CLose up person in mask at carnival of venice italy.

The Roots of 14 Unforgettable Holidays and Celebrations From Around the World

Holidays? They’re universal. But their roots and where you celebrate them…well, that can turn the ordinary into something utterly mind-blowing.

This article isn’t just about marking dates on a calendar—it’s about learning more about these unique celebrations across the planet. Here are 10 unique holiday celebrations around the world to take you from ordinary vacation to extraordinary memories. Let’s go!

1. Chinese New Year in China

Chinese lion dance at lunar new year.
Image Credit: ronnieb1950 and Shutterstock.

Chinese New Year, also known as Lunar New Year, marks the beginning of the lunar new year and is the most significant traditional Chinese holiday. It doesn’t have a fixed date in the Gregorian calendar, usually falling between January 21 and February 20, depending on the lunar calendar. 

The festival, which can last up to 15 days, is rooted in ancient customs related to the myth of Nian, a beast that was said to devour crops and livestock. To protect themselves, villagers used fireworks and red decorations, which they believed scared Nian away. 

Today, it’s celebrated with fireworks, dragon and lion dances, family reunions, and the giving of red envelopes (lucky money). The Chinese New Year promotes family cohesion and cultural heritage, significantly influencing economies where it is celebrated.

2. Carnival of Rio de Janeiro in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Samba dancer performing at Carnival.
Image Credit: – Yuri A and Shutterstock

Carnival of Rio De Janeiro in Brazil is a world-famous festival held before Lent and known for its elaborate parades, costumes, and samba music and dance. Its origins are in European colonial times when Portuguese settlers brought the Entrudo, a period of revelry before Lent. 

Today, it’s a massive cultural event that reflects the diverse Brazilian culture, blending African, indigenous, and European elements. It’s renowned among travelers for its lavish parades featuring samba dancers in dazzling costumes, elaborate floats, and pulsating Brazilian music. The Sambadrome hosts the main events, but street parties (blocos) are found throughout the city, offering endless music and dance.

3. Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France

The city of Cannes on the French Riviera at night with fireworks.
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The Cannes Film Festival, established in 1946, was initially conceived as a response to the political and cultural dominance of the Venice Film Festival during the pre-war years. The festival was designed to celebrate freedom and international cinema, distinct from the fascist influences present in other European cultural events of the time. Held annually in Cannes, France, this prestigious festival has grown to become one of the most renowned and glamorous film festivals in the world.

The combination of artistic appreciation, business dealings, and star-studded glamour makes Cannes a unique and exciting destination for both industry insiders and film enthusiasts alike. Its iconic setting along the French Riviera adds an air of allure and luxury. 

4. Carnival of Venice in Venice, Italy

Person in mask at carnival of venice italy with city landscape in background.
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The Carnival of Venice, with its origins tracing back to the 12th century, is one of the world’s most famous masked festivals. Originally, the festival began as a celebration for victory against the Patriarch of Aquileia in 1162. Over time, it evolved into an annual event where Venetians would don elaborate masks and costumes, allowing them to blend in with the crowd and transcend the social hierarchy, albeit temporarily. This anonymity provided a liberating environment where all societal norms were set aside, and people could freely mingle and celebrate.

Today, the Carnival of Venice is renowned for its stunning hand-crafted masks, elaborate costumes, and the ethereal atmosphere it casts over the city. The festival’s unique charm lies in its blend of tradition, artistry, and mystery. Visitors flock to Venice during this period not only to partake in the vibrant festivities but also to experience the rich historical and cultural tapestry that the city has to offer. The combination of historical significance, artistic expression, and the timeless allure of Venice makes the Carnival a captivating celebration unlike any other in the world.

5. St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin, Ireland

Samuel Beckett Bridge goes green St Patrick's Festival, Dublin, Ireland.
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St. Patrick’s Day, celebrated on March 17th, is Ireland’s most famous holiday, honoring its patron saint, St. Patrick, who is credited with bringing Christianity to Ireland. The origins of the holiday date back to the 17th century, serving both as a cultural and religious celebration. Traditionally, the Irish would attend church in the morning and celebrate in the afternoon; the Lenten prohibitions against the consumption of meat were waived, and people would dance, drink, and feast on the traditional meal of Irish bacon and cabbage.

Today, St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin is a vibrant and jubilant event that attracts visitors from all around the world. The city is decked out in green, with people donning festive attire, including shamrocks, leprechaun costumes, and other symbols of Irish heritage. The festivities include parades, live music, and theatrical performances. Pubs across the city brim with both locals and tourists enjoying Irish brews and the lively atmosphere. 

6. Diwali in India

Tourists enjoy an elephant ride at Amer Fort Jaipur Rajasthan. Elephant rides are popular tourist attraction in Amber Fort - Jaipur, India.
Image Credit: Muratart and Shutterstock

Diwali, the Festival of Lights, is a major Hindu festival in India, typically around October or November. It celebrates the victory of light over darkness and good over evil and different historical events and deities across India, including the return of Lord Rama to Ayodhya after defeating Ravana and rescuing his wife, Sita. 

