Travel Begins at 40 rounds up the best festivals in February 2020 across the Globe, from the Rio Carnival to Mardi Gras, and from Mongolia to Easter Island, so wherever you are you just can’t help celebrating the month of the Carnival.

Cultural Festivals in February

Tapati Rapa Nui, Easter Island, Chile – 1 to 15 February
Tapati festival festivals in February
Tapati Festival, image provided by Imagina Isla de Pascua.

Let’s start our global round up of festivals in February at one of the most remote islands in the world? The Tapati Festival of Rapa Nui or Easter Island is a mix of sporting events and singing and dancing. The latter take place at night on a stage at Hanga Vare Vare. There is also body painting and storytelling. The range of sporting events include an island-wide triathlon (with local variations, including running while carrying about 20kg of bananas), horse races, swimming competitions, wave-riding/surfing and canoeing. A particular local tradition is the Haka Pei, which involves charging 200 metres down a 45-degree slope on the trunk of a banana tree.

Chiang Mai Flower Festival, Thailand – 7 to 9 February
Chiang Mai Flower Festival festivals in February
Chiang Mai Flower Festival

Now in its 43rd edition, the Chiang Mai Flower Festival is one of the most colourful events in Thailand drawing thousands of floral enthusiasts year after year. Located in the north of Thailand, Chiang Mai is dubbed the Rose of the North. While the Damask rose is found only here, a huge variety of flowers – from the kingdom’s national yellow Ratchaphruek to white chrysanthemums and multi-coloured orchids – underscore Thailand’s reputation as one of the most biodiverse countries in Southeast Asia.

Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival, Taiwan – 8 to 9 February

festivals in February Pingxi Festival

During the Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival thousands of glowing lights float up into the jet black sky above the village of Shifen in Taiwan. Taking place during the first full moon of the Chinese Lunar New Year, the Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival attracts tens of thousands of visitors who release an estimated 100,000 to 200,000 glowing rice paper lanterns into the nocturnal skies. The main lantern release events take place in Shifen, not Pingxi, despite the festival being named after the latter.

Thaipusam Festival, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – 8 to 10 February

Thaipusam festival festivals in February

Every year the Thaipusam Festival celebrations take place inside the Batu caves near Malaysia’s capital Kuala Lumpur. A million devotees and visitors gather from all over Asia for a frenetic event that sees extreme body piercings with needles, hooks and spears, and a procession where devotees in trance carry along a kavadi or physical burden as an offering to their god. Celebrated mainly by Tamils, anyone who seeks favour from Lord Murugan has to participate in the festival and do penance for past sins.

Naked Man Festival, Okayama (Hadaka Matsuri), Japan – 15 February

Naked Man Festival

The Saidaiji Eyo Hadaka Matsuri in Okayama, colloquially known as the naked man festival, is the largest of a series of similar festivals held around Japan. Thousands of naked men – well nearly naked, as they are wearing loin cloths – brave the cold February weather to compete for offerings thrown to them from the priests at the Saidaiji Kannon-in Temple in Okayama, in a frenzied take on the wedding bouquet rites. Saidaiji Kannon-in Temple worships the thousand-armed Kannon and marks the start of the Chugoku Pilgrimage.

Fête du Citron Menton (Lemon Festival), France – February 15 to 3 March

Fete du citron

Situated on the Côte d’Azur in the French Alpes Maritimes, the town of Menton came up with the highly innovative and colourful La Fête du Citron (Lemon Festival), which attracts thousands of visitors annually. The region of Menton is a producer of high quality lemons. The first festival took place in the grounds of the Hotel Riviera in Menton in 1934. With stunning displays, floats and sculptures, the ever increasing popularity of the festival has amplified its imaginative themes, with shows introduced in the evening as well as during the daylight hours.

Battle of the Oranges, Ivrea, Italy – 23 to 25 February

Battle of the Oranges carnivals 2019

Referred to as the biggest food fight in Europe, the Battle of the Oranges takes over the Italian town of Ivrea on the three days preceding Lent. An estimated 9,000 tonnes of oranges are cast in a pitched battle between the townsfolk represented by nine teams of orange throwers and tyrannical orange-yielding soldiers in their carts.  Each year some 100,000 attend the Historical Carnival of Ivrea. If you want to venture into the fray and enter the square, wear a red hat, to signify you are a friend of the rebellious peasants, who should not, at least theoretically, cast any oranges at you.

Olney Pancake Race, Buckinghamshire, UK – 25 February

While people around the UK are celebrating the approach of Lent by tossing pancakes in the warmth of their own kitchen, the gentlefolk of one Buckinghamshire town take to the streets for the Olney Pancake Race, which has been run since 1445 on Shrove Tuesday. According to the records, a local Olney woman ran out of her house, dressed in her apron and headscarf, tossing a pancake in a pan to prevent it from burning, as she had heard the church bell ring for the beginning of service.

