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Holidays are Celebrated Worldwide

One of my favorite things about traveling is learning about how different cultures do life. And one of the best ways to experience a new culture is to experience their holiday celebrations.

After traveling continuously for 17 months, I experienced my fair share of holidays in other countries. Both new holidays I’d never celebrated and familiar holidays, but in a completely different way.

And there is no denying that humans love taking time off to celebrate!

Below are stories from 22 travelers and what is was like partaking in holiday celebrations around the world.

ASIA

Holi in Agra, India

The Hindu festival of Holi traditionally celebrates the arrival of spring. You may know it by its other name, the Festival of Colour, where people throw colourful powder over each other.

During our 3-month backpacking trip through India, we happened to be in Agra visiting the Taj Mahal over Holi. We didn’t know what to expect but were advised to just get involved and have fun. We bought some colourful powder from the market and set out from our accommodation to join in the celebrations.

We had the most memorable experience for many reasons – like we got to see the Taj Mahal!!! – but there are a few things we wished we’d known before taking part.

It’s all very friendly for the most part and most people will ask before throwing powder over you. We experienced some young men getting a little over-excited and instead of throwing the powder, trying to smear it directly on me.

By the time we reached the Taj Mahal, we were covered head to foot in powder and initially the guards didn’t want to let us in but after some gentle persuasion, they relented. Once in, we were the only ones with any colour on us and we really stood out.

Lots of people wanted to take photos of us and we were a source of amusement for many of the visitors. We have great memories of this day and don’t regret getting involved. We love the photos of us covered in colour in front of the Taj Mahal.

It’s a really fun celebration but our takeaways from it were:

  • don’t partake as a single western lady
  • wash the colour off (as much as you can) before visiting the Taj Mahal
  • don’t wear your best clothes as they will be ruined
  • cover your skin and hair as much as you can to avoid getting too much powder on you

-Jacs from Flash Packing Family

Tihar in Nepal

Tihar is a five-day long festival in Nepal that is sometimes referred to as “the festival of lights.” During the Tihar Festival, different animals are worshipped for the important role they play in a human’s life.

The first day, known as Kaag Tihar, celebrates crows which act as messengers for humans. People put out bird seed and rice for them as an offering.

The second day, known as Kukur Tihar, is a crowd favorite as it celebrates dogs which act as body guards and protectors. On this day, you’ll see dogs roaming the streets covered in flower garlands with auspicious red dots on their forehead. It’s extremely cute to witness. Best of all, they’re given special treats all day.

The third day, Laxmi Puja, celebrates cows. You’ll see cows with garland and red tikka dots on their foreheads and special prayers and chants are performed.

The fourth and fifth day are often celebrated at home while making offerings to Shri Krishna and lastly to brothers. Tihar usually falls in November, however Nepal has a different calendar than we do so sometimes it falls in another month.

Throughout the festival, you’ll see lights everywhere. In villages, this is small candles and in cities it’s a bit like Christmas with LED lights strung from buildings.

At night, children dance in the streets in exchange for donations. It reminded me a little of trick or treating at Halloween. The children perform traditional dances and collect money in return. The entire country has a festive feel, but I highly recommend celebrating Tihar in Pokhara if you have the chance. It’s an incredible holiday to witness and it was so different than how we celebrate in the U.S.

-Michelle from Full Time Explorer

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Boun Awk Phansa in Laos

A large part of travelling is getting the chance to experience another country’s culture and traditions.  One of the most interesting and beautiful festivals of Laos is Boun Awk Phansa, or the End of Buddhist Lent.  Boun Awk Phansa is a Buddhist festival celebrated throughout Laos on the full moon in October each year. 

Signalling the end of Buddhist Lent and the three months rainy season, the festival also includes the charming Boun Lai Heua Fai, or Festival of Lights ceremony.

The festival is held at dusk in order to summon the naga (water spirit) to bring good luck for a successful upcoming rice harvest.  Local Lao spend the day making small, round “boats” out of banana leaves and decorated with colourful flowers, sticks of incense and candles.  You’ll see these intricately woven boats, or krathong, for sale in colourful stacks at many roadside vendors. 

Once darkness falls, the candles are lit and the krathong are set afloat on waterways throughout Laos.  The act of sending a candlelit boat down the river is so the water spirits can carry any illness or bad luck away, leaving only good luck and good fortune for rice harvesting season.

