Annual International Festivals to Plan Your Year By
Updated: Sep 8, 2021
As 2021 seems to be following in the footsteps for 2020, lets get out our 2022 trip planners and start booking vacations! When we stopped traveling, but not dreaming of travel, we compiled a 'Hey, We'd like to do that someday!' list, which became our Festival of the Month feature. In this post, we've listed interesting and unusual international festivals, travel destinations and tourist attractions that would be great to experience once, twice or frequently in a lifetime. We've also paired each festival with a yummy cocktail, because, let's face it, cocktails are a habit now.
Benin is a small, tropical, French-speaking nation. The majority of it's population lives along its southern coastline called the Bight of Benin. Ouidah, is a city known for the Slave Route; a track of land that led slaves down to the awaiting ships during the 17th to 19th century Atlantic Slave Trade. It is also known for it's Voodoo Festival.
The festival happens every 10th of January. It attracts fetish priests, adepts, traditional chiefs, and onlookers from around the world. There are ritual sacrifices, dancing and drinking. Devotees bang drums and dress up as gods, believing that they are transformed into the gods themselves. Zangbeto, traditional Voodoo guardians dress head to toe in straw, emerge from the forest and process through the village. Beware, if you get too close, or touch a Zangbeto, you could die!
Though considered Caribbean, Voodoo is actually founded in the folklore of the Fon people of Benin, Ghana and Togo.
Let's avoid temping fate and enjoy a nice cold VooDoo cocktail instead!
The Venetian Carnival, famous for 18th century bawdy and salacious behaviour, was a huge tourist boon for the city until killjoy Napoleon banned the event in 1797. Venice revived Carnival in 1979 to increase tourism and it's been a sensation ever since.
Business in gambling dens and courtesans flourished during the two week party. Gondoliers were the chief facilitators of illicit liaisons, shuttling revellers with door-to-door service. Participants wore masks, banned outside of carnival time, to protect their anonymity. There are still a few traditional mask makers still operating in Venice, and worth a visit. If you wear a mask for Carnival, tradition also calls for a tabarro, or a cape. Excellent!
Adding superfluous licentiousness to the already amorous Venice was famed paramour Casanova; Carnival's favourite attendee. Arrested for being an affront to common decency, he was jailed and escaped from Lead's Prison in the Doge's Palace. You can visit his cell while in Venice for the Masked Ball.
Enjoy a Venetian cocktail for the decadent flavour of Italy.
The Holi Festival takes place on the even of the full moon around March and celebrates the coming of Spring throughout India.
According to legend, Evil Holika attempted to murder her Visnu-devotee nephew, Prahlada, by enticing him to sit on a pyre while she wore a fireproof cloak. The cloak flew from her and wrapped itself around Prahlada instead, killing Holi. Good over evil.
Bonfires are lit on the festival's eve and burn through the night to symbolise this victory of good vs. bad. The following day, people celebrate with parades, parties and pelting each other with coloured powers. Red is for love and fertility, yellow/ turmeric for health, blue for the Hindu God Krishna and green for new beginnings.
Holi Festival is an amazing world experience to be had. If we can't get to India this year, let's celebrate the Holi festival anyway with a delicious Chai Martini!
Coinciding with celebrating Buddha's birthday on April 8th, the island of Cheung Chau, Hong Kong, holds its annual Bun-Snatching Festival.
During the 18th century, the island was suffering from both the plague and a plague of pirates. To rid themselves of such problems, local fishermen held parades honouring Pak Tai, the God of Water. Citizens would then steal the food offerings left out for lonely spirits. This is where the bun stealing comes in. To honour these bao bun thieves, the people of Cheung Chau erect three bamboo towers, 18 meters high, in front of the Pak Tai temple. Then they fill the towers with buns. And then they steal them.
The festival features forced pre-festival vegetarianism, dancing and a parade of floating children in super-hero costumes. Right before midnight, professional climbers race to the top of each tower and 'steal' the buns. The higher the climb, the better the bun. The buns are then parsed out to the crowd at midnight.
Let's celebrate Spring, Buddha and pork buns with a Hong Kong Cooler!
