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9 International Holidays You Must Experience Once In Your Lifetime

To visitors from foreign lands holidays such as Thanksgiving and Halloween are an intriguing novelty. So let’s explore some of the holidays celebrated around the world that are just as exotic and must be experienced at least once in a lifetime.

Carnival (Brazil)

Rio Carnaval

Rio Carnaval – photo by Leandro Neumann Cuiffo

Partying for six days straight is going to require some training, but who wouldn’t want to experience one of the world’s most famous celebrations? Carnival parades and festivities happen all over Brazil, and the country pretty well shuts down for the duration, but the main event is in Rio de Janeiro with rival samba schools comprising the parade.

 Day of the Dead – Dia de los Muertos (Mexico)

Day of the Dead

Day of the Dead

Honouring the spirit one one’s ancestors is nowhere near as colourful in the rest of the world as it is in Mexico. Celebrations differ from one region of Mexico to the next but typically involve family gatherings, visiting the graves of relatives, and decorations in vibrant colours with skulls as a prominent motif. November 1st or All Saints Day is reserved for the remembrance of children who have passed away (angelitos) whereas the next day, All Souls Day, is dedicated to honouring the memory of adults.

 Oktoberfest – die Wiesn (Germany)

Oktoberfest

Oktoberfest – Photo by Andreas Steinhoff

Unlike many festivals which have deeper spiritual underpinnings, Oktoberfest is straightforward in its raison d’etre — this Bavarian festival is about drinking strong beer, eating good food, and having fun. It started in 1810 as a wedding celebration for Crown Prince Ludwig and became a Munich tradition that lasts 16 days. The beer must be brewed within the city’s limits and conform to stringent standards that stipulate, among other things, that it have an alcohol content of at least 6%.

 Diwali (India)

Diwali

Diwali – photo by hautikjoshi

Celebrating the inner light that wards off spiritual darkness, Diwali is the most important holiday on the Hindu calendar. This festival of lights is traditionally celebrated by placing a row of lamps on the threshold of a dwelling, and modern celebrations incorporate other forms of light as well, such as bonfires, fireworks, and decorating with lights and flowers.

 Fat Tuesday – Mardi Gras (USA)

Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras – photo by Infrogmation

Many of the world’s most exuberant festivals stem from Lent, either as last-chance indulgences beforehand or a joyous reprieve from deprivation afterward. Mardi Gras occurs the day before Lent begins, and festivities occur in many locales, but spending Mardi Gras in New Orleans is what’s on many a bucket list with its requisite dancing, outrageous costumes, and traditionally ribald parade.

 Chinese New Year – 春節 (China)

Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year – photo by J Bar

Chinese New Year celebrations occur at the lunar new year with lanterns and impressive decorations everywhere. It is traditional to give gifts in red envelopes and set off firecrackers, but the spirit of Chinese New Year is about forgiveness, renewal, and good fortune.

 St. Patrick’s Day – Lá Fhéile Pádraig (Ireland)

St. Patrick's Day

St. Patrick’s Day – photo by Uggboy

Many other destinations celebrate St. Paddy’s Day with gusto, but none equal the experience of spending it in Dublin. Partying is naturally a big part of the celebrations, but to fully partake in the scene you should also get in on some of the other aspects of St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland, such as watching the parade, attending sporting events, and enjoying traditional Irish music.

 Robbie Burns Night (Scotland)

Burns Night

Burns Night – photo by Patricia Ross

A slightly less raucous atmosphere typifies the celebration of the January 25th birthday of legendary Scots poet Robert Burns. Burns Night is traditionally marked by a Burns Supper, which includes haggis, an Address to the Haggis, the recitation of poetry, and the singing of Burns’ Auld Lang Syne.

 Bonfire Night (England)

Bonfire Night

Bonfire Night – photo by Shane Global

Leave it to the British to take an act of treason and morph it into an excuse for a party. After the failed Gunpowder Plot and conviction of Guy Fawkes for attempting to blow up Parliament, people in England began to celebrate the averted tragedy with Bonfire Night, which includes a bonfire that burns an effigy called The Guy, the wearing of masks, fireworks displays, and the consumption of treats such as Parkin cake, roasted marshmallows, and sausages.

 

No matter what part of the world you are in there’s almost always an occasion for merriment and camaraderie. You just have to go out and find it.

What are the best international holidays and celebrations that you have enjoyed in your travels? Which ones are on your bucket list?

About the Author: Steph Spencer

Formerly the Editor of Let's Roll, now you're more likely to find Steph prowling the halls of incredible museums, hunting for historic landmarks, discovering mind-blowing science and literary attractions, tracking down the world’s largest whatchamacallit or attending wacky festivals. She is a freelance travel writer who explores the geeky side of travel on her blog A Nerd At Large, and dispenses random quirkiness on Google+ and as @ANerdAtLarge on Twitter.

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