concentrated in Odori Park where you can watch artists at work through the day.




National Grape Harvest Festival, Argentina

When: February 28th – March 8th
Where: Mendoza, Argentina
What: If you enjoy a glass of red in the evening, this is the festival for you. This huge party in Argentina‘s Mendoza province celebrates the area’s impressive wine production, with everything from parades to resident ‘wine queens.’


Argentinian Grapes | © Ted McGrath/Flickr

Argentinian Grapes | © Ted McGrath/Flickr

Russian Barista Days, Russia

When: March 1st – 3rd
Where: Exhibition Center ‘Sokolniki’, Moscow
What: A competition among the most prominent local coffee artists -the barista -will name the winners of 6 national championships, preliminary to the world championships. From ‘Latte Art’ to ‘Roasting’ to ‘Coffee in Good Spirits’ (aka coffee with alcohol), Russian baristas will show you their jaw-dropping expertise in making a, what seems to be, relatively easily-made drink, into a work of art.

The 17th Annual International Yoga Festival, India

When: March 1st – 7th
Where: Parmarth Niketan, Rishikesh, Uttarakhand
What: The sacred state of Uttarakhand was the birthplace of yoga, and now, with the form having spread globally, brings together yoga enthusiasts internationally. During the one week festival, learn from some of the best yogacharyas (yoga teachers) worldwide through a program which includes 70 hours of yoga classes.

DSC_0863 (1)

Omizutori, Japan

When: March 1st -14th
Where: Todai-ji Temple, Zoshi-Cho, Nara City, Japan
What: Otaimatsu, which occurs during this period, involves priests of the temples confessing their sins by running the corridors of Nigatsu-do waving huge pine torches. It is said that if you are touched by a fire spark, you will be protected from evil. Omizutori, however, is the highlight and performed early on the 13th. Water which only springs in front of the temple on this very day is drawn up and offered to the Buddhist deities as the water is said to cure all disease.

Festival du Bois, Canada

When: March 4th – 6th
Where: Mackin Park, 1046 Brunette Avenue, Coquitlam, BC V3K 1C9
What: Every year, Maillardville, the oldest francophone community in British Columbia (Canada), welcomes young and old to a celebration of traditional and world music, all with a French twist! For its 27th year, Festival du Bois, the most attended francophone festival on the west coast, will present great performances from Canada and beyond, while sharing the community’s Joie de vivre, through great food and its unique hospitality.

Courtesy of Festival du Bois

Courtesy of Festival du Bois

St. Patrick’s Day Festival, Ireland

When: March 17th – 20th
Where: Dublin, Ireland
What: St Patrick’s is now celebrated in more countries around the world than any other holiday, but Dublin is really the place to be to experience the energy and frivolity of the Irish festival.

Paro Tsechu Festival, Bhutan

When: March 20th -24th
Where: Paro, Bhutan
What: A Buddhist dance festival, Paro Tsechu festival is a major event of the Bhutan calendar. Experience Bhutan’s ancient culture and help the locals celebrate Buddhist religious traditions by commemorating Guru Rinpoche, who brought Tibetan Buddhism to Bhutan. The sacred ritual of a masked dance is just one element of the lively and colorful Paro Tsechu festival.

Holi Festival, India

When: March 23rd
Mumbai, India
Although the Holi Festival is now widely celebrated in many parts of the world, head to India to take part in this authentic, ancient Hindu tradition, also known as the festival of colors or festival of love.

Byron Bay’s BluesFest, Australia

When: March 24th – 28th
Where: Byron Bay, Australia
What: With summer still at it’s height in the southern hemisphere, Australia comes out in force for it’s ‘premier blues and roots music festival’. From artists such as Allen Stone and Elle King, to Kendrick Lamar and Kaleo included in the 2016 line-up, this is a festival not to be missed.

BaliSpirit Festival, Indonesia

When: March 29th – April 3rd
Where: Ubud, Bali, Indonesia
What: A festival built on health and wellness, BaliSpirit is perfect for those looking to skip the usual headiness of a music festival and indulge in six days of yoga, art classes, tours of spiritual sites and much more.


When: April 13th-15th

Where: Chiang Mai

What: Songkran is a festival celebrating the traditional Thai New Year. Its roots are in religious tradition, where Buddhists douse statues of Buddha in water to demonstrate spiritual cleansing. The cleansing festivities take place outside of the temples as well, as people use water guns and water balloons to douse everyone around them. Always be ready to get soaked, as hotel employees have no shame in surprising their patrons with a bucket of water.

