Travel Begins at 40 rounds up the best festivals in January 2024 across the Globe, from Benin to the Shetlands, so wherever you are there is no reason to avoid celebrating in the first month of the decade.
Cultural Festivals in January
Kaapse Klopse (Cape Town Minstrel Carnival), South Africa – 2 to 3 January
The Cape Town Minstrel Carnival, or Kaapse Klopse, is a festival held in the South African city in early January. Also known as the Tweede Nuwe Jaar (or Second New Year), some 13,000 minstrels assemble in klopse (or troupes) and parade through the South African city playing music on trumpets, banjos and, most importantly, the ghoema drums. The music is an eclectic mix of Indian, Malay, Indonesian, East African and European reflecting the melting pot that was the Cape. But the music also reflects the music of American minstrels. One Malay song is entitled ‘Daar Kom Die Alibama’, after the Alabama ship upon which the minstrels arrived.
Uttarayan and its International Kite Festival, Hujurat, India – 8 to 14 January
Uttarayan, a major January festival in India, celebrates Makara Sankranti or the start of the harvest season and is held in the state of Gujurat. During this period an international kite festival is held over a week which sees millions of kites launched into the skies, drawing kite flyers from around the world. Each flying season more than 10 million kites are sold in Ahmedabad. During a typical day of kite flying, a participant can lose up to a hundred kites during bouts of kite fighting. Special food includes undhiyu (a mixed vegetable dish with beans and yam).
Voodoo Festival, Benin – 10 January
Benin’s Voodoo Festival or the Fête du Vaudou, celebrates the country’s traditional religion. Voodoo claims a prominent place in Benin’s identity where there are more than 300 deities. The belief that everything is spirit, including humans, is a central tenet in voodoo. During the festival, song and dance are preceded by the ritual slaughter of a goat to honour the deities while there’s also plenty of consumption of earthly spirits with gin a particular favourite.
Feria de Boquete, Panama – 11 to 21 January
The streets fill up with food stands in this small town in Panama for the Feria de Boquete, while a riverside park is adorned with decorative flowers. Expect lots of colourful displays, local artwork, great coffee, Latin music and dance. It tends to get livelier after dark as the music continues to the early hours. As Boquete is situated in mountains, it can get cool so make sure you don’t stop dancing.
Burns Night, Scotland, UK – 25 January
Celebrated throughout Scotland, as well as by Scottish expatriates around the world, Burns Night commemorates the life and poems of Scotland’s poet laureate, Robert, or Rabbie, Burns who was born on 25 January 1759. Expect lots of toasting, especially to the haggis, kilts, dancing and whisky drinking, as the evening concludes with a rendition of Burns’ most famous poem, Auld Lang Syne.
Up Helly Aa, Shetlands, Scotland, UK – 30 January
If you want to see a horde of Vikings parading through the streets, before burning a galley boat and then making merry for 12 hours, Up Helly Aa is the festival for you. From January to March, a series of festivals is held around the Shetland Islands, Scotland to mark the end of Yule. However, the largest and most spectacular of these takes place in the capital Lerwick on the last Tuesday in January.
Music Festivals in January
Ocaso Festival, Tamarindo, Costa Rica – 4 to 8 January
If you are looking for a music festival in January, then head to the Costa Rica coastal town of Tamarindo for the Ocaso Festival, Glastonbury on the beach. Showcasing the Central American nation’s electronic music, this year’s headliners are 8Kays, Adam Ken, Brina Knauss and Cassian. If you like your music next to the beach with beautiful rainforest as the back drop then this is the place to be.
Film and Theatre Festivals in January
Sundance Film Festival, Salt Lake City, USA – 18 to 28 January
Concluding our round up of festivals in January, the leading January film festival is also probably the most famous Indie film festival around the world. The Sundance Film Festival aims at finding new talent in a range of categories including full length film, documentaries and shorter pieces. The name Sundance came from Robert Redford’s character in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid as Redford played a major role in establishing this festival in Utah.
More Festivals in January 2024
For a full list of January festivals around the World, including those that started the previous month, visit our Events and Festival page.
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