Whether traveling or at home, festivals are a great opportunity to immerse yourself in new cultures and traditions. Check out our list of the coolest festivals around the world:
- King Hung Temple Festival
Vietnam – April
Taking place in the third lunar month, the King Hung Temple Festival is a traditional Vietnamese celebration that honors the Hung Kings, the country’s first emperors who founded the nation. The festival began as a local tradition and then was recognized as a national holiday in 2007. Now a decade old, visitors of the festival topped 7 million in 2016.
The main ceremony consists of a procession that starts at the bottom of Nghia Linh Mountain and concludes at the top where King Hung Temple is located. During the procession up the mountain, celebrants offer prayers and incense to express their respect and gratitude to their ancestors.
- Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta
Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA – October
If you’re looking for a more family-friendly festival, Albuquerque’s International Balloon Fiesta is a must-visit. Tourists from all over the world visit this southwestern gem to celebrate its annual ballooning. Hundreds of balloons will take flight in the 78-acre launch field this October, and the festival also offers music and entertainment.
- Songkran Water Festival
Various locations in Thailand – April
Thailand celebrates its New Year on the 13th of April every year and the word “Songkran” comes from the Sanskrit word saṃkrānti which translates to “astrological passage.” The Songkran festival coincides with the rising of Aries on the astrological chart and is in keeping with the Buddhist/Hindu solar calendar.
The holiday is known for its water festival when major streets are closed to traffic and used as arenas for water fights. Participants of all ages celebrate this tradition by splashing water on each other. In some areas, traditional parades are held and a “Miss Songkran” is crowned.
Various locations in India and around the world – February/March
Originally known as “Holika,” Holi is an ancient festival of India. This “festival of colors” is celebrated at the end of February or early March on Phalgun Purnima, the last full moon day in the eleventh lunar month. People celebrate by throwing colored powder on each other, hence Holi’s nickname.
Once celebrated by the Aryans, Holi celebrates the triumph of good over evil. The festival aims to renew relationships and build harmony among people of different beliefs and backgrounds.The festival has gained much popularity over the last few years and is now celebrated all over the globe.
Munich, Germany – September/October
Though the first Oktoberfest held in 1810 began in October, the festivals were gradually moved up to September so that visitors could enjoy warmer fall weather. Oktoberfest festivities begin at noon on the opening day when the Mayor of Munich has the honor of tapping the first keg of Oktoberfest beer. Once the barrel has been tapped, all visitors are then allowed to quench their thirst. Although the festival originates in Munich, Germany, there are many Oktoberfest celebrations all over Eastern Europe and in areas with high populations of Eastern Europeans.
Tyrol, Austria – December
Perhaps not one of the best festivals for children, Krampusnacht celebrates the darker side of the Santa Clause myth. Krampus is a Christmastime figure known to punish delinquent children, and on December 5th men dressed in wooden masks and goat or sheepskin suits roam the streets in his likeness. The origin of Krampus is mostly unknown, but most anthropologists agree that the tradition is pre-Christian, going back to pagan mythology.
Today, Krampusnacht is celebrated in many places across Europe and has even become popular in the United States. In 2013, over 200 Krampuses participated in Austria’s first ever annual national Krampusnacht. On both the East and West coasts, in Philadelphia and Seattle, other Krampus parades are held to signify the beginning of the Christmas season.
- Edinburgh Festival Fringe
Edinburgh, Scotland – August
The Edinburgh Festival Fringe began in 1947 when eight theater groups that were uninvited to perform at the Edinburgh International Festival decided that “the show must go on” and put on their own “fringe” festival instead. Seventy years later, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the largest arts festival in the world and takes place every August for three weeks in Scotland’s capital city.
For three weeks this August, thousands of performers will take to hundreds of stages all over Edinburgh to present shows that include theater, comedy, dance, circus, cabaret, musicals and more. Performers range from big names to unknown artists looking to build their careers. In 2016 there were 50,266 performances of 3,269 shows in 294 venues.