Kings Day (Kongingsdag)

When: April 27th

Where: Amsterdam

What: This national holiday commemorates King Willem-Alexanders birthday, but also celebrates the coming of summer. Everyone wears orange and takes to the streets for the parties, and the canals for gatherings on boats. Kings Day is also celebrated in other major Dutch cities as well. On Kongingsdag, can find yourself in a sea of orange browsing the holiday’s massive outdoor market and enjoying a traditional Dutch croquette.


When: Easter-time, 2016

Where: Vrontados, Chio, Greece

What: This Greek village trades in the chocolate eggs and bunny marshmallows for fireworks and rockets. Two rival churches on opposite hills in the town of Chio shoot rockets at each other all night for a burning spectacle. The fireworks show is accompanied with local food and ceremonial drinking, that starts around 8pm and continues through the night.


Cape Town International Jazz Festival

When: April 1st & 2nd

Where: Cape Town, South Africa

What: As the biggest festival in Sub-Saharan Africa, the Cape Town Jazz Fest has won several awards for its splendor. There are weekend and day tickets available to see over 100 artists throughout the weekend, as well as a free community concert in the heart of Cape Town and a photographic exhibit.Top artists for this year include South African artists as well as international favorites. These include Sheila E, Angie Stone, BadBadNotGood, Mafikizolo, and Amadou & Mariam.

Bacchanal Jamaica

When: April 3rd

Where: Kingston, Jamaica

What: Bacchanal is Jamaica’s month-long carnival celebration, with the event on April 3 the closing festivities with a parade and street parties. Jamaican music pioneers brought the festivities and energy of the Trinidadian carnival to the island in the late 80’s, putting a local spin on a caribbean tradition.  Locals and tourists both dress in the Caribbean carnival attire, with feathered headdresses and costumes adorned with gems.



Cannes Film Festival

When: May 11th – 22nd

Where: Cannes, France

What: Filmmakers showcase their work at this highly competitive and prestigious festival each year. From independent features to short films, the festival highlights the best of international cinematography in competitive and noncompetitive categories. Festival attendees can watch premieres of this year’s selection of films, people watch and more at an event known worldwide for its aesthetic and ability to launch careers in the film industry.

Gnaoua and World Music Festival

When: May 12th – 15th

Where: Essaouira, Morocco

What: Gearing up for its 19th year, the Gnaoua and World Music Festival is a free musical experience combining Moroccan history and tradition through jazz-influenced performances. The festival seeks to infuse music and discussion, placing an emphasis on passing traditions to a new generation of performers. Primarily incorporating traditional sub saharan drums, castanets and lutes, the festival has grown to include blues, reggae and hip-hop stylings.

Kumbh Mela Festival

When: April 22nd – May 21st

Where: Ujjain, India

What: In this 55-day-long festival, an estimated 50 to 110 million visitors make the Kumbh Mela pilgrimage. Kumbh Mela originates from a mythical battle between Hindu gods and demons seeking a kumbh (or pitcher) providing the nectar of immortality. Those celebrating Kumbh Mela travel to one of the four sites where the pitcher was said to have scattered and dropped nectar. At this year’s festival in Ujjain, India, bathers wash aways their sins, listen to devotional lectures and watch theatrical performances.

Waisak Day

When: May 21st

Where: Borobudur, Indonesia

What: Waisak Day is a Buddhist Holy Day celebrated in Indonesia to honor the birth, enlightenment and death of Siddhartha Gautama. Celebrations begin at sunrise and include a walking procession between Buddhist temples, meditation and mantra recitation.

Stars of the White Nights

When: May 26th – July 24th

Where: St. Petersburg, Russia

What: Stars of the White Nights is an international festival and arts extravaganza. It includes music, ballet, opera, film and outdoor performances and celebrations. Specific events, such as ‘Scarlet Sails’, serve as a tribute to Russian history. Complete with ships, fireworks and live music on the riverbank, this event draws more than 3.5 million people to attend.




Secret Solstice

When: June 16th – 19th

Where: Reykjavik, Iceland

What: Featuring artists like Radiohead, Of Monsters and Men and Deftones, this year’s Secret Solstice Festival will include music from both established and up-and-coming artists. The festival takes place during the summer solstice, where Iceland’s Midnight Sun allows for 72 straight hours of urban, indie and electronic music. “Secret Solstice presents Into the Glacier” will allow attendees to experience music in a one-of-a-kind venue and some ticket holders will be exclusively escorted to the top of Europe’s second largest glacier via NASA equipment formerly used to move rockets.