Khövsgöl Ice Festival 2020, Mongolia – 28 February to 1 March

Khövsgöl Ice Festival, Mongolia

Each March, residents of Mongolia’s Khövsgöl Lake area celebrate the Khövsgöl Ice Festival with horse-drawn sleighs, elaborate ice sculptures, traditional food and vibrant competitions including ice skating, ice sumo wrestling, tug of war, ice ger building and dog sledding – all on the dark blue ice of the frozen lake. Participants dress up in their own colourful, traditional costumes that represent the country’s 21 different regions or aimags where they hail from. Enjoy popular Mongolian activities, such as long distance horse sledge racing, ice carving, archery and the traditional Mongolian game of shagai or knuckle bone shooting.

Carnivals

Quebec Winter Carnival, Canada – 7 to 16 February
Bonhomme relaxing at the Quebec Winter Carnival,
Bonhomme relaxing at the Quebec Winter Carnival, © Frederic Lavoie

Since 1955, the people of Quebec City have celebrated winter with the Quebec Winter Carnival. In 2006, over a million people attended the festival, making it the biggest winter festival in the world until the Harbin Ice Festival usurped its crown. Drink caribou, dine at the city’s bars and restaurants at the outdoor patios – presumably heated – or dance the night away at the Ice Hotel. At the centre of the festivities is the Ice Palace, where the festival mascot, Bonhomme, resides.

Venice Carnival, Venice, Italy – 8 to 25 February

Venice Carnival carnivals 2019

Juxtapose one of the most beautiful cities in the world alongside one of the most colourful and exciting carnivals globally and it has to be a winning formula. Masked costumed revellers intermingling in St Mark’s Square and the Doge’s Palace, or sailing along the Grand Canal, create a spectacle not to be missed – the Venice Carnival. The wearing of masks is a central part of the fun and adds a surreal feel to the carnival events. La Maschera Più Bella (“the most beautiful mask”) is judged annually by a group of international fashion and costume designers.

Rio Carnival, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – 21 to 29 February
Rio Carnival
Possibly the most spectacular festival in February, the Rio Carnival

Rio Carnival celebrations are a mix of Portuguese and African traditions. It used to mark the last time to eat freely before entering the 40 days of Lent. Nowadays, the party focuses on the parades of the 200+ samba schools at the Sambadrome. They bring some 30,000 participants and there are about 90,000 seats to see the show, which starts at 10 pm and can go until dawn. Floats progress along the 700 metre runway, surrounded by the precise choreography of their followers, who show absolute dedication.

Barranquilla Carnival, Colombia – 22 to 25 February
Barranquilla Carnival Colombia
Barranquilla Carnival Colombia, second only to Rio

The sensational Barranquilla Carnival in Colombia is the world’s second biggest fiesta with magnificent street parades, traditional dancers, lots of local food and the South American country’s joyous cumbia music. Colombia’s culture is most pronounced at its many regional festivals, but perhaps never as much as during its Carnaval de Barranquilla, as it is known in Spanish. Over the course of four days the Colombian port city of Barranquilla turns topsy-turvy with parties, music, dance and colour, doing justice to the Carnival’s motto Quien lo vive, es quien lo goza, or “Those who live it are those who enjoy it”.

New Orleans Mardi Gras, USA – 25 February
Mardi Gras New Orleans festivals in February
Mardi Gras can also be for children – a masked girl by Chris Granger.

New Orleans Mardi Gras or ‘Fat Tuesday’ is one of the biggest parties in the USA. Processions and floats pass by, organised by krewes, many of which have been around for decades and have intriguing names like Bacchus, Endymion, or the Knights of Chaos. These floats may be visually stunning, be aimed to make you laugh, or to satirise some human failing. They parade in the weeks leading up to the main event, so if everything is booked up, consider the run up as an alternative.

Film Festivals in February
Berlinale (Berlin International Film Festival), Germany – 20 February to 1 March
Berlin International Film Festival festivals in February
A Golden and Silver Bear Award shortly before completion. Photo by Pablo Ocqueteau

The German capital turns into a silver screen city when hundreds of films from all over the planet are shown in its theatres and cinemas during the Berlinale or Berlin International Film Festival. As one of the world’s most visited film festivals, the Berlinale has earned itself a place within Europe’s top three most famous festivals of its kind, alongside Venice and Cannes. What sets the Berlinale apart from its contemporaries elsewhere is how integrated it is in Germany’s capital – films are screened all over the city centre – while it is also one of the most political and socially conscious of major film festivals.

Beer Festivals in February

Bruges Beer Festival 2020 Belgium – 1 to 2 February

Bruges Beer Festival Belgium festivals in February

The last of our festivals in February is one of Belgium’s best beer festivals, and that is saying something for the country renowned for having some of the finest beers in the world. The Bruges Beer Festival (“Brugs Bierfestival” in Flemish) features at least 400 top beers from some 70 Belgian breweries, and attracts more than 20,000 visitors every year from across the country and beyond. At every edition of the festival new beers are presented making sure there’s always a few surprises for returning beer lovers.


More Festivals in February 2020

For a full list of February festivals around the World, including the Cologne Carnival (see cover photo), visit our Events and Festival page.


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