5 Celebrations from Around the World You Need to Know About

Happy 4th of July!  While everyone is grilling out, laying on the beach, and watching fireworks, it got me thinking about other celebrations.  So, I’m serving up 5 of the most interesting holidays and festivals that happen all over the world.

Up Helly Aa – Shetland Islands of Scotland

There are 12 fire festivals held all over Shetland each year in the middle of winter to mark the end of the yule season.  The current Lerwick celebrations grew from an older tradition of tar barreling.  Men used to drag barrels of burning tar through town but per usual the excessive drinking mixed with, you know, burning tar created a growing concern for public safety.  This version of the festival was banned around 1874 but in 1876 the procession traded burning tar for torches and so it continues.  After the squads march through town, the procession ends when the guizers and Jarl (main guizer) throw their torches into a replica Viking longship.  Then, the party continues in local halls where the squads preforms skits or sing and dance.

Noche de Los Rábanos (The Night of the Radishes) – Oaxaca, Mexico

This is an annual event held on December 23, dedicated to carving oversized radishes to create a variety of scenes.  Does it seem random?  Yes, but it actually makes sense.  Oaxaca has a long tradition of wood carving so during the colonial time when radishes were introduced by the Spanish, farmers started to carve them into figures to attract customers’ attention at the Christmas market and it worked.  Radishes wilt soon after they are cut, so they can only be displayed for a couple of hours.  This created long lines to see each farmers’ work and it also proved that marketing gimmicks have been going strong since at least 1897.

Boryeong Mud Festival – Boryeong, South Korea

This festival takes place every summer and since its humble beginnings in 1998, it now attracts 2.2 million visitors to the area.  This festival started as and continues to be a, you guessed it, marketing ploy for Boryeong mud cosmetics but you have to give it to them, it’s kind of genius.  Who can say no to mud pools, mud prisons, and mud skiing?  Not us and apparently not 2.2 million other people!

La Tomatina – Buñol, Spain

Tomato fights just for the heck of it?  One thousand percent, yes.  That’s what happens every year on the last Wednesday of August in Buñol, Spain.  Its origin story is naturally an interesting one.  In 1945, a few young people attended the Giants and Big-Heads figures parade in the town square and when one participant’s big head fell off, he went into a fit of rage.  It’s biggest victim?  A vegetable stall.  People started throwing tomatoes and the rest is history.  While these yearly tomato quarrels have been banned multiple times throughout its history, it was the infamous tomato burial that finally made officials wave their white flags and turn it into an official festival.

Holi – India, Nepal & Beyond

This popular Hindu festival is predominantly celebrated in India and Nepal, but it has also spread to many other parts of the world.  Holi celebrations start the night before with Holika Dahan, where people perform religious rituals in front of the bonfire and pray that their internal evil be destroyed.  This then perfectly segues into the “festival of colors” which signifies the arrival of spring.  Holi rejoices the blossoming of love and it’s a day for everyone to play, laugh, and just be in the moment.  The simple goal of enjoying yourself with water guns and paint in hand makes it easy to see how it has become such a universal phenomenon.


Have you ever witnessed or participated in any of these festivals?  If so, let us know about them in the comments below!

Olivia McShea



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