Festa de São João

When: June 23rd

Where: Porto, Portugal

What: Festo de São João is a love-themed holiday celebrated the evening of June 23 in honor of St. John. An event for all ages, the festival includes fireworks, illuminated balloons and bonfire jumping challenges on the beach as the night progresses. There is a mass for St. John the next morning, which is followed by the barcos rebelos, a famous wooden boat race.

© José Goncalves/Wikimedia

© José Goncalves/Wikimedia

Inti Raymi

When: June 24th

Where: Cusco, Peru

What: An annual celebration of the Winter Solstice, Inti Raymi recognizes the Incan god Inti. Inti Raymi, also known as Festival of the Sun, draws hundreds of thousands of visitors for events throughout the week leading up to a daylong celebration on June 24. Reenactments of Inti Raymi rituals, orations and dances are performed on this day.


© Rainbowasi/Flickr

© Rainbowasi/Flickr

Queenstown Winter Festival

When: June 24th – July 3rd

Where: Queenstown, New Zealand

What: In one of the world’s top resort towns, the Queenstown Winter Festival is 10 days of fun on New Zealand’s snow-capped mountains. With more than 60 events throughout the festival, families can celebrate the beginning of New Zealand’s winter season with concerts, fireworks, a free party, jazz nights, comedy shows and more.

© Lawrence Murray/Wikimedia Commons

© Lawrence Murray/Wikimedia Commons

Haro Wine Festival

When: June 28th – 30th

Where: Haro, Spain

What: Better known as the Wine Fight, the Haro Wine Festival consists of locals and tourists alike using squirt guns, balloons and more to soak one another with red wine in celebration of Saint Peter’s Day. The grape smash is complete with wine-tasting, bullfighting and bonfires.

© BigSus/Wikimedia Commons

© BigSus/Wikimedia Commons




Gion Matsuri

When: July 1st – 31st

Where: Kyoto, Japan

What: In Kyoto, the entire month of July is a celebration of Japanese tradition and culture. Stemming from rituals developed in Japan’s Heian period to worship the gods in light of several natural disasters, the Gion Matsuri continues today with processions and parades scheduled throughout the month. The festival includes a tea and lantern ceremony, as well as a flower umbrella procession. However, Gion Matsuri is best known for its Yamaboko Jukno parade, which features massive floats weighing up to 12 metric tons.

© Connie/Flickr

© Connie/Flickr

Rath Yatra

When: July 6th

Where: Puri, India

What: Rath Yatra draws in more than a million visitors every year to take part in this ‘Festival of Chariots’, making it one of India’s largest festivals. During Rath Yatra, three wooden figurines representing Jagannath, considered the lord of the universe, and his brother and sister, are removed from the temple of Jagannath in a mile-long procession to Gundicha Temple. As one of the only times the figurines leave the temple, it is a chance for non-Hindus to view them. The occasion is celebrated with traditional music and traveling chariots.

© Krupasindhu Muduli/Wikimedia Commons

© Krupasindhu Muduli/Wikimedia Commons

Fiesta de San Fermín

When: July 6th – 14th

Where: Pamplona, Spain

What: More commonly known as ‘The Running of the Bulls’, the Fiesta de San Fermín is a mix of three festivals, including the well-known bullfighting festival, an ancient trade fair and the feast day of San Fermín. Each day of the nine-day-festival includes a bull run and bull fight, as well as a parade, fireworks and fiestas.

© Atkins525/Wikipedia

© Atkins525/Wikipedia

Heiva I Tahiti

When: July 7th – 23rd

Where: Papeete, Tahiti, French Polynesia

What: Dancers prepare months in advance for this festival of Tahitian history and culture. In its 135th year, this annual event features one-of-a-kind costumes, choreography and music as a part of the festival’s competitive dance competitions. The celebration also has many games, including a javelin toss, outrigger competition and more.

© Ian Sewell/Wikimedia Commons

© Ian Sewell/Wikimedia Commons

Calgary Stampede

When: July 8th – 17th

Where: Calgary, Canada

What: Complete with rodeo shows, parades and stage coach races, the Calgary Stampede is the world’s largest rodeo. This annual event seeks to preserve the history and culture of the Old West through live music, food and fairs. Known as The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth, the Calgary Stampede is a family-friendly event that’s been put on for more than 100 years.