In Jaipur, buildings and streets are adorned with thousands of lamps, lights, and traditional decorations. Fireworks light up the night sky, families perform religious ceremonies at home, and sweets and gifts are exchanged. 

7. Québec Winter Carnival in Québec, Canada

ice castle quebec city.
Image Credit: Rusy426 and Shutterstock.

The Québec Winter Carnival, Canada’s most famous winter festival, has its origins in the late 19th century when the local population of Québec City would come together during the harsh winter to celebrate with a festive gathering. Officially established in 1955, the carnival was initiated to boost the economy and morale during the cold months, creating a vibrant tradition that continues to thrive today.

Today, the Québec Winter Carnival stands as one of the world’s largest winter festivals, attracting visitors from all corners of the globe. The festival features a wide array of activities, including night parades, snow sculpture competitions, and the iconic canoe race on the frozen Saint Lawrence River. Bonhomme Carnaval, the festival’s beloved snowman mascot, is a central figure, presiding over the festivities and adding a charismatic touch to the celebrations. 

8. Songkran Festival in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Buddha statue water ceremony in songkran festival, thailand.
Image Credit: Tong_stocker and Shutterstock.

The Songkran Festival, celebrated in Thailand, marks the traditional Thai New Year and is rooted in ancient Buddhist traditions. Historically, Songkran began to honor elders and Buddha statues by sprinkling water over them, symbolizing purification and the washing away of sins and bad luck. “Songkran” originates from the Sanskrit word “saṃkrānti,” meaning astrological passage, signifying transformation and change.

Today, Songkran has evolved into the world-famous water festival, celebrated with exuberance across Thailand from April 13th to 15th. The festival is best known for its spirited water fights, where locals and tourists use water guns, buckets, and hoses to splash water on each other. This practice not only cools people off in the hot season but also symbolizes the washing away the past year’s misfortunes. Additionally, Songkran includes traditional elements such as visiting temples, offering food to Buddhist monks, and spending time with family.

9. Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany

Munich, Germany at City Hall.
Image Credit: ESB Professional

Oktoberfest, the world’s largest Volksfest (beer festival and traveling funfair), originated in Munich, Germany, in 1810. The festival began as a royal wedding celebration when Crown Prince Ludwig, later to become King Ludwig I, married Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen. The citizens of Munich were invited to join in the festivities held on the fields in front of the city gates. The event concluded with horse races, and the decision to repeat the races in subsequent years gave rise to the tradition of Oktoberfest.

Today, Oktoberfest is celebrated annually from late September to the first weekend in October, attracting millions of visitors from around the globe. The festival is famed for its large tents filled with long communal tables, where patrons enjoy Bavarian traditions such as live folk music, dancing, traditional foods, and, of course, the consumption of Oktoberfest Beer brewed only by the breweries within the city limits of Munich. The festive atmosphere is enhanced by the attendees, often dressed in traditional Bavarian outfits—lederhosen and dirndls.

10. Cherry Blossom Festival in Japan

Fujiyoshida, Japan with Mt. Fuji and Chureito Pagoda at dusk during spring cherry blossom season.
Image Credit: Sean Pavone and Shutterstock.

The Cherry Blossom Festival, or “Hanami,” is a deeply cherished springtime event in Japan, celebrated for centuries. The tradition began during the Nara Period (710-794 AD) when aristocrats would enjoy viewing the blossoms and write poems inspired by them. By the Heian Period (794-1185 AD), it had spread to samurai and commoners alike. The cherry blossom, or “sakura,” is profoundly symbolic in Japanese culture, representing the fleeting nature of life due to its brief but brilliant blooming season.

Today, the Cherry Blossom Festival is observed throughout Japan, typically from late March to early April, depending on when the trees bloom. Parks, temples, and schools are popular spots for “hanami” parties, where families and friends gather under the blooming sakura for picnics, often from day into night (“yozakura”). The festival not only showcases the stunning beauty of cherry blossoms but also provides a time for joyful gatherings and renewal. Cities like Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka host some of the most famous viewing spots, drawing tourists worldwide.

11. Day of the Dead in Mexico

Dia de los Muertos, Day of the Dead.
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The Day of the Dead, or “Día de los Muertos,” is a traditional Mexican holiday that blends indigenous Aztec rituals with Catholicism, brought to the region by Spanish conquistadores. It is believed to have originated from Aztec festivals dedicated to the goddess Mictecacihuatl, known as the Lady of the Dead, which were originally celebrated in summer but later moved to align with All Saints’ and All Souls’ Days on November 1st and 2nd. This festival is when families honor their deceased loved ones, who are thought to return to the earthly world during this period.