I participated in the Boun Awk Phansa Festival in Vientiane, the capital of Laos, sending my own krathong far out into the Mekong River.  It was an enchanting experience and I loved the fact that local Lao encourage visitors to join in and are more than happy to show you what to do. 

Participating in the festival gave me a real sense of community and peace.  It was an amazing privilege to be able to join in an ethnic celebration that has been performed this way for thousands of years.

-Marie from A Life Without Borders

Chuseok in South Korea

Before getting married to a Korean citizen, I spent many years as a South African expat removed from the true Korean culture. Even after meeting my wife, it isn’t customary for parents to meet boyfriends and girlfriends until marriage. So I never truly got to experience the atmosphere and festivities of the most important holiday of the year, Chuseok.

Translated as “autumn eve” Chuseok is traditionally the harvest festival and is one of the only times that Koreans are allowed longer leave from work. During this time, the entire country goes to their various hometowns to visit their families.

Seoul is a ghost town during this time as everyone has left for home or, if they don’t observe old traditions, abroad somewhere. Trying to book transportation is a nightmare. After marriage, I experienced the true Chuseok and got to understand what the holiday is all about. Some of my Korean friends joke that they travel all the home only to sit on their phones, when in fact it’s truly a day to celebrate family.

The usual pace of Korea is “bbali bbali” (quick, quick), where everything is done fast and precise, but during Chuseok there is a relaxed atmosphere where overworked adults get to laze about at home, doing nothing but eating, laughing and chilling out. I spent the day with my in-laws making delicious hand-made mandu (dumplings) and helping my mother-in-law prepare some mouthwatering dishes. 

As ancestor worship is another part of this holiday, I also joined my father-in-law to go and pay our respects to his late mother. Before, Chuseok was a day of drinking with my expat buddies, but now it’s a wonderful incite into Korean culture, food and history.

-Cal from Once in a Lifetime Journey

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Diwali in India

Diwali, also known as the Festival of Lights, is one of the biggest celebrations in India. Similar to Christmas in the West, it brings families and friends together to celebrate, relax, pray, and eat. Getting to celebrate Diwali in India with locals was an experience I’ll never forget.

The dates of Diwali change every year as it depends on the moon cycle. This year (2019) it took place from October 25-29th. The entire holiday takes place over five days with the main celebration on the third day. The day of Diwali marks the New Year in the Hindu calendar.

Diwali celebrations take place all over the country, but in the south of India, they celebrate Diwali one day earlier. You will see families decorating their homes with lights and rangolis, setting off fireworks, and dressing up for the occasion.

I loved getting the chance to celebrate Diwali while in India. It was a great way to learn more about Hindu culture and interact with the locals.  The only thing I didn’t like was that the fireworks are put off everywhere in the street by kids, so you have to be very careful where you walk.

Celebrating Diwali gave me a deeper appreciation for Hindu culture, and I would recommend it to anyone planning to visit India.

-Lora from Explore with Lora

Songkran in Thailand

One of the most unique and fascinating cultural experiences you can have in Thailand is the celebration of Thai New Year, or Songkran. In Thailand the new year is celebrated on April 13th each year, and it is a blast to take part in the festivities!

There are a number of traditions surrounding Songkran, but the most unusual (and fun) tradition is the water festival. On Songkran entire streets and neighborhoods shut down so that the Thai residents can have huge water fights all day long. 

Yes, water fights. 

Squirt guns, hoses, and huge containers full of water are everywhere you look, and EVERYONE gets doused- young, old, rich, poor, it doesn’t matter. If you’re out walking on Songkran expect to get WET! The local children especially seem to enjoy this holiday, as they’re given free reign to super soak as many adults as they want.

In addition to the water fights, white chalk is painted onto people’s cheeks and foreheads, symbolic of the chalk monks use to preserve blessings. The chalk ends up all over as you get sprayed with more and more water throughout the day, which adds to the chaos of the celebration.

Songkran is a really special experience as tourists get treated just the same as locals. It was so much fun to basically play like children for an entire day, and this holiday is a true insight into Thai culture. In Thailand fun is considered an essential part of day to day life, and Thai people try to have fun in everything they do. Thailand is known as the land of smiles for a reason!