© Anna Webber / Flickr

© Anna Webber/Flickr

Lasseters Camel Cup

When: July 9th

Where: Alice Springs, Australia

What: The Lasseters Camel Cup is an annual fundraiser and daylong family event attracting spectators from around the world. The event features nine races throughout the day with activities like belly dancing, rickshaw racing and ‘Kids Camel Capers’ to entertain between each race. Racing camels that can be notoriously known for not following directions typically provides for fun and laughter throughout the day.

© Toby Hudson/Wikimedia Commons

© Toby Hudson/Wikimedia Commons


When: July 11th – 13th

Where: Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

What: Celebrated every year in Mongolia, Naadam, otherwise known as ‘The Manly Games’, pits men and women against one another in three games; horse racing, archery and wrestling, the latter of which is only for men. The national holiday is put on every year to honor the community and mountain gods, as well as to perform sacrifices. This year’s Naadam falls on the 95th anniversary of the Mongolian Revolution and the 810th anniversary of the beginning of the Mongol Empire.

© Scott Presly/Flickr

© Scott Presly/Flickr

Comic-Con International

When: July 21st – 24th

Where: San Diego, California, United States

What: A convention for all who love the science fiction genre, Comic-Con is a four-day fantasy experience where fans can cross paths with their favorite authors, directors, actors and producers. Attendees typically dress up for the convention as favorite science fiction characters and can participate in costume contests, movie screenings, arts shows and more.

© rootseven/Flickr

© rootseven/Flickr



Rainforest World Music Festival

When: August 5th – 7th

Where: Kuching, Malaysia

What: All continents are represented in the Rainforest World Music Festival’s annual celebration, bringing together well-known artists and indigenous musicians on one stage in the middle of the Borneo Jungle. Unlike others, this music festival incorporates workshops, jam sessions, ethno-musical lectures and mini-concerts, all while presenting the best of traditional, fusion, contemporary music styles and more.

Esala Perahera

When: August 8th – 18th

Where: Kandy, Sri Lanka

What: A celebration of Hindu and Buddhist deities, this 10-night festival has a parade each day in honor of Buddha’s missing tooth. The first five nights of the festival are called Kumbal Perahera and are marked by small gatherings and worship outside shrines. The second half of Esala Perahera is called Randoli Perahera and explodes into energetic processions, leading up to the final night where a replica of Buddha’s tooth, believed to have been stolen 1,700 years ago from his funeral pyre, arrives in a carriage surrounded by elephants dressed in elaborate silk costumes.

© Daniel Liabeuf/Flickr

© Daniel Liabeuf/Flickr


When: August 11th – 16th (dates vary based on location)

Where: Japan

What: This nationwide holiday is observed annually throughout Japan. Also known as ‘Festival of Souls’ or ‘Festival of the Dead’, Obon is a chance to honor loved ones who have died. The dates of Obon typically vary based on where it is being celebrated. However, the holiday usually tends to fall during the second and third weeks of August across most parts of Japan. The Japanese use this holiday to reconnect with family and travel back to hometowns to visit relatives’ graves, release floating lanterns on nearby bodies of water and prepare food offerings for the spirits.

Mount Hagen Cultural Show

When: August 20th – 21st

Where: Mount Hagen, Papua New Guinea

What: This two-day song and dance celebration immerses attendees in the Papua new Guinea’s tribal culture. Put on annually, The Mount Hagen Cultural Show draws more than 100 different tribes to partake in the sharing of cultural identities through display of bright costumes, body paint, jewelry, headdresses and more. Each tribe is invited to perform their own song and dance routine, and the group that receives the most applause is named winner of the show.

© Mark Robinson/Flickr

© Mark Robinson/Flickr

World Bog Snorkeling Championships

When: August 28th

Where: Llanwrtyd Wells, Wales

What: Among the muddy water and grass, the annual World Bog Snorkeling Championships are a one-of-a-kind competition with events for everyone from serious swimmers to costume creators. Winners are named for those who swim the fastest two lengths of a 60-yard bog trench, as well as for those who can sport the most original swimwear. Drawing participants from across the world, the championships have been included in the World Alternative Games among the likes of bathtub racing, finger jousting and worm charming events.

