Reason To Travel: To Celebrate Cultural Heritage Worldwide
If ever there was a reason to travel, here it is. Travel, in its ideal state, is always an avenue for learning, enlightenment and celebration. Countries and cultures around the world find plenty to celebrate: from traditional holidays that have been on the books for millennia to new folk art festivals that have just sprung up, we’ve curated a list for the voyagers out there who’d like to travel the world and celebrate the cultural heritage of whatever country they’re trekking through. Though not at all comprehensive, this list sees the adventurous traveler starting in China and winding their way through Europe, with a quick stop in the Middle East before the trans-Atlantic flight to Mexico before heading back to wherever they call home for New Year’s celebrations with friends and family. Remember to take dips into countries that this list doesn’t explore in between all your celebrating!
January: Beijing for Chinese New Year
You’ve just taken off for your whirlwind world heritage tour and you’ve landed in a city steeped in history millennia old – Beijing during the Chinese New Year. Though cities like London, New York and San Francisco put on a good show, no place celebrates the Chinese New Year with more fervor than the Chinese capital. During the New Year, the city hosts a series of Temple Fairs, a tradition whose history spans over 1,000 years. Each Temple Fair has a different set of celebrations and characteristics, though most include parades and performances that last for days. Take your time planning your itinerary and tasting the fantastic foods.
February: Watch the Superbowl From Wherever You Are
That’ll move the chains! Wherever your chains are moving as you prepare to head to India in March, make sure to tune in to the Superbowl in February – most large cities around the world will stream the big game in for expats and American football fans to watch. Don’t forget to bring the dip!
March: Delhi for Holi Festival
Delhi has the biggest and best Holi parties in all of India (or so expats in Delhi claim). The Holi Festival – also known as the festival of colors or the sharing of love festival – is an ancient Hindu festival that celebrates the beginning of spring. But it’s how it’s celebrated that makes it so fun: across Southeast Asia, people celebrate the beginning of spring with huge parades where colored powder and water is thrown city-wide. If you want to stay clean, don’t step outside during the Holi Festival! Complete with days of local and global music, parades and performances, the Holi Festival is Delhi will be a memorable – and messy – stop on your worldwide tour!
April: Rome for Easter
In Italy, family, religion and food are of national importance. Take a step into all three as you continue your journey into Rome for Easter celebrations. Though tickets to the Easter Mass are free, you must apply for them well in advance to snag an entrance to the event. Once you’ve secured your spot, make sure to show up early and be ready to throw some ‘bows to get a good seat (don’t worry, you can ask for forgiveness later). All jokes aside, the celebration is a poignant one and the homily is translated into the major languages to accommodate the people who come to celebrate from all corners of the world.
May: Amsterdam for Tulip Festival
April showers bring May flowers! Catch the tail-end of the Tulip Festival in the Netherlands and celebrate the famous colorful flowers. Head out from Amsterdam on a quick one-hour train to Keukenhof, where the festival takes place. Tulips aren’t the only flower on display, though! Wander through blossoming fields of daffodils, hyacinths and other blooming bulbs. Make sure to snap some pictures – the colors and uniform rows are stunning and you’ll want to document them before you head to your next stop on the tour!
June: Southwestern France for Bordeaux Wine Festival
Wine lovers will delight in this four-day long weekend that celebrates the fine wines, excellent foods and unique culture of the Southwestern French city. Held in Europe’s largest square, Place des Quinconces, the festival invites the 300,000 visitors to partake in the French tradition of enjoying good food and drink with friends and loved ones. At night, there are performances by local and internationally recognized musicians as well as workshops for any visitors who might need to brush up on their wine knowledge.
July: Pamplona for Running of the Bulls
Not for the faint of heart, this Spanish tradition often takes places on the festival of San Fermín in Pamplona. The tradition started when bulls were being led from the countryside into the bullrings in the city for a fight later that night. In the beginning, risky youngsters would hop in front of the bulls and try to outrun them on their way into town. Now a huge festival that brings in over a million guests – largely thanks to Ernest Hemingway’s writings on the event in The Sun Also Rises – crowds line up for a chance to run with the bulls… And hopefully not meet a grisly end on the streets.
August: Buñol for La Tomatina Festival
Grab your rotten tomatoes, your all-white outfit and head down to Buñol for La Tomatina Festival – where 20,000 lucky lottery winners engage in a huge food fight on the town streets. The festivities begin when somebody climbs up a two-story high wooden pole and grabs a ham hock from the top. Then a water cannon will signal the beginning of the festival, which lasts for exactly one hour. Fire trucks are then brought out to hose off the participants. Folklore says that the festival started from a simple food fight that a large group of friends were having in 1945.
September: Munich for Oktoberfest
It’s time to clean up and leave Spain for Germany. Though the name suggests the festival takes place in October, the three-week long celebration usually starts in late September. To do as the Germans do, buy yourself a traditional dirndl or a pair of lederhosen before heading to the huge Oktoberfest grounds. To snag a good seat, you can reserve a spot in a tent in advance or arrive super early each day. Get ready to raise a glass with your table mates and make some new friends after downing a couple of steins! By the end of a day there, you’ll have a couple of German drinking songs stuck in your head for weeks to come.
October: Tel Aviv for Rosh Hashanah
Before going across the Atlantic, make a stop in Tel Aviv for the Jewish New Year of Rosh Hashanah. The two-day celebration is observed across the nation and it’s not uncommon for people to start wishing you, “Shanah Tovah!” in the week leading up to the holiday. If you don’t have any connections in Tel Aviv, there are plenty of websites where families that can host travelers (no matter their religion) for Rosh Hashanah dinner are listed. Step outside of your comfort zone and reach out to these willing families to experience the celebrations from this familial perspective.
November: Mexico City for Dia De Los Muertos
Make one last stop in Mexico City for Dia De Los Muertos celebrations! The festival honors the dead with festivals and parades that take on a lively, not morbid, tone. The tradition recalls Aztec celebrations, while incorporating the Catholic faith of the conquistadors that invaded Mexico in the 1500s. With the perspective that the dead would rather the living not mourn their losses, Dia De Los Muertos aims to celebrate life with good food, drink and performances. It is also believed that the dead come back to life on this day to partake in the rambunctious celebrations with loved ones.
December: Back Home for New Year’s Eve
Head back home to round up your globetrotting excursions and celebrate the New Year with friends and family! Though New Year’s Eve infamously never goes as planned, we still painstakingly plan it all out, each and every year, with glitter in our eyes (and everywhere else) as we aim to see the coming year as one full of the same promise, adventure and love that filled our past year.