The Naki Sumo Crying Baby Festival is held every year to coincide with Children's Day at Shinto Temples throughout Japan. In open-air sumo rings, two babies at a time are passed into the arms of sumo wrestlers who cajole the babies, with faces, bouncing and loud chants, into crying. The first baby to cry is the winner. According to Japanese folklore, a crying baby can ward off evil spirits. A strong cry also indicates a strong and healthy life for the baby.
Forget about the crying babies and celebrate all things sumo with a fresh Green Tea-Ni!
Hellfest, the heavy metal music festival that takes place each year in Clisson, France, has had a dubious past. The original 2003 event, Fury Fest, attracted 400 guests and was considered a raging success.
Though dogged with objections over it's name and perceived associations with satanic devotion, Hellfest attracts headline performers and 120,000 visitors over three days and is the largest heavy metal festival in Europe (pre-2020).
Hellfest is cancelled this year, but lets celebrate France, heavy metal, and Hellfest 2022 anyway with a French 75!
In 1996, a range of cosmetics was created with mud from the Boreyeong mud flats in South Chungcheong Province, South Korea. The mud is rich in minerals, bentonites, and germaniums. Each July, promoters truck the mud to Daecheon Beach, where mud-related events cater to over two million visitors.
Mud slides, mud pools, mud prisons (?), and mud skiing are all popular attractions. There is coloured mud for body painting and a main stage for competitions and performances. There is also a seafront market with stalls that sell the mud products along with other wellness clinics such as massage and reflexology. And, of course, fireworks. mudfestival.or.kr/en/shop/main.html
Let's celebrate July and the Boreyeong Mud Festival with a Ujjujju Melony!
What sounds like impossibly best festival of all time, the Air guitar world championships are held each year in Oulu, Finland. Held each August since 1996, organisers make the bold claim that wars will end, climate change will improve, and bad things will disappear when all humanity picks up some air and pretends to play guitar. Competitors come from a network of 10 countries, licensed by the Air Guitar World Championship organisation.
Contestants preform two 60 second sets; the first being a song of their choice, while the second is chosen by a panel of judges made up of media personalities, musicians and music critics. Self expression is an important performance aspect and points are deducted for a variety of infractions, perhaps the most serious being if one air-plays any other instrument other than guitar. Visitors come from around the world, entry is free and VIP passes are also available. airguitarworldchampsionships.com
Let's bang some heads and praise all things metal with a juicy Finberry Martini!
Each year, southern right whales migrate from their feeding grounds off Antarctica to warmer climates. They reach the South African Whale Coast in June and will stay till early December. Here is where these giant mammals mate, calve and rear their young. And what a show they put on, giving whale-watchers spectacular displays of raw power and elegant water acrobatics close to shore.
Now in its 28th year, the Hermanus Whale Festival is the oldest and largest festival in South African. And while the whales are the star performers, these gentle giants are joined on land by quality entertainers and musicians, an array of food stalls, and events suitable for both the young and old. hermanuswhalefestival.co.za
Celebrate sandy beaches, large mammals and African sunsets with a delicious Sundowner One cocktail!
The Pennsylvania bacon eating festival, held yearly in Easton, has everything to offer that one would want in a hog festival. Bacon pairings, bacon eating, hog calling, hog racing, eating bacon and eating lots of things made with bacon. plus there is lots of beer.
No beer for us! celebrate the PA Baconfest with a bacon-infused hard cider cocktail called Bacon me Angry
In Mexico, all souls eve on 31 Oct begins the three festival known as the Day of the Dead. Mexicans honour family members who have passed on by dressing up, decorating with bright colours and eating sugary sweets.
Watch the film Coco for a great family experience of this tradition and celebrate the Day of the Dead with a Mexicano cocktail!
As we all know, Santa honours well-behaved children every Christmas Eve with gifts and goodies. Santa's evil side-kick, Krampus, however, descends upon the naughty children of Austria and Germany on December 5, and delivers them coal.
Santa might have Christmas dinner, but Krampus has his own festival, Krampusnacht. Revellers dress as demons and run through the town causing mischief and mayhem.
Let's celebrate Krampusnacht with a Naughty German cocktail!