© Rud-gr/Wikimedia Commons

© Rud-gr/Wikimedia Commons

Burning Man

When: August 28th – September 5th

Where: Black Rock City, Nevada, United States

What: An annual artistic and musical experience with a goal of fostering community in an unthinkable place, — the Black Rock Desert of Nevada in the peak of summer’s hottest months — Burning Man is a weeklong active festival, where participants lead the experience. Founded in the mid 1980s, Burning Man is based off of 10 principles promoting artistic self-expression. The festival is characterized by life-size art, thematic camping and the ceremonial burning of the man.

© bculliton0/pixabay

© bculliton0/pixabay

La Tomatina

When: August 31st

Where: Buñol, Spain

What: Tomatoes fly as this annual festival in the streets of Spain allows adults to fulfill their food fight fantasies. Tracing back to one fateful vegetable cart in 1945, La Tomatina, also known as the ‘The Tomato Throwing Festival’, now incorporates more than 120 tons of tomatoes and attracts upwards of 30,000 participants. Wearing all white to start, after an hour of crushing and throwing specially shipped tomatoes, the Tomatina crowd succumbs to a red, sticky mess.

La Tomatina | © MikeJamieson(1950)/Flickr

La Tomatina | © MikeJamieson(1950)/Flickr



Scottish Highland Games

When: September 3rd

Where: Braemar, Scotland, UK

What: An annual Scottish tradition rumored to have begun as early as the 11th century, the Scottish Highland Games pits men and women against one another in competitions of strength and determination. Some regular events include hammer throwing, highland dancing and tug o war. While the games take place in every major Scottish city at different times throughout the summer, The Braemar Highland Gathering, typically attended by members of the Royal Family, is said to be one of the best for spectators, drawing in around 16,000 people in annual attendance.

© RonAlmog/Flickr

© RonAlmog/Flickr

Regata Storica

When: September 4th

Where: Venice, Italy

What: As the main event of Italy’s annual ‘Voga Alla Veneta’ rowing calendar, the Regata Storica features a gondolini race, as well as a pre-race water pageant with gondoliers dressed in full costume. The pageant is a historical representation of Venice with 16th century gondolas decorated for the time period. Small, sporting gondolas are used in the race that follows with oarsmen battling to be first to cross the finish line.

© simonetta viterbi/Flickr

© simonetta viterbi/Flickr



When: September 7th – 17th

Where: Bali, Indonesia

What: As one of the most important ceremonies for Balinese Hindus, Galungan symbolizes the victory of dharma over adharma, or good over evil. The Balinese believe this 10-day period is when the good spirits of ancestors return to Earth, and honor these spirits through prayers and offerings. Sacrifices of food and flowers are typically made with bamboo alters often created for temple and residence entrances.



When: September 8th – 13th

Where: Mecca, Saudi Arabia

What: Every year, Muslims from around the world make a pilgrimage to Mecca, seen as one of the most holy places in the Islamic religion. As one of Islam’s five pillars, all Muslims are expected to take part in the pilgrimage called Hajj as least once in their lifetime. With more than 2 million Muslims participating each year, Hajj provides for a crowded spiritual experience shared among the masses. Once in Mecca, Muslims complete several duties representing purity and their devotion to Allah. Only Muslims are allowed to participate in this holy ritual, but those who have completed the expected pilgrimage have described it as a life changing experience.

© Ali Mansuri/Wikimedia Commons

© Ali Mansuri/Wikimedia Commons


Toronto International Film Festival

When: September 8th – 18th

Where: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

What: One of the world’s premier film festivals, the Toronto Film Festival features a range of  more than 300 major motion pictures and independent films each year. With popular award-winning films like The Imitation Game, Silver Linings Playbook and 12 Years a Slave, receiving recognition from the Toronto International Film Festival in recent years, this year’s selection is sure not to disappoint. The festival frequently sees attendance by well-known actors, directors and producers. However, public events following these stars’ arrival include a street fair, live music, public artwork on display and more.

© Chris Harte/Flickr

© Chris Harte/Flickr


When: September 17th – October 3rd

Where: Munich, Germany

What: Every year this world-renowned 16-day festival hosts around 6 million people to a festival of food and drink, especially beer. Only specially prepared Oktoberfest beers, carrying a two percent higher alcohol content, are available on tap at the festival. With breweries all located in their own tents at the festival, estimates claim more than 7 million liters of beer are consumed throughout Oktoberfest.

