Searching for something new and exciting to experience? Whether it is art, music, dance or throwing tomatoes, these festivals may spark that itch for a new trip you’ve been thinking about.
Burning Man, Black Rock Desert, Nevada, USA,
Burning Man is an annual event, hosted in Black Rock Desert of Nevada, focusing on “the spirit of community, art, self-expression, and self-reliance.” Their motto is “No spectators,” meaning everyone must contribute something, whether it’s a piece of art or a performance. This event started almost 20 years ago and has grown from an art exchange among eight people to tens of thousands of participants. Organizers and participants of the event claim that in order to truly understand this festival, you have to experience and participate in it.
Burning Man is unique in that its main focus is on the creation of community, relationships and respect for your surroundings. Larry Harvey, founder of Burning Man, has ten principles, defining the culture and atmosphere of this inclusive and participatory art festival. There is a major emphasis on reconnecting with those around you and ensuring that people leave the festival without a trace.
Carnival, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil,
The Carnival of Brazil is an annual festival held during the Friday to the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, marking the beginning of Lent. Because of Lent traditions, Roman Catholics and some other Christians traditionally abstain from eating meat on certain days, which is where the word “carnival” came from – originally the Latin word carnelevare, which means “to remove.”
Carnival is the most famous holiday in Brazil and as a result, most non-festival related stores shut down for the festivities. There are celebrations all day and night with many parades, costumes, music, dance, and food. In particular, Rio de Janeiro’s carnival drew 4.9 million people in 2011, with 400,000 being foreigners.
Rio de Janeiro originally adopted the European style of carnival but eventually incorporated elements from Native American and African cultures. Samba schools, sponsored by major organizations, work year round to prepare for the carnival parades and dances. These samba schools are very important to carnival celebrations in Rio de Janeiro, as they typically set the standard for parade style, costumes and music.
La Tomatina, Buñol, Valencia, Spain
In the Valencian town of Buñol, they get their tomato throwing on during La Tomatina. Although the real story behind how tomato throwing got started is unclear, there are a few fun and mysterious legends to share. One story says that during a parade in 1945, a tomato (aimed for a rabbit) accidentally hit a person, causing a slew of people throwing tomatoes at each, and eventually the police had to intervene to break it up. The story continues with the young people repeating the tomato fight on the same Wednesday of August in subsequent years but the town banned it for nearly a decade. Finally, after considering the high demand, the tomato throwing festival became official in 1957, with explicit rules and guidelines to ensure the safety of participants.
The festivities begin late morning, with the palo jabón or greasy pole. The goal of this is for someone to climb a greased pole with a ham on top, and once someone is finally able to get to the top and drop the ham in to the crowd. After this, the tomato fight begins, signaled by water being shot in the air with trucks rolling in, loaded with about 150,000 tomatoes. At about 11:00 a.m., the fight commences and lasts for exactly one hour, after which the whole town square is covered in red and tomato juice flows down the streets.
In 2013, Buñol limited the fight to only 20,000 participants, allowing 15,000 non-locals and 5,000 locals to participate by purchasing tickets online, costing about ten Euros per person.
Holi Festival, India
Similar to La Tomatina, the Hindu Holi Festival of India also celebrates by throwing things but what’s being thrown is colored powder and water. This festival is observed on the last full moon day at the end of the summer season, which is typically around late February.
There are many reasons for celebration for Holi, such as celebrating the new season of spring for good harvest and fertile land as well as the religious aspect. It is also said to be a time marking the New Year to many Hindus, a time during which conflicts should be resolved and relationships renewed.
The festival begins with bonfires on the eve of Holi around which people gather around the fires to sing and dance. The next day, Holi, also known as Dhuli in Sanskrit, is celebrated by youth by throwing colored powder and water. Elderly people also participate in the colorful celebrations but instead smear colored powder on each others’ faces.
All of the festivals are unique, not only in regard to their histories but also the practices that occur during celebrations. It is always exciting to try something and venture out beyond the borders of comfort. Perhaps you’ll participate in one of these festivals and make one of these places your next destination. If you’re feeling the itch to start planning, check out our travel destination planners.