-Brittany from The Rolling Pack

Loy Krathong in Thailand

After Songkran, Thailand’s festival which celebrates the New Year, Loy Krathong is the country’s most famous celebration. People also call it the Festival of Light and it’s held every November all over the country, but two of the best places in Thailand to celebrate it are Bangkok and Chiang Mai.

The highlight of the festival is the Krathongs which are stunning when you see them floating down the rivers lit by candles. Any visitor can participate in the festival by making or buying a Krathong and joining in the celebrations. 


On my last visit, we celebrated the event at the Supatra River House in Bangkok. The evening included a fabulous buffet meal and a lesson in which we made a Krathong. At the end of the evening, we took a ride down the Chao Phraya River and floated our krathongs. 


The Krathongs are made from a piece of banana trunk which you then decorate with banana leaves, flowers, incense sticks and candles. By floating a Krathong one the water you are washing away your sins, saying goodbye to misfortune and then you make your new wishes for the coming year. If you want some extra luck, our host told us that you should also add a lock of hair and some small coins.


The festival is simply stunning, and there’s a romantic and happy vibe throughout the city when it takes place as everyone is optimistic about what the future brings. There’s lots of traditional Thai dancing to celebrate and seeing the river lit by candles floating along is something I’ll remember for a long time.

-Fiona from Passport and Piano

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AMERICAS

Día de Muertos in Mexico

Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead) is a traditional Mexican holiday celebrated on November 1-2.  It is a holiday to honor loved ones that have passed and there are several different traditions that take place to help guide the deceased on their spiritual journey. 

One of the most common traditions is for family members to visit the cemetery or graves where their loved ones are buried.  There you will find ornate mausoleums that are built up with tiered altars and decorated with colorful ofrendas (offerings) which traditionally include marigold flowers, candles, sugar skulls, shredded paper, photos and memorabilia, and even favorite foods.  Pan de Muerto is a popular sweet bread topped with sugar that is often shared among family members.

I visited the local cemetery in Playa del Carmen, Mexico and was so intrigued by this lively and colorful celebration.  It was so heartening to see family members gathered around the crypts singing, drinking tequila, laughing, and sharing stories about those that have died. 

It really made me understand that Día de Muertos is not a mournful holiday but one of commemoration and celebration—an annual tribute to remember loved ones and honor their accomplishments.  I’m so grateful to have experienced Día de Muertos in Mexico—it is truly a beautiful holiday that brings death to life and a great cultural reminder that loved ones should be celebrated and not mourned. 

-Allison from Viva La Travelista

Carnival in Rio, Brazil

Drawing in spectators from all over, Carnival in Rio is one of the biggest festivals in the world and it’s an experience like no other. The air in Rio is filled with excitement and the city is buzzing with tourists who are eager to learn more about this fascinating holiday.

There are a few ways in which tourists can experience Carnival. The first way is by watching the parades at the Sambódromo. The main events for Carnival take place in this open-air venue. Visitors sit on either side of the stadium watching enormous and intricate floats go by in the middle.

What I loved the most about watching the parades was how all of the visitors were dancing, cheering and celebrating. Essentially, fourteen of the best samba schools train extensively in hopes of delivering the best performance so they can win the grand prize. Each school has a different theme and its own decorative costumes.

Another way to experience Carnival is by going to street parties. The streets are blocked off and brimming with alcohol and dancing locals wearing unique costumes. There are floats that drive at a slow pace and the crowd follows them. I felt so welcomed by all the locals and learned so much about Carnival. You can also find tons of street vendors selling costumes and alcohol.

Carnival in Rio is a once in a lifetime experience that everyone should have, but the city is crowded and pickpockets are at their prime. It’s imperative to always keep your valuables close to you.

Aside from indulging in Caipirinhas all day, I also learned about the history of Carnival. Carnival was not what it is today until Brazil abolished slavery and Afro-Brazilians were able to participate. African traditions such as masks and rhythm were incorporated and thus reinvented the festival.

-Disha from Disha Discovers

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Inti Raymi in Peru

Inti Raymi is the Incan Festival of the Sun. It is one of the most important events of the year, akin to a New Year celebration, that pays tribute to the sun god, Inti, and celebrates his return. 