© Bayreuth2009/Wikimedia Commons

© Bayreuth2009/Wikimedia Commons


Lake of Stars Festival

When: September 30th – October 2nd

Where: Mangochi, Malawi

What: On the shores of Lake Malawi, the Lake of Stars Festival serves as not only an impressive music festival, but also as a community development project, attracting tourism in one of the world’s poorest countries. In recent years visitors from more than 30 countries have attended the festival, boosting the Malawian economy by some $1.7 million. Music for the event includes shows from popular Western artists, as well as local African acts. But the event is more than just music. Throughout the weekend, Lake Malawi is open to swimming and water sports, while other entertainment, such as theater performances, acrobatics, film screenings and more are provided on land.

© Xian & Kath/Flickr

© Xian & Kath/Flickr




Concurs de Castells

When: October 1st – 2nd

Where: Tarragona, Spain

What: In a lasting tradition of Catalan culture, the Concurs de Castells is put on every two years. Nearly 6,000 spectators watch as 42 teams compete to build the tallest human towers. The event, classified as Cultural and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, has been practiced for more than 80 years. Visitors can watch as people big and small band together to create the best human towers, and can take part in additional cultural activities, featuring street performances, concerts, fireworks and more.

© Ferran Llorens/Flickr

© Ferran Llorens/Flickr

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

When: October 1st – 9th

Where: Albuquerque, New Mexico, United States

What: For nine days every year, balloons fill the Albuquerque skies above the 78-acre specially designed launch field of Balloon Fiesta Park. For more than 40 years, Albuquerque has been home to one of the greatest spectacles in hot air ballooning. With more than 500 balloons, the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is the largest annual international event in the United States and is the most photographed event in the world. Spectators can view balloons on the launch field up close before competitive flying begins, and can take part in events in the park like laser light shows, live music, fireworks and more throughout the festival.

© a4gpa/Flickr

© a4gpa/Flickr


When: October 1st-10th

Where: Vadodara, India

What: Celebrated at different points throughout the year, Navratri is a nine night, 10-day festival celebrating the Hindu goddess Durga. Sharad Navratri, always observed in October, is the most well-known of the Navratri holidays. Each night of Sharad Navratri is dedicated to a different manifestation of Durga. Celebrations vary by location ranging from lots of Bollywood-esque dancing in the cities to more traditional rituals performed in rural areas. Bright flowers, elephant processions and folk dances are all apart of this elaborate festival to honor Durga, who is seen to be the female embodiment of the divine.

Durga Idol | © AKS.9955/Flickr

Durga Idol | © AKS.9955/Flickr



When: October 19th

Where: Bacolod City, Philippines

What: Put on every year on and around October 19th, MassKara is an annual tradition that has garnered Bacolod City the nickname ‘City of Smiles’ through its brightly colored masks, costumes and street dancing. Originating in the early 1980s, the MassKara festival was established following a huge drop in global sugar values. Bacolod, the Philippines’ sugar capital, then created a festival of smiles in an effort to help raise the spirits of the city’s many troubled citizens. Today the festival continues with dance contests, a beauty pageant, concerts, carnivals and more.


La Calaca

When: October 29th – November 2nd

Where: San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

What: Playing off of the creative inspirations of Dia de los Muertos, also known as Day of the Dead, La Calaca is a new tradition celebrating the dead in a similar fashion. With its first festival in 2012, La Calaca incorporates elements of Dia de los Muertos, such as altars created out of sugar skulls and marigolds. The community often gathers in cemeteries to bridge ties between the living and the dead, but this is no somber occasion. Throughout the city, music, food and artwork are shared, as this new festival seeks to pay tribute to past tradition.



When: October 30th – November 3rd

Where: Mumbai, India

What: Diwali, also known as the Festival of Lights, is a celebration that honors the Hindu god Rama. Using all types of colorful lights — fireworks, oil lamps, candles, etc. — Hindus guide Rama home as Diwali legend recognizes Rama’s return to his kingdom after living 14 years in exile. The beginning of the five-day holiday is spent clearing the home and preparing decorations leading up to feasts and fireworks later in the week. Diwali is seen as important time for those who celebrate to seek enlightenment and find peace over conflict.

© jasleen_kaur/Flickr

© jasleen_kaur/Flickr




Día de los Muertos

When: November 1st-2nd

Where: Oaxaca, Mexico

What: Rich in history, Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is a Mexican celebration of life and remembrance of family members who have died. A combination of Christianity’s All Saints Day on November 1 and All Souls Day on November 2, Día de los Muertos draws from aspects of various religious and Aztec culture. Across Mexico, families assemble altars and visit cemeteries in an air of excitement. The colorful festival is marked by the creation of decorated sugar skulls and elaborate face-paintings.

