There are a lot of different ways that economists and researchers measure the quality of life in a given place. From basic needs like clean water, food, and infant mortality rates to education, women’s rights, and air pollution. But there’s one factor I think they’re missing: how often do they celebrate? There are some places that seem to have a different festival every week. From harvests to music to light, festivals celebrate the bounty that surrounds us. They are a vow to put aside, for one night, or one week, or one month, our complaints of lack and causes for division and unite under the banner of gratitude for everything that contributes to our quality of life – drink, food, the arts, the land, fire, water, athletics, beauty, love, and each other.
I propose the bucket list to end all bucket lists – a whole year of celebration around the world! Mark your calendars and get ready for the world’s biggest, best, and brightest festivals.
Here are the world’s biggest festivals, highlighting one particularly must-see celebration for each month of the year.
Chinese New Year
Held at the turn of the Chinese calendar, this celebration falls on the new moon between January 20 and February 21. This holiday is celebrated all throughout the world in places with a significant Chinese population (it’s China, so, that’s a lot of places). Filled with lights and lanterns, fireworks and dumplings, dancing dragons and dragon boat races, it’s 15 days long and celebrated a little differently everywhere you go. But why not go straight to the heart of things? Beijing and Hong Kong are said to have the biggest and best festivities.
Runners up: International Festival of Snow and Ice Sculpture in Russia, Up Helly Aa (the world’s biggest fire festival) in Scotland
One of the biggest celebrations in one of the world’s biggest party capitals is a must for any serious bucket list. Although there are lots of Carnival celebrations all throughout the Caribbean (Trinidad & Tobago’s is particularly vibrant), as well as a very aesthetically different Carnival in Venice, Italy, this one is the biggest carnival in the world, topping out at 2 million people per day.
Runners up: Carnival Trinidad & Tobago, Lantern Festival in Taiwan, Mardi Gras in New Orleans
Holi Festival of Colors in India
Also known as the Spring Festival or the Sharing of Love Festival, this celebration is all about pure joy. It’s a Hindu religious festival where everyone, young and old, comes together to play with color, chasing eachother to throw vibrantly colored powder and water at one another. It symbolizes the beginning of psring and the triumph of good over evil. It’s no surprise that similar celebrations, such as the Color Run, have become popular all over the world.
Runners up: St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin Ireland, Grape Harvest Festival in Mendoza Argentina, Melbourne Food & Wine Fest, Carnival in Venice Italy
Songkran Water Festival in Thailand
A giant, country-wide water fight? A giant, country-wide water fight in Thailand? A giant, country-wide water fight in Thailand with ELEPHANTS? Done. This festival is celebrated throughout the country on their traditional new year’s day between April 13 and 15. Although the world’s biggest water fight is a main event, there are other traditions involved in the celebration as well.
Runners up: Cape Town International Jazz Festival, The Grand National steeplechase in England, Semana Santa in Peru
Cannes Film Festival in France
Located in the beautiful French Riviera, the Cannes Film Festival is considered to be the most prestigious film festival in the world. It’s the more tasteful and cultural older sibling of the Academy Awards. The event is invite-only, and it’s sure to be exceptionally difficult to snag one if you’re not well known in the film industry, but what’s a bucket list without a few nearly impossible goals?
Runners up: White Nights Festival in St. Petersberg
Glastonbury Festival in England
Glastonbury Festival is the largest greenfield festival in the world, held for five days and featuring the biggest acts in music and arts, including those who typically don’t grace the stages of music festivals. Headliners throughout the years have included Elvis Costello, David Bowie, the Smiths, Van Morrison, the Cure, Radiohead, R.E.M., Paul McCartney, Jay-Z, Neil Young, The Who, and Queen B, Beyoncé, herself.
Runners up: San Francisco Gay Pride (or São Paulo, Brazil’s, which is world’s the largest), Tomorrowland in Belgium
Running of the Bulls, or San Fermín, in Pamplona, Spain
This eight-day, booze-filled, adrenaline-pumped festival honors Saint Fermin and gained worldwide fame, now reaching 1,000,000 spectators each year, from Ernest Hemingway’s brilliant account of the celebration in The Sun Also Rises. The main event from which the festival gets its name happens each morning and consists of crowds of hundreds of people running from six loose bulls down a narrow street for half a mile, ending in the bullring. Yes, people sometimes die, and yes, people are gored (200-300 people are injured annually). It sounds dangerous because it is. So why do I still want to go?
Runners up: International Cheese Festival in Nantwich England, Wimbleton in England, Mud Festival in Seoul South Korea, Tour de France
Burning Man in Nevada
Runners up: Tomatina in Spain (giant tomato fight), Maine Lobster Fest, Buenos Aires World Tango Festival
Oktoberfest in Munich
Runners up: Lake of Stars in Malawi (one of Africa’s biggest music festivals &one of the most beautiful outdoor venues in the world)
Diwali Festival of Lights in India
Runners up: Hot air balloon festival in New Mexico, Halloween in the USA
Día de los Muertos in Mexico
Runners up: Cannabis Cup Amsterdam (coming soon to Jamaica, Colorado, California, and Portland, OR)
New Year’s Eve in Times Square
Runners up: Christmas markets in Europe (Zagreb, Croatia is one of the largest)
Have you been to any of these? Which one is on the top of your list? What did I leave out?
Comment below to let me know!