The population of Cusco, Peru swells as people gather for this Incan festival including locals, Peruvians, and tourists. People fill the streets for this nine-day celebration that culminates on the 24th of June, the day when the winter solstice occurs in the southern hemisphere.

Inti Raymi is a re-enactment celebrated at three locations in Cusco. It starts early in the morning at Korikancha, the Inca Temple of the Sun. Hundreds of colorfully-dressed dancers, actors, and musicians share the story of the gathering of the four suyos, or provinces of the Incan Empire.

Next, they proceed to the Plaza de Armas, the main square in Cusco, dancing, and singing. It’s a huge party taken to the streets as the participants and the crowd work their way through the city to the location where the main event is held: the Incan ruin of Saqsayhuman (pronounced like “sexy woman”).

At Saqsayhuman, the representatives from the four provinces report the state of the realm to the Emporer and reaffirm their allegiance. There is celebrating, dancing, and a llama is sacrificed (thankfully, it is only staged and it isn’t actually carried out). The festivities don’t end here, and the city celebrates throughout much of the night.

The Peruvians keep this cultural and traditional event alive paying homage to their indigenous roots. It was beautiful, it was amazing, and at times it was overwhelming due to the never-ending flood of people crowded in such small spaces. But it was a truly beautiful way to understand what it means to be Peruvian.

-Sam from My Flying Leap

Christmas in Cuba

I’ve traveled all over the world and have spent many holidays away from my home country, Canada. But the holiday season in Havana is so different than anything I’ve experienced. Christmas in Cuba is unique from other countries in Latin America because it’s a new holiday for many.

While Cuba was once a country with a strong backbone in Catholicism, after the revolution, it became an atheist country. Therefore Christmas was abolished. But also this time of the year is during the sugar harvest, which was once Cuba’s biggest export.

Fidel Castro did not lift the ban until 1997 when Pope John Paul II visited. While it has been just over twenty years, Cuba has a very traditional Christmas that lacks the commercialism that we are so cynical about today.

Some homes may have small trees, but there are no presents underneath. No one sends Christmas cards or overspends money they don’t have on unnecessary things. Instead they spend time with loved ones.

Christmas Eve, also called Nochebuena, is the most important night. There is a dinner, a few drinks, there’s always music and dancing and some go to church while many do not.

I really embrace the way Cuba currently celebrates, allowing people who believe to recognize the holiday without getting caught up in the commercialism of it all. I worry that it’s changing as children see movies and television from other countries and want to emulate it. But for now, it’s just a great time to spend time with people you love.

-Ayngelina from Bacon is Magic

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New Year’s Eve in Ecuador

New Years Eve in Ecuador was easily the craziest New Years that one can experience. From crazy fireworks shows to wacky local traditions, A New Years Eve in Ecuador is one not to be missed.

Here you will find all sorts of strange traditions such as the viejos.

The Viejos are a sort of Pinata that the locals build. Most of these “Viejos” resemble super hero’s such as spiderman or the hulk, I saw Homer Simpson multiple times and some are more evil-looking resembling scary politicians.

So are these pinatas full of candy? Absolutely not.

They are full of fireworks.

The Ecuadorians start throwing these Viejos into bonfires to burn them and all the fireworks inside start blowing up like crazy. It was hands down the most chaotic scene I have ever witnessed. I loved it and would recommend it to anyone, but maybe stand back from the fire a bit.

Along with the Viejos the locals are all dressed up in costumes just like it is Halloween here in North America. Kids and adults are running around dressed up in whacky or scary costumes, grown men are running around dressed up like girls being hilarious.

Upon the stroke of midnight it is tradition in Ecuador to eat twelve grapes. One grape for each month for good luck all year long.

And in Montanita, a small town on the coast, a parade of surfers walk to the beach with their surfboards high above their heads to catch the first wave of the year.

Ecuador is an amazing country, you can go from the beach to over 4000m elevation in a single day. The weather in Ecuador is almost always sunny during the holiday season. If you are looking at destinations for New Years you should definitely check out Ecuador!

-Sam from Travel And Shred

EUROPE

Christmas in London, England

I grew up in the Muslim dominant country of Malaysia, where Christmas was confined to churches or shopping malls that used it as an excuse to promote holiday gift sets and discounted luncheons. Contrasting that with London, one of the most vibrant and culturally diverse cities I had ever lived in, and the experience of Christmas could not be more different. 

