As we enter the new year, Mark Bibby Jackson provides a guide to worldwide festivals for 2024. From voodoo in West Africa to miraculous lords and Hampshire watercress, here is our calendar guide to some of the more esoteric worldwide festivals in 2024, as well as a couple you might have heard of already.
January – Benin Voodoo Festival
Ever since James Bond’s Let and Live Die, the spirit of voodoo has captured our collective imagination, but in many parts of the world this cult is an important part of local culture and traditions. On 10 January, the people of Benin will celebrate their Voodoo Festival. While ceremonies are held around the country, the city of Ouidah is the place to head.
More information on Benin Voodoo Festival. Other worldwide festivals this month include: Harbin Ice Festival and Kaapse Klopse (Cape Town Minstrel Carnival), Uttarayan, International Kite Festival, Burns Night, Scotland, UK and Up Helly Aa, Shetlands.
February – Tsagaan Sar, Mongolia
Despite the sub-zero temperatures Mongolia might be the place to head for this February. Tsagaan Sar marks the start of the lunar new year in the Asian country. Dumplings, sweet delicacies and plenty of vodka is shared around in a ceremony that is as culturally rich as it is cherished in the country. Make sure you wrap up warm.
More information on Tsagaan Sar. Other festivals this month include: Rio Carnival (Rio Carnaval) Rio de Janeiro, Festival of the Candelaria (La Fiesta de la Candelaria) Peru, Quebec Winter Carnival, Chingay Parade Singapore, Venice Carnival (Carnevale di Venezia),Carnaval de Nice (Nice Carnival), Fête du Citron Menton (Lemon Festival), New Orleans Mardi Gras, Naked Man Festival, Okayama (Hadaka Matsuri)Barranquilla Carnival, Colombia and the Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival.
March – Nowruz, Persian New Year, Central Asia
Slightly later in the year Nowruz, or Persian New Year, is celebrated throughout Central Asia from Afghanistan to Turkey. Since 2009, the festival has been recognised as an intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO as the festival is steeped in tradition. Make sure you visit a local family and receive the most amazing hospitality.
More information on Nowruz Persian New Year. Other worldwide festivals this month include: St David’s Day, Wales, UK, St Patrick’s Day Parade and Festival, Las Fallas de Valencia, Holi Festival, National Cherry Blossom Festival, Frozen Dead Guy Days, and Carnaval de Binche
April – Songkran, Thailand
Our whistle-stop tour around Asia’s new year festivals concludes in Thailand where Songkran is celebrated on 13 to 15 April. Wrap up your valuables, wear swimwear and expect plenty of water as Thais celebrate the oncoming new year by getting soaked. Supposed to cleanse both spirit and body, the water comes as a great relief at the end of the hot, dry season, especially when accompanied by an ice-cold beer. Neighbouring Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia have similar ceremonies. To discover more about Thailand, read Travel Begins as 40’s ‘Essential Travel Guide to Thailand Holidays for the Over 40s’.
May – Alresford Watercress Festival, UK
The onset of summer traditionally marks a swathe of daft festivals across the UK. We could have chosen many to highlight but as we are partial to a bit of cress, it’s the Alresford Watercress Festival that we have selected. May will see the small Hampshire town turned into a frenzy of watercress consumption as the merry revellers crown the champion muncher and see if he or she can manage to chomp through 85g of vegetation in under 32 seconds to claim the world record.
More information on Alresford Watercress Festival. Other festivals this month include: Cheung Chau Bun Festival, Barbados Crop Over Festival, Romerias de Mayo, Holguin, Cuba, Tallinn Music Week, Estonia and Malton Food Festival.
June – Khut Sheep Shearing, Armenia
Fortunately, it is not just in the UK that the weird and wacky is celebrated each year. The village of Khut will demonstrate its skills in fleece-removing this June in a festival that attracts professional shearers from Georgia and the UK to show off their clipping skills. Folk music and tight-rope walking make this a ceremony you might just want to drop in on.
More information on Sheep Sheering Festival Khut. Other worldwide festivals this month include: Bruges Beer Festival, Inti Raymi, Cusco: Festival of the Sun, Roskilde Festival Denmark, Isle of Wight Festival, Inti Raymi and Taiwan International Balloon Festival
July – Boryeong Mud Festival
Mud, mud, glorious mud, Gangnam style in the South Korean city of Boryeong. Somehow, since 1998 this Asian equivalent of La Tomatina has grown into the biggest festival in the East Asian country. Perhaps not for the fastidious, but at the very least the vitality will get you going, and after all nothing is better for cooling the blood.
August – Notting Hill Carnival, UK
London’s biggest street party will once more get on the move over the final weekend in August. A celebration of the Windrush generation, West Indian music, an enormous parade and wonderful ska and reggae beats. What’s not to love in this celebration of multicultural London at its best? Rumours that Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant will make an appearance are as yet unconfirmed.
More information on Notting Hill Carnival. Other festivals this month include: the Edinburgh International Festival (Edinburgh Festival) and the Edinburgh Fringe, PALP Festival, Valais, Switzerland, The Big Feastival, UK.
September – Ganesh Chaturthi, India
With so many Indian festivals to choose from, we’ve opted for Ganesh – well how can you resist an elephant-headed deity. Expect India to explode into colour with 10 days of dancing celebrating Lord Ganesha. In Mumbai, the festival includes the biggest street party of the year as people compete for the most impressive, and garish, Ganesh statue.
October – Lord of Miracles, Peru
Don’t worry, we haven’t forgotten about the Americas. October sees one of the most important festivals in Peru’s predominantly Catholic community’s calendar. In Lima, thousands of people will take to the streets for the Lord of Miracles (Señor de los Milagros) Festival, which worships a mural in the Monastery of Las Nazarenas that is said to be responsible for many miracles.
November – Day of the Dead, Central / South America
While North Americas are going around with their tricks and treats, the people of Central and South America are preparing to pay homage to their dearly departed ancestors. The Day of the Dead is celebrated in communities from Mexico to Brazil. In Mexico City the festival has taken on a carnival atmosphere with a procession to the city centre.
December – Beverley Festival of Christmas, UK
The year ends with an explosion of Germanic Christmas markets in Europe, based around Advent. While Vienna lays claim to the first December fest, and Dresden the largest stollen, we have chosen a UK festive celebration. Expect carol singers, mulled wine and roasted chestnuts in the glorious Yorkshire town of Beverley. And if all the festivities become too much for you, then dive into one of the many great pubs and mumble a quiet “bah humbug” over your warm pint.
Accommodation for Worldwide Festivals 2024
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