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Festivals of the World

Throughout history the coming together of people in celebration has been an integral part of all cultures. Be it a gathering to celebrate a birth, a celebration of a religious festival or a joint love of music & arts, these events are key moments in the lives of many. We have drawn together a list of what we consider to be the top festivals of the world.


Top Festivals of the World

From the USA to South East Asia, these events all have one common factor, spectacle! If you are planning on a trip to one of these world famous festivals then for full immersion in the experience, learning the local language is key! We have provided an overview of each event, but also offered some advice on those looking to learn the local dialect.

Burning Man – Nevada, USA

Starting life as a bonfire ritual in the early 1980’s, Burning Man has grown to be one of the most inclusive and expressive festivals of the world. Taking place on a playa, or dry lake, in Nevada, the festival itself is isolated from nearby urban developments. This isolation adds to the inclusive nature of the festival with the emphasis being on community.

Festivals of the world - Burning Man

The main focus of the festival is the creation of art and expressing oneself in a safe environment. The culmination of each year is the burning of a giant effigy, dubbed ‘the man’. These combined with a list of ‘ethos’ written up by the festival organisers encourage respect, participation and decommodification.

Burning Man is definitely one of the most unique festivals in the world and has been popular with young people for many years.

Carnival – Rio De Janeiro, Brazil

The Rio De Janeiro Carnival is one of the biggest festivals of the world! Dating back to the 18th Century, this colourful and vibrant festival is a celebration prior to Lent.

Featuring Samba schools, floats and dancers, the main attraction of Carnival is the parade. This parade takes place in a ‘sambadromo’, which is a purpose built route complete with bleachers for attendees to view from. The Sambadromo Marquês de Sapucaí in Rio De Janeiro, is 700 metres long and can hold up to 90,000 spectators.

As well as the world famous parade, the festival has plenty of other attractions for visitors. Street parties and performances take place across the city and hundreds of thousands of attendees flock to the festival every year.

La Tomatina – Valencia, Spain

Held on the last Wednesday of August every year, La Tomatina is a food fight festival held in the Spanish town of Buñol, near Valencia. Over 100 tonnes of ripe tomatoes are thrown during the event which takes place on the streets of the town.

Festivals of the world - La Tomatina, Valencia

Since 2013 the event has been officially ticketed. Prior to this however, upwards of 40,000 people would take part in the event. The ‘food fight’ itself only lasts 1 hour with all participants taking part in the clean-up after the event.

The origins of this unique festival are very vague. Conservatively dated as starting in 1945, the favoured birth story of the event is that disgruntled townspeople threw fruit at local councilmen during a town celebration. This was repeated year on year until La Tomatina developed into its own and making it one of the biggest festivals of the world.

Dia De Los Muertos – Mexico

Primarily celebrated in Mexico and Mexican communities in the USA, Dia De Los Muertos, or Day of the Dead can be seen as a very macabre festival. However, the celebration itself is far from morbid.

Dia De Los Muertos lasts for over a week, with the main focal days being the 1st and 2nd November. During this celebration family and friends come together to remember and pay tribute to those who have died.

Festivities take on a light-hearted and jovial tone, with decorations and costumes being worn. Food also plays a big part in the celebration, with offerings made to those recently departed as well as gifting confectionary to friends and family. This includes ‘calaveras’, or sugar skulls, which have colourful designs relating to the recently passed.

The festival has been referenced many times in pop culture over the years. The opening scene of the James Bond film ‘Spectre’ takes place in Mexico City during the festival. The 2017 Disney Pixar animation ‘Coco’ also pulls heavily from the Day of the Dead festival and Mexican culture on death and the afterlife.

With its origins in Mexico, Spanish plays a major role in getting the most out of the festival. With massive street parties and events taking place, having an understanding of Spanish is really beneficial, particularly when celebrating in Mexico.

St Patrick’s Day – Ireland

The Feast of St Patrick has been an official Christian holiday since the 17th Century and is observed across numerous denominations. Commonly considered to be famous for driving snakes from Ireland, St Patrick was actually anointed for his efforts in converting Ireland to Christianity.

St Patrick's Day - Ireland

Celebrations are found most commonly in Ireland, England and the USA. Events such as parades, parties and similar are common place with attendees wearing predominately green items of clothing. The celebration has become some what commercialised over recent decades with brands such as Guinness, McDonalds and Coca-Cola having all released celebratory products.

The celebrations in certain cities cannot be shunned however. American cities such as Boston, where there is a large Irish community, have a wide range of events taking place. This frequently includes parades and live music. In Dublin, where St Patrick’s day is a national holiday, there are millions of visitors during the festival weeks.

Glastonbury – Somerset, England

Considered by many to be the pinnacle of music festivals, Glastonbury started life over 50 years ago in 1970. It was originally named Pop, Blues & Folk Festival and it’s first year was attended by only 1,500 people.

Over the past 50 years the festival has grown to accommodate over 200,000 people during the course of the weekend. With world famous acts such as Jay-Z, Sir Paul McCartney and The Who performing, headlining Glastonbury is considered to be an honour.

As well as music, the festival also features dance, comedy, spoken-word and other performance arts on its bill every year. This inclusion of culture from around the world makes Glastonbury the perfect arts festival for almost everybody. It has also been cemented as the most famous continuously running music festival in the world.

Holi – India, Nepal & Pakistan

One of the most colourful festivals, Holi is celebrated every spring in Hindu countries. This religious festival is in celebration of love, new life and spring and is in honour of the god Krishna. This festival is prominent in India, Nepal and Pakistan and takes over the streets of towns an cities across the countries.

The main attraction of Holi is the brightly coloured powders and waters which are thrown as well as singing and dancing. This takes place across India, Nepal and Pakistan, with young and old getting involved in the colourful activities of one of the top festivals of the world.

The throwing of coloured water and powder is in reference to stories of Krishna throwing similar items over his milkmaids as a child.

Mardi Gras – New Orleans, USA

While Mardi Gras is not exclusively an American festival, no city is as well known for its atmosphere as New Orleans. It is a celebration of Shrove Tuesday, which in Christianity is the final day before the start of Lent.

The name Mardi Gras is French and directly translates to Fat Tuesday. The popularity of the festival in New Orleans is related to the French origins of the city. This historical link combined with American influences has turned Mardi Gras in New Orleans into a festival destination for millions.

Bars and venues host live bands, parties and other events during the course of the evening. Revellers can be seen swapping beads with others while dancing into the night.

Get the full festival experience by learning a new language with Cactus:

Have you read about our favourite festivals in the world and want to learn a new language to fully experience them in their native tongue? Cactus offers a variety of great group language courses. Including online and in the UKacross the world and private classes. Learning a language has never been easier, and is a great way to uncover a different culture.

Cactus Language Courses

Are you looking to book a language course?

Please check our How to Book page for more information on the simple secure and easy online booking process.

For information on any of our classes, please call us on +44 (0) 1273 830 960 or contact us. Our multilingual team will be happy to answer any questions you may have.

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