Although religion now plays a less significant role in Christmas in London, it is still front and center for its many churches. When I lived in London, the month of December was always so busy. An endless stream of Christmas carols, choirs, readings, rehearsals and charity activities meant to spread the Christmas cheer. 

Beyond the confines of church, December was the time that the city of London wrapped itself up in the traditional colours of red and white. Regent Street and Oxford in particular always shone (literally) with their elaborate Christmas lights, while the streets thronged with last minute shoppers carrying bag after bag of Christmas gifts. Then there was the Winter Wonderland Hyde Park – an annual, must-visit Christmas event even for Londoners. 

But for all the activities, there were two huge drawbacks. Firstly, it never snowed in London over Christmas. Secondly, EVERYTHING was shut down on Christmas Day. The Tube did not run. The shops did not open. There was no way for anyone to get to any other place other than by foot or car (if you were so lucky). 

That was always a disappointment, since it meant that I could never make it to any of the Christmas services. But it was also a joy whenever we planned things in advance and had friends over for a Christmas sleepover. We might not get to celebrate Christmas in the steepled English chapels, but we could certainly have our roast turkey with cranberry sauce!

-Iuliya from Doing Life with Iuliya

New Year’s Eve in Paris, France

I’ll never forget spending New Year’s Eve in Paris a few years ago. Having lived in the USA for several years, I wasn’t really familiar with how the French go about the winter holidays. And I was very impressed!

I spent four days in the French capital—two days before New Year’s Eve and two after. While they say that “Paris is always a good idea”, I can’t imagine the city being more magical during another time of the year than winter. It was glorious.

Walking on the Champs-Élysées the afternoon before the big celebration was phenomenal. Wrapped up in a thick winter jacket and scarf, cup of hot coffee in hand, I meandered my way across the Christmas market. Nothing beats a European Christmas market in late-December—it’s as enchanting, atmospheric and all-round merry as anything I can think of.

Twinkling lights brightened up the streets, while the scent of mulled wine and freshly baked cookies floated through the air.

I’d always heard that the Parisian people were cold and rude, but the only cold thing that New Year’s Eve was the weather. The people were as friendly as can be, everyone happy and chatting and singing and laughing. Just being together and enjoying each other’s company, exactly what Christmas, to me, is all about.

Later in the evening, around 11 p.m., a huge crowd filled up the iconic Champs-Élysées for the countdown. While there were no fireworks, which surprised me since I’ve always associated New Year’s Eve with fireworks, the atmospheric was electric. People were shouting, singing, drinking and wishing everyone a Happy New Year.

My New Year’s Eve in Paris was everything I hoped it would be—and more. An experience I’ll carry with me, fondly, for the rest of my life.

-Bram from Go 4 Travel Blog

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Great Prayer Day in Denmark

My partner and I moved to Copenhagen, Denmark in early 2017. Our new lives required a lot of adjustments, especially regarding food, local customs, language and even holidays.

During our first Spring, we were excited to have a string of official Danish holidays and days off from work. Some of these were related to Easter, but the one we had to research is called Store Bededag. The holiday literally translates to “Great Prayer Day” and is celebrated on the 4th Friday after Easter. 

The origin goes back centuries. In 1536, King Christian III decreed that Denmark would be Lutheran. The Danish Reformation from Catholic to Lutheran was largely a land grab by the Danish King. A lack of religious conviction meant that the Catholic holidays could be maintained by Catholic locals who didn’t become Lutheran. Eventually, in 1686, King Christian V decided to consolidate all of the Catholic holidays that celebrated local and minor saints. 

This holiday, Great Prayer Day, actually makes a lot of sense. The old Danish king, Christian V wanted to celebrate all the Spring Catholic saint days more efficiently. Today, in Denmark, we get a day off to celebrate saints and the nice weather during the arrival of Spring. 

I’m sure there are many people in Denmark who use the day for religious reflection. As expats, we just enjoy Store Bededag to celebrate the beginning of Spring. After a long, dark Scandinavian winter, Great Prayer Day seems like the answer to our winter prayers.

-Derek from Everything Copenhagen

Carnival in Cologne, Germany

Totally by accident, I ended up spending an amazing few weeks in Cologne, Germany during Carnival. I house sit while traveling and I applied to a house sit in Cologne without checking the holiday calendar in advance. 