© Larry Lamsa/Flickr

© Larry Lamsa/Flickr


Pushkar Camel Fair

When: November 8th – 14th

Where: Pushkar, India

What: In a weeklong carnival that somewhat resembles an expanded county fair in America, more than 50,000 camels, goats, cows, horses and sheep and nearly 300,000 human visitors descend upon the desert town, Pushkar, India for the annual Pushkar Camel Fair. The fair includes a carnival with Olympic-style sports, bridal competitions and unusual rides like the ‘Cage of Death’. Coinciding with the Hindu holiday Kartik Purnima, the Pushkar Camel Festival’s Pushkar Lake is believed to bring salvation for those who bathe in it at dawn for three holy days decided by the timing of the autumn full moon. Despite the wide range of activities, the festival remains very centered around camels with camel trading, racing and more.

© Koshy Koshy/Flickr

© Koshy Koshy/Flickr

Guru Nanak Jayanti

When: November 14th

Where: Amritsar, India

What: Guru Nanak Jayanti is a celebration of the birthday of the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak. In Amritsar, the day begins at 4am with the recitation of hymns and poems followed by early morning processions outside the city’s Golden Temple as well as the sharing of Karah Prasad, a traditional dish that is blessed and served for the holiday. Flags, lights, flowers and more are used to decorate places of prayer. The day is rounded out with fireworks, continued prayer and singing until 1:20 am, the time of Guru Nanak’s birth.

The Golden Temple | © Giridhar Appaji Nag Y/Wikimedia Commons


Loi Krathong

When: November 14th

Where: Chiang Mai, Thailand

What: Loi Krathong, celebrated every year in November in accordance with the lunar calendar, is also known as the Lantern Festival. For around the 10 minutes they stay alight, 10,000 lanterns let off in unison illuminate the night sky of Thailand. Made of a biodegradable rice material, the lanterns are frequently let off over lakes, rivers and ponds for a markedly reflective experience. Rooted in Buddhist tradition, the festival allows for personal reflection and a release of inner demons. Fireworks and firecrackers are also let off to add additional light to the night sky. A parade with dancing, music and more provides for entertainment on the ground once the lanterns have been let go.

© John Shedrick/Flickr

© John Shedrick/Flickr


Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

When: November 24th

Where: New York City, New York, USA

What: This annual tradition on the American Thanksgiving holiday combines music, entertainment and massive balloons in one of the world’s most famous parades. Beginning just outside New York City’s Central Park and continuing on to 6th Avenue, around a dozen marching bands, numerous celebrities and recording artists, and more than 25 thematic floats help ring in the beginning of the Christmas season. While it is traditional for families across the country to tune in to special TV coverage of the parade on Thanksgiving morning, some 3.5 million New Yorkers and visitors from around the world will watch the parade in person.

© Anthony Quintano/Flickr

© Anthony Quintano/Flickr

Lopburi Monkey Banquet

When: November 27th

Where: Lopburi, Thailand

What: Every year in central Thailand’s Lopburi, the city goes to the monkeys. In a festival established to celebrate the descendents of the honored monkey deity Hanuman, monkeys are given free reign in the city to feast on banquet tables complete with around 4,000 pounds of food like fruit salad, sticky rice and thong yod, a traditionally prepared dessert made of egg-yolk. Humans and monkeys interact frequently throughout the daylong festival at Lopburi’s Khmer Ruins. While this is above all a party for the monkeys, there are activities for the human guests as well with musical performances and human monkey dances at the start of the festival.

© Chris huh/Wikimedia Commons

© Chris huh/Wikimedia Commons




Chichibu Night Festival

When: December 2nd – 3rd

Where: Chichibu City, Japan

What: The Chichibu Night Festival is characterized by its ornate floats, decorated with lanterns and wood carvings, as well as its impressive two and a half hour-long fireworks display. An outdoor winter festival, Chichibu City’s streets are lined with warm food and drink to help combat the cold, while celebrating the Chichibu Shrine built for several gods of the Chichibu region.



When: December 5th

Where: Küssnacht, Switzerland

What: Every year, residents of Küssnacht, Switzerland, gather for a pre-Christmas tradition dating back to the Middle Ages. Klaushagen, which translates to ‘chasing the klaus’, originated from a ritual used to chase bad spirits aways using loud noises such as cowbells. Eventually the tradition took on new meaning when the chasing of St. Nicholas was introduced. Now, bearing whips, horns and lights decorated as bishop hats, hundreds of boys and men lead the chase down the darkened city streets of Küssnacht.

