The world we live in consists of an extremely diverse human population which, throughout the ages, has developed distinct cultural and political norms specific to their religion and beliefs. Today, this diversity has left us with a plethora of events, some traditional with a deep seeded history 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. For those interested in some cultural diversity, here are 11 cool cultural festivals that happen around the world
1. Songkran Water Festival, Thailand
A celebration of the Thai New Year, Songkran Festival is generally three days long (sometimes longer in rural places) and is regarded as the countryâ€™s most important public holiday. The event also denotes the end of the regionâ€™s dry season, explaining the giant national water-fight that has become the holidayâ€™s main event. Citizens grab anything they can get their hands onâ€”water guns, hoses, even bucketsâ€”to able to drench their peers and engage in an all-out water war. While probably one of the coolest things to be a part of while vacationing in Thailand, travelers should be aware that tourists especially are targeted with ice-cold water and should head into battle with their game faces on.
2. Mardi Gras, Louisiana
This enormous New Orleans celebration in the southeastern United States is one of the best known events both in the country and world-wide. Commemorating Carnival season (the time of frivolity, indulgence and feasting before the sombre Lent season), the string of festivals and parades preceding (and including) Mardi Gras day do not disappoint, with world-known costumes, music events, parade floats, and of course, bead throwing. The event only gets bigger and bigger every year when hundreds of thousands of people flock to New Orleans each February, and generate an estimated $1 billion economic impact.
3. Oktoberfest, Germany
Perhaps one of the most widely recognized German festivals, Oktoberfest occurs each September in Munich and is essentially an enormous celebration of food and beer. While there are a slew of other activities and vendors to check out, with 14 large beer tents and countless smaller ones, we find it hard to believe that attendees really have time to do much else (except maybe eat the spectacular selection of traditional German food).
4. Frozen Dead Guy Days, Colorado
Leave it to the residents of Nederland, Colorado to create a festival around a frozen corpse that has called their town home for the past 20-some years. Thereâ€™s probably more to the story than that, but all we really need to know is that his presence has sparked one of the most epic festivals in the States. Taking place in March, festival events involve everything under the sun that is cold and/or freezing (get it?) including coffin racing, snowy human foosball, polar plunging, frozen salmon tossing, ice turkey bowling and a brain freeze and frozen t-shirt contest. Definitely in the realms of uber-weird, we, apparently along with the rest of the world, canâ€™t help but be intrigued by this event, which has now garnered international attention and been singled out as one of the best cultural events in America.
5. Desert Festival of Jaisalmer, India
This uncharacteristically secular Indian festival is held each February in the stunning desert city of Jaisalmer. What originated as a publicity attraction created by the local tourist board, has since involved into quite an off-beat celebration of Indian culture. The three day festival features awesome events such as camel racing and camel tug-of-war, as well as turban tying and mustache competitions (winner is crowned Mr. Desert). The festival also boasts a majestic opening ceremony and beautiful fireworks display, in addition to a variety of musical performances, street merchants and culinary delicacy vendors that draw hundreds of people to the festival site each year.
6. San Fermin Festival, Spain
World-known for its famous â€œrunning of the bullsâ€ event (bulls are â€˜ledâ€™ through the streets of the Old Quarter by runners), this July festival in Pamplona is a celebration devoted to San Fermin, the patron saint of Navarra. The religious aspect of the event has been overshadowed in recent years, with the cultural highlight centering on the atmosphere created by the mass gathering of people from all over the world.
7. Up Helly Aa Fire Festival, Scotland
One of the most spectacular, misunderstood festivals in the world, Up Helly Aa Fire Festival takes place in the northern islands of Scotland. Commemorating Shetlandâ€™s Norse heritage, the festival features the torching of a massive replica of a Viking longship (which is generally the point at which mainstream media stops caring) followed by 36 hours of general debauchery. The event features elaborate costumes, skits and a number of other cultural performances.
8. Sandfest, Texas
This amazing annual sand sculpture competition held on the Port Aransas beach in Texas draws upwards of 100,000 people on the last weekend in April. Featuring not only master sculptors from around the world, but both attending adults and children try their hand at and showcase their sand-sculpting skills at one of the stateâ€™s largest artistic competitions. The three day festival also features a lineup of musical acts, as well as a slew of other activities and events, comprising a full weekend of family-friendly fun.
9. Monkey Buffet, Thailand
Unlike how it sounds, this is a Thai festival for monkeys, not of them (thankfully). Held each November in the Lopburi Province north of Bangkok, the festival involves thousands of pounds of fruits and vegetables laid out on tables for the indulgence of hundreds of monkeys that live in the area. Also featuring a number of monkey related elements such as dances, masks and costumes, the festival was established as a tourism stuntâ€”one which obviously worked considering the thousands of people who flock to the site each year.
10. National Cheese Festival, Spain
For anyone who needs more than the typical reasons for indulging in and exploring different varieties of cheese, Spainâ€™s National Cheese Festival in Trujillo, Caceres is a must-attend event. Featuring over 300 different types of cheese, the festival also holds a variety of workshops, tasting sessions and demonstrations, attracting upwards of 100,000 international cheese-lovers.
11. World Bodypainting Festival, Austria
One of the only festivals of its kind on the planet, The World Bodypainting Festival is a weeklong fusion of bodies and beats that takes place in Poertschach, Austria. A unique combination of a musical event mixed with a body-painting competition (yes, they have those) results in a truly one a kind artistic experience for festival goers; attendees get to witness and enjoy the artistic prowess of over 45 competing nations as well as participate in a number of other extraordinary festival events and activities.
By Rina Marcotte
The article was originally published in EscapeHere