So you can imagine my surprise when, one morning, I walked out of my apartment and the entire city was transformed for a huge week-long celebration. 

Cologne Carnival takes place around the same time as Mardi Gras in the States and Carnival in Brazil. Though the preparation for Carnival season lasts for months, the main days of the festival are from the Thursday before Lent until Ash Wednesday. 

During Carnival, many roads in downtown are closed and the streets are filled with parades, live music, and beer tents serving famous Cologne Kolsch. The most exciting tradition of Carnival is that during the parades, the people on the floats throw candy and chocolate out into the crowds. As you can imagine, getting free chocolate thrown into my outstretched arms was a highlight of my time in Germany and honestly, probably my entire life. 

The other tradition that I’m definitely on board with is that everyone wears costumes for about a week straight. And not just any costumes. Most of the time those costumes are adult-sized animal zip-up onesies. So if dancing in the streets all night wearing an adult animal onesie while people on a parade float throw chocolate at you sounds like your kind of fun, you definitely need to visit Cologne during Carnival. 

-Nicola from See Nic Wonder

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Baba Marta, Bulgaria

One of my favorite holidays to celebrate living in Bulgaria is Baba Marta. This Balkan holiday is celebrated in Bulgaria, North Macedonia, Romania, Moldova, and parts of mainland Greece. I have celebrated the holiday in Bulgaria three times, and I absolutely love it!

Baba Marta is the personification of the month of March. It’s the only month in Bulgarian folklore to be thought of as a woman. Baba Marta, or “Grandmother March” comes to fight off her annoying brothers January and February. She brings in warm spring weather, but if the weather suddenly turns wintery again that means she is very upset!

To celebrate this holiday, Bulgarians decorate with martenitsa. These red and white decorations cover doorways, windows, and most importantly, people!

On March first, you buy or are given a martenitsa to wear, which you must keep on until you see a flowering tree. When you spot a tree in bloom, you take off your martenitsa and adorn the tree with it. 

Walking around Sofia in late March, it’s fun to see all the trees being decorated with everyone’s bracelets. 

The red and white colors represent man and woman and are a symbol of fertility. I love how communal this holiday is, and how it connects Bulgarians with the seasons of the Earth.

-Stephanie from Sofia Adventures

D-Day in France

As a Canadian, I’m quite used to having a holiday in May.  It is “the big excuse” to bring out the barbeque, after a long cold winter: Queen Victoria day!  (Yes, that same Victoria, the one who owned that lovely house in the UK and apparently never visited Canada.) 

Living in France now, there is a different holiday in May. One a bit more somber, May 8th is a public holiday marking the Allied victory over the Nazis.

But that is not to say that the French don’t bring out the barbeque as well.  It is the start of summer, and May is the month of many holidays: May 1st for Labor Day, May 8th Allied victory day, and then Ascension at the end of May.  So it is definitely the vacation season, with many French people using the occasion to enjoy a bit of sun and have long weekends.

There are commemorations of course, and a feeling of gratefulness. Especially to the Allies like the UK and Canada, and all who participated in the war.  With some soldiers from that great war still around to tell us their stories, the war doesn’t seem like such ancient history every time May 8th rolls around. Since I didn’t grow up with it, seeing those army tanks parade on the streets of Paris, just like they did 75 years ago, makes it all too real. 

There is the traditional wreath-laying ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe with the ancient combatants, and representatives from the different nations.   I find it interesting that a war that deeply affected all three countries, UK, France, and Canada, is only marked by a holiday in one of them.  But I suppose with France having been herself invaded, the sentiment is more marked here.

But for most French people, including myself, beyond the commemoration, there is also a feeling of “spring has arrived!” The sense of gratefulness for what those soldiers fought for, to enjoy the peace that they died for, the country that we all live in.  A picnic on the banks of the Seine, in the sunshine with friends and a glass of rosé?  Parfait!

-Nassie from Snippets of Paris

AFRICA

Tabaski in Senegal

Tabaski is the Senegalese name of Eid al-Adha, the holiest of the two Eids celebrated in the Islamic world. It celebrates the episode of Abraham sacrificing his son to God. But just before his knife hit his son Ishmael, the child was replaced by God with a lamb. While the lamb is also linked to the current Easter tradition in the Christian world, it strongly identifies Tabaski. 