© Matthias Zepper/Wikimedia Commons

© Matthias Zepper/Wikimedia Commons


Quema del Diablo

When: December 7th

Where: Guatemala City and Antigua, Guatemala

What: An annual tradition throughout Guatemala, Quema del Diablo stems from a belief that the devil lurks in homes throughout the year. Meaning ‘Burning of the Devil’ in English, Quema del Diablo begins with the cleaning of homes by ridding garbage in which it is believed the devil likely lingers. Akin to a American ‘spring cleaning’, homes are tidied up and trash accumulates. However, instead of being disposed of in a landfill, on the day of Quema del Diablo all trash is taken to the center of the city and is burned along with an effigy of the devil. Guatemalans celebrate the marking of a devil-free Christmas season with marimba bands and fireworks.


Festival of Lights

When: December 8th – 11th

Where: Lyon, France

What: Working to become known as ‘The City of Lights’, Lyon’s city council decided in 1999 to expand Lyon’s annual 8th of December light festival, dating back to the spontaneous display of lantern and candlelight present at the lighting of a new statue of Virgin Mary in 1852. Since then, Lyon has become a spectacle of light each December with the festival growing to last four days with more than 70 light shows throughout the city.


Whirling Dervishes Festival

When: December 10th – 17th

Where: Sonya, Turkey

What: Performing a traditional dance seeded in history, the Mevlana Whirling Dervishes dance in honor of 13th century poet Rumi, who introduced the idea of whirling as a means to achieve divine harmony. Around 100,000 mostly Turkish spectators watch the Whirling Dervishes each year. Dressed in long white robes, the Dervishes’ skirts billow with each twirl creating an entrancing spectacle symbolic of Rumi’s becoming one with God.


Night of the Radishes

When: December 23rd

Where: Oaxaca, Mexico

What: Similar to the American tradition of pumpkin carving, every December 23 more than 100 artists carve faces, shapes and characters into unusually large Mexican radishes weighing around six pounds each. The carving tradition is said to have began in the 16th century as farmers began to introduce radishes as a new vegetable to Mexican citizens using creative market displays. Officially declared a tradition in 1897, Night of the Radishes has grown to become a massive block party with thousands of spectators sharing sweet Mexican pastries, watching the festival’s many dancing santas and lining up to view the ornate radish displays.


Junkanoo Parade

When: December 26th & January 1st

Where: Nassau, Bahamas

What: This two-day parade and celebration, dating back to the 17th century, is one of the oldest known street festivals. With inspiration from its west African roots, the parade features elaborate costumes, dance and music that draws comparisons to New Orleans’ Mardi Gras and Rio’s Carnival. Parade participants compete for the titles of best music, best costume and best overall group presentation, using feathers, rhinestones and beads to decorate different dresses. Carefully constructed and elaborately designed floats are also common. The parade’s best costumes and designs are kept in a museum throughout the year.

© Cathy T/Flickr

© Cathy T/Flickr


Edinburgh’s Hogmanay

When: December 30th – January 1st

Where: Edinburgh, Scotland, UK

What: A three-day festival to ring in the new year, Edinburgh’s Hogmanay is a one-of-a-kind celebration that sets all of the city aglow. Last year’s torch procession — considered the opening of all Hogmanay festivities — saw more than 40,000 torchbearers line the streets of Old Town, Edinburgh. The procession is followed up by fireworks and two additional days of New Year’s celebration, including a street party with live music and a ceilidh dance, food and drink tradition.



When: December 31st

Where: Copacabana Beach, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

What: This New Year’s Eve celebration in Rio de Janeiro kicks off every year with live music, food and drink. On Copacabana Beach’s nearby Atlantic Avenue, international bands and samba dancers provide a lively atmosphere. Gathering on the beach for the best view of Rio’s annual 20-minute fireworks display, Brazilians wear white in symbolism of purity and to honor lemanjá, the Afro-Brazilian goddess of the sea. Then, after the fireworks show comes to a close after midnight marking the start of the new year, Réveillon attendees go for a swim in the ocean, jumping seven waves and making a wish at each one.

© Leandro Neumann Ciuffo/Flickr

© Leandro Neumann Ciuffo/Wikimedia Commons


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