Full Moon Party, Thailand
Held either the night before or after the full moon, these all-night ragers draw as many as 30,000 people. Revellers drop in to bars and clubs along the beach to dance and indulge in liquor sold in buckets. There are several huge sound systems along the beach, and partiers can hear a range of music from R&B to trance and house. Although these parties have been associated with drug use, authorities on the island are reportedly cleaning up the celebrations.
La Tomatina, Spain
Tomato juice flows through the streets of Bunol on the last Wednesday of August as revellers take part in the world’s largest tomato fight. Festivities begin in the town square where there is a huge pole covered in soap and with a leg of ham at the top. Participants try to scramble up the pole to retrieve the ham as onlookers throw buckets of water on the crowd from balconies above. After a gun is fired to signal the beginning of the fight, huge trucks carrying tomatoes appear. People grab their ammunition and pelt each other in the streets until the pistol sounds again, marking the end of the event.
Carnival of Ivrea, Italy
This annual carnival celebrates the city’s liberation from a baron who starved citizens during Medieval times. As the story goes, a miller’s daughter roused the town to revolt and drive out the baron. The event, which takes place the week before Lent, is perhaps best known for its raucous Battle of the Oranges. Teams gather in the city’s main squares to re-enact the citizen’s rebellion by lobbing oranges at one another. Anyone can join a team to participate, but you might want to wear your raincoat and Wellies.
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This spring festival is celebrated throughout the country in late February or early March. The two-day event commemorates the legend of Prahlad, a devotee of the god Vishnu, who escaped unharmed from the fire of the evil Holika Dahan. Revellers mark the event by lighting bonfires, throwing perfumed colored powder on one another and partying wildly. Children load colored water into toy pistols called pichkari and take aim at passersby. Holi is known as a joyous celebration of the triumph of good over evil and is a time when people of all ages and social status come together.
This is the biggest party in Switzerland with roughly 20,000 masked revellers taking part. Festivities kick off at four in the morning on the Monday after Ash Wednesday, when all the lights in the city go out and groups of costumed pipers and drummers parade through the town with lanterns. Celebrations continue throughout the week with lots of drinking and singing. Some groups act out notable events from the previous year in what’s known as the Schnitzelbängg.
Burning Man, Nevada
This infamous festival began in 1986 with the burning of a large-scale effigy to mark the summer solstice. It’s since grown into a week-long annual event that draws more than 48,000 people to the Black Rock Dessert. Held during the week before Labor Day, participants set up camp in the desert to celebrate art, self-expression and self-reliance. Each year has a theme which artists are encouraged to interpret through installations and performances. “Mutant vehicles,” redesigned cars and trucks, are staples of the event, as is the burning of a 40-foot “Man” structure.
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This festival marks the Thai New Year, which is celebrated in the second week of April. This is the hottest time of the year in Thailand, so it makes sense that the biggest Songkran tradition is to throw water on people. A soaking is considered a blessing and it’s a sacred practice. Traditionally, people would bestow blessings by pouring scented water on each other’s hands. But today, Thais of all ages engage in full-blown water fights, using buckets, hoses and water guns to celebrate the event.
Bay to Breakers, San Francisco
This is a 12k race and party rolled into one. Held annually in late May, it’s one of the oldest foot races in the world and draws more than 50,000 participants. What makes Bay to Breakers so much fun is that many people run in wacky costumes. There’s a costume contest offering prizes for categories including Most Original, Best Group and Best Musical Theme. Several live bands provide a lively soundtrack along the route.
Celtic Colours Festival, Cape Breton
For nine days in October, Cape Breton is alive with Celtic culture from all over the world. This annual festival draws more than 10,000 visitors to celebrate with music, dance and events in communities across the island. Craft workshops, lectures on Celtic history and square dances are all on offer, as are community meals where visitors and community members come together over home-cooked food. Artists get together for an informal jam session at the Festival Club, located at the Gaelic College in St. Ann’s, where the bar is open until 3 am.
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Glastonbury Festival of Performing Arts, England
The largest greenfield performing arts festival in the world, Glastonbury takes place over 900 acres in the Vale of Avalon, where King Arthur is rumored to be buried. Attendees camp on the grounds and participate in a weekend of workshops, parties, cabarets and an impressive line-up of live music. In past years, performers have included U2, Paul Simon, Beyonce and B.B. King, to name a few.