Every year the men of the families buy a mutton to be killed on the main day of the celebrations. In the weeks leading to Eid, all the streets of the cities and villages are filled with sheeps taken there to be sold. All speak about sheeps and they try to gain their last bits of money to afford the not-so-cheap animals. On the day of Tabaski, the animals are killed and a big meal is prepared for the family. All friends are always invited and some parts are shared with the poorest.

It was great to celebrate the very day of Tabaski in Casamance, as this southern region of Senegal has a mix of Muslim, Christian, and Animists. It was a feast of integration and friendship, as all Muslim invited their friends to spend some time in their houses. As a tourist, I was also invited to enjoy a delicious meal made of some pasta, vegetables, and mutton of course.

-Mario from Rest and Recuperation

MIDDLE EAST

Rosh Hashanah in Israel 

Israelis have their own holidays, with their most important one being Rosh Hashana, celebrated between September and October and which marks the Jewish new year. This means that Christmas and even New Year’s eve are hardly a thing. And chances are that even in Tel Aviv, the biggest party town of Israel, celebrations tend to be low key.

However, while Israelis will usually stay at home or at most go out for a meal during New Year’s eve (unless it is a Thursday evening, which marks the beginning of their weekend), there are enough parties for expats and foreigners who want to celebrate. 


Most people crowd the streets of beautiful Jaffa, where restaurants tend to be packed, and wait for the beginning of the year right by Jaffa Clock Tower. Social hostels such as Abraham organize parties to which anybody can take part and other clubs in the city are open. After all, one of the coolest things to do in Tel Aviv is enjoying the amazing nightlife. 


Having said so, by all means do not expect the crazy celebrations known in many other western cities such as New York, London or Rome. There will be no fireworks and no street concerts. 

-Claudia from My Adventures Across the World

OCEANIA

Christmas in Australia

My husband is from Sydney, so every so often we spend Christmas with his family, and it couldn’t be any more different to spending Christmas in Italy, my home country.

The first difference is very obvious – in Italy, Christmas falls in the middle of winter, while in Sydney it’s at the height of summer. The first time I had a Christmas Down Under I couldn’t believe my eyes – the sight of Christmas trees and decorations while it was over 30 degrees (86 F) outside was just so weird! 

Whenever we celebrate Christmas in Australia we actually get to enjoy a full Christmas meal twice – with my mother in law and family on Christmas Eve, and with father in law and other uncles and aunties on Christmas Day.

We always eat outside in both cases – the menu changes slightly as one side of the family is of Russian descent, so there are always some Russian dishes like pelmeni and borscht, while the other side of the family cooks a typical Christmas feast with turkey and all the trimmings. There’s also Christmas ham and a barbecue. When I first visited I couldn’t believe people would be eating so much in all that heat! 

On Boxing Day we usually go on a day trip from Sydney – sometimes we just head to one of the beaches near Wollongong or around the Central Coast, and once we went to explore the Blue Mountains to escape the heat. 

Christmas Down Under is a wonderful experience for me, and a great excuse to get out of cold Europe!

-Margherita from the Crowded Planet

ANZAC Day in New Zealand

After spending a year in New Zealand I had the pleasure of learning quite a bit about the history of WWI. Growing up in the US, our war history was mainly focused on the Revolutionary War, Civil War and WWII so I knew very little of the First World War.

Before experiencing ANZAC Day in person I had visited the Gallipoli Exhibition at the Te Papa Museum in Wellington as well at the Shrine of Remembrance Memorial in Melbourne, Australia. Both experiences gave me a greater understanding of the motivations, scale and experiences of these countries during this period.

ANZAC Day is celebrated on April 25th every year and was originally meant to honor the men and women of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) who served in the Gallipoli Campaign. Today it’s seen as more of a national day of remembrance for all of the Oz and NZ soldiers who have served.

I was in Nelson, New Zealand during ANZAC Day 2019 and was surprised to see the main street in town completely shut down. There was a full program of events throughout the day including a reenactment play, performance of military bands, people dressed in period costumes, speeches and overall coming together.

More than anything my time in New Zealand gave me an education of their contributions to the world and an appreciation for their culture.

-Tayler from Traveling Tayler

Do you have any favorite holiday celebrations from your travels? Leave a comment below telling me about them!

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