I can't think of a better way of appreciating a new culture than by taking part in one of its festivals. You'll find that some festivals are celebrated by an entire country, while others will be unique to a single city or region, but either way festivals play an important role in a culture's identity. To pay tribute to some of the more unique and outrageous reasons people celebrate life around the world, I put together this slideshow of nine festivals that are definitely worth checking out. Enjoy!
#1. Songkran - Thailand
If you’re in Thailand between April 13th and 15th, get ready for world’s biggest water fight. The celebration marks the beginning of the Thai New Year, where cleansing with water is meant to purify and renew. In Bangkok or Chang Mai, the water fights can last up to six days, as Thais and tourists ambush each other in the streets with hoses and water balloons. While this is the most popular activity, Songkran is also a time when people visit elders and monks to pay their respects to the New Year.
#2. Tomatina - Buñol, Spain
Every last Wednesday in August, the town of Buñol is splattered with thousands of crushed tomatoes in the world’s biggest food fight. Many people wear goggles during this hour of chaotic fun, as the town becomes a red river of mayhem.
#3. Boryeong Mud Festival - Boryeong, South Korea
Let the mudslinging begin! For two weeks in July, millions gather in Boryeong to experience the grey pools and slides. What began as way of promoting the region’s mineral-rich mud has turned into a festive party, complete with music and fireworks. While the mud is usually only available in cosmetic products, here you can cake yourself in grey all you want.
#4. Holi - India
Holi, the Festival of Colors, is a Hindu celebration full of joy and one of India’s most important holidays. During the day of the last full moon of the lunar month, usually late February or early March, the air is full of bright colored powder. The festival is celebrated differently throughout the country, with bonfires and music, but the cheerful spirit is common throughout Hindu communities around the world.
#5. International Pillow Fight Day - Worldwide
Thousands of people, in over 130 cities, participated in the 4th annual International Pillow Fight Day on April 2, 2011. From London to Vancouver, bring a soft pillow in early April, and watch feathers fly.
#6. Batalla del Vino - Haro, Spain
June 29th is a good day to visit Haro, Spain. Bring a bottle of vino and prepare to be drenched in red wine in the heart of Spain’s grape-growing region. After mass, crowds flock to the hills for the battle, where white shirts are stained bright purple by the end of the morning.
#7. Bay to Breakers - San Francisco, California
The epic race (created after the devastating 1906 earthquake as a way of boosting moral) has become one of the region’s most iconic events. Hosted every year on the third Sunday of May, the race runs approximately 12k through the city (quite literally from the bay to the Pacific breakers). The real highlight, however, is the thousands of people dressed up in a showcase of San Francisco culture. Wear whatever you want: Batman suits, purple wigs, tutus…
#8. Burning Man - Black Rock Desert, Nevada
Words cannot describe it and photos hardly do it justice. This eight-day community event in late August is more than neon lights, themed temples, and pulsing beats. Thousands gather in the desert to create Black Rock City, a temporary municipality complete with a post office, shower stations, and a helipad. Dedicated to radical self-reliance, self-expression, and art ends with the burning of a 50-foot effigy. Come here with no inhibitions and live with freedom.
#9. Koninginnedag - The Netherlands
Although their Queen’s birthday is really during the winter, she celebrates it on April 30th, the country’s official “Queen’s Day” since 1949. Orange is the national color, and the streets become a sea of fluorescent wigs, feather boas, and body paint, as crowds gather in the plazas and on boats in the canals. Amsterdam is the center of this outdoor party, with many live music acts, but nearly every town is alive with orange on this day.