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The Best Festivals Around the World
Celebrating a holiday in a foreign city or country is a quick way to soak up the personality and traditions of a culture. Here are the top events you must check out across the globe.
It normally takes several months to truly understand a foreign culture, but there is a shortcut you can take. Celebrating a holiday abroad is a crash course in getting to know a different city or country, because you can experience many of the native traditions and customs in as little as one night. So check out these six international holiday festivals—and pace yourself, because these places sure know how to party!
La Feria de Abril: Sevilla, Spain
Most people think Semana Santa (the “Holy Week” leading up to Easter, which is full of parades) is the not-to-miss holiday in Spain, but the real fun begins two weeks later in Sevilla. La Feria de Abril is a week-long event where the parties roar all night long. It started around 1847 as a livestock fair but has grown over the years. Temporary tents called casetas are set up on vacant fairgrounds and in them you’ll find people dancing upbeat Sevillanas (Flamenco-style moves), eating tapas and sipping on rebujitos (iced drinks made of lemon-lime soda and sherry).
This festival, a celebration of good over evil, is marked by Indian people jovially running through the streets covered in colors—not colorful clothing, but actually brightly colored water or powder! Holi takes place in late February or early March each year all over the country, but a few cities throw the most colorful parties. In Jaipur, you might be celebrating next to an elephant, in Mathura you get up to 16 colorful days, and in Delhi you’re party is DJed by the Holi Cow music festival. If you’re joining the fun, don’t forget your toiletries, because you’re going to need them to clean up after the festivities.
Carnevale: Venice, Italy
If you like Mardi Gras in New Orleans, then you’ll love Carnevale, one of the most extravagant fetes in Venice. For 10 days leading up to Ash Wednesday, the cobblestone streets of this quintessential Italian city are packed with people in elaborate costumes and beautiful masks. Although this city is filled with narrow, winding streets and is hard to navigate, it doesn’t matter where you end up, because there’s a party at nearly every piazza with live music, food, drinks, and friendly people. The nonstop revelry comes to a head on Fat Tuesday.
Bastille Day: France
In Paris on July 14th 1789, an angry mob of civilians stormed the Bastille state prison, which was run by the royal military, and took it down. This event was the start of the French Revolution—the day the French began the fight against oppression. On this day every year, celebrations occur all over France. Some of the most impressive are in Paris, where Europe’s oldest and largest military parade takes place to honor those who fought for France’s freedom. But don’t assume the capital the only place to celebrate; cities like Lyon, Avignon, and Carcassonne throw memorable fêtes as well. To witness the true spirit of the French people, join them on this prideful day.
Dia de los Muertos: Mexico
Mexico’s “Day of the Dead” is not as dark and scary as it sounds. In fact, the only thing that’s gruesome about this day is its name. Although this two-day holiday starts on the same day as America’s Halloween, the two holidays are quite different. Dia de los Muertos is a beautiful ritual in which Mexicans fondly remember family and friends who have died. Spirits are welcomed with vigils and altars that are usually adorned with marigold flowers and skulls made of sugar. Head to the states of Michoacán, Oaxaca or Chiapas for the most authentic and colorful experiences.
ANZAC Day: Australia and New Zealand
ANZAC Day, which recognizes the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, is that region’s most important commemorative occasion. On April 25th, 1915, Australians and New Zealanders took their first steps toward involvement in World War I, so the countries gather together to honor that event every year. The holiday begins with ceremonies at dawn that include speeches, readings, a moment of silence, and the national anthems of both countries. Wreaths or artificial poppy flowers are placed near memorials. After the solemn ceremonies, parades and parties follow. If you’re in a major Australian city like Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane, head to a nearby pub and ask a local to teach you the rules of “two-up.” This crowd-pleasing dice game is only legal to play on Anzac Day.
What’s your favorite international holiday? Tell us in the comments below!
Maggie Parker (@maggie_wp) is an NYC-based actress and writer, specializing in travel and entertainment. She has written for Men's Fitness, Rand McNally, Viator, and Lost Girls World, among other publications.