Celebrated mainly on November 1st and 2nd, Day of the Dead is marked by vibrant festivities that include decorating altars (“ofrendas”) with marigolds, photos of the departed, and the favorite foods and drinks of the deceased as offerings. Homes, graveyards, and streets turn colorful and festive with decorations, sugar skulls, and “papel picado” (perforated paper). Families spend time at cemeteries cleaning and decorating graves and sharing meals, music, and memories of those who have passed. The atmosphere is one of celebration and remembrance rather than mourning, reflecting a cultural attitude that views death as a natural part of life’s continuum. 

12. Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Lousiana (United States)

Bourbon St, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA cityscape of bars and restaurants at twilight.
Image Credit: Sean Pavone and Shutterstock.

Mardi Gras, also known as Fat Tuesday, traces its origins to medieval Europe, passing through Rome and Venice in the 17th and 18th centuries to the French House of the Bourbons. From here, the tradition of a boisterous carnival season preceding the somber period of Lent spread to French colonies. The most famous celebration in the United States began in 1699 when French-Canadian explorer Jean Baptiste Le Moyne Sieur de Bienville landed near present-day New Orleans and named the location “Pointe du Mardi Gras” when realizing it was the eve of the festive holiday.

Today, Mardi Gras in New Orleans is renowned for its grand scale and elaborate festivities, which include parades, masquerade balls, and king cake parties. Participants often dress in costumes and masks and throw trinkets such as beads and coins, known as “throws,” to parade watchers. The city’s streets are filled with music from jazz bands and revelers shouting, “Throw me something, mister!” contributing to a lively and vibrant atmosphere. The celebration is a significant part of New Orleans’ culture, reflecting the city’s spirit and French and Creole heritage. 

13. Christmas in Lapland, Finland

Aurora borealis. Northern lights night photo arctic circle.
Image Credit: Nikolay_E and Shutterstock

Celebrating Christmas in Lapland, Finland, is one of the most magical experiences, especially for those looking to capture the quintessential winter wonderland atmosphere. Situated in the Arctic Circle, the region is said to be the home of Santa Claus, making it a particularly enchanting destination for families and children. The idea of Santa Claus living in Lapland was popularized during the 20th century, capitalizing on the region’s snowy landscapes and the Northern European traditions of Christmas.

Northern Lights Lapland offers one of the best opportunities to witness the Aurora Borealis, a breathtaking natural light display that is particularly visible during the long winter nights. December’s clear, dark skies provide optimal conditions for viewing this spectacular phenomenon.

Visitors can stay in glass igloos, wood cabins, or other unique accommodations to enhance the winter holiday experience. Enjoy holiday foods, sauna experiences, and the peaceful, snowy scenery that accompanies a white Christmas. The local culture adds a unique touch to the holiday, with traditional music and decorations and an abundance of winter sports and activities such as husky sledding, reindeer sleigh rides, snowmobiling, and cross-country skiing. 

14. New Year’s Eve in New York City, New York (United States)

Preparation of New Year’s Eve Ball by installation of panels with new Waterford crystals.
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New Year’s Eve in New York City is one of the most iconic global celebrations, drawing visitors worldwide to experience the festive atmosphere firsthand. The focal point of this celebration is Times Square, where the annual Ball Drop has taken place since 1907. As the clock nears midnight, a glittering crystal ball descends atop One Times Square, culminating in a countdown watched by millions worldwide, both in person and via broadcasts.

The event features star-studded musical performances, confetti showers, and a spectacular fireworks display. The sense of community and shared anticipation creates an electrifying atmosphere as people from diverse backgrounds gather to usher in the new year. Beyond Times Square, the city is alive with private parties, special themed events at clubs and restaurants, and various public shows, making it a truly vibrant place to celebrate.

All Aboard! 13 Epic Train Rides That Should Be on Your Bucket List

glacier express switzerland
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Many people have long desired to take a train trip through snow-capped mountains, coastal seaboard, and the heart of ancient and faraway lands. The idea evokes romanticism and nostalgia for a bygone era when things seemed simpler.

Not everyone loves to fly. Being thousands of feet in the air, jet rocketing across the sky in a metal tube, and defying gravity can be scary. Taking long road trips is less harrowing, but you’re focused on the road and don’t have the opportunity to take in the surrounding beauty you’re passing.

However, on a train, you can sit back, relax, and witness all the natural landscapes you pass by. Here are 13 of the most epic train rides you should add to your bucket list.

From Europe With Love: 12 Incredibly Romantic Destinations

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Many of the great love stories begin in Europe. With backdrops of medieval castles, enchanting seaside villages, and stunning sunsets amidst hills and ancient ruins, European destinations have been beckoning lovebirds from all over for ages.

If you’re planning a romantic getaway, we have compiled a list of the perfect spots for you to consider. Some of them might be obvious, while others might surprise you.

From atop the Eiffel Tower in the City of Love to strolling through a quaint Bulgarian village, these locations will make anyone’s heart flutter.

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