8 Cool Carnivals and Street Festivals ...

We all love a good party, don’t we? The whole experience of a street party can be magical. From religious rituals to drag queen dramas, carnivals and parades are just crammed with spectacle. The annual Rio bash is synonymous with the phrase street carnival so here are a few others to tempt you into putting on a rhinestone bikini and more feathers than a turkey’s tail. BTW did you know that Carnival originally meant the period immediately before Lent when Roman Catholics held public celebrations and feasts before the forthcoming period of abstinence. Nowadays, it’s a dammed good excuse for a knees up.

1. Cádiz

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This event has stayed true to the original meaning and is a pre-Lent celebration. Spain’s biggest mainland festival and is an extravaganza that lasts 10 days. It’s characterized by Chirigotas – bands of singers who roam the streets of Cádiz singing jaunty songs lampooning everyone from the clergy to politicians to pop stars. You can take part in improvised street theatre or listen to a famous rock group. No costume is necessary, just a wig or a hat that are sold on every corner.

2. Holi

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One event where the kaleidoscope of colours is undisputed is the Indian Festival of Holi. Holi, which is a commemoration of a Hindu myth, takes place annually on the first day after the full moon in March. Bonfires are lit the night before and on Holi, people gather in the streets and throw coloured powder and water over each other. This is a chance to see an India without deference to the inhibitions of caste and religion as gay abandon is the order of the day.

3. Día De Los Muertos

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Mostly associated with Mexico but celebrated in other Roman Catholic countries on November 2, this is the Day of the Dead. It is pretty macabre. Friends and family gather to pray for lost loved ones but it’s as much about eating and drinking as celebrating past lives with sugar skulls playing a major part. Favourite food and beverages are all consumed graveside in a party atmosphere.

4. The Notting Hill Carnival

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Taking place over the August Bank holiday weekend in the Notting hill district of London, this is where Caribbean culture takes over the area with a non-stop party of floats, parades, street entertainment and general merriment. It is actually the 2nd largest street festival in the world, second only to that of Trinidad and Tobago. What originated as a response to the race relation problems of the area has become a British tradition.

5. Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras

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For 3 weeks in February/March, Sydney is a parade of everything from the tame to the extreme. Drag Queens definitely rule the day. As if Australia is not cosmopolitan and liberal enough, persons of every sexual persuasion find themselves at home in this Mardi Gras.

6. Flower Festivals

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I couldn’t choose my favourite because I just love flowers. If you’re looking for the ultimate in fragrant fiestas then you can head for the Pasadena Rose parade on New Year’s Day or to Medellín, Columbia to the Feria de las Flores (August). In Europe, there’s the Flower Carpet in Belgium (only held every 2 years) or the Madeira Flower Festival (April). Further afield there’s the Chiang Mai Flower Festival in Thailand (February) or the Panagbenga Flower Festival in The Philippines (February).

7. Oktoberfest

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Every year for just over 2 weeks the area of Theresienwiese in Munich is dedicated to the worship and consumption of beer. Whole streets, tents large and small and every restaurant and bar are filled with revellers downing frothy German lager by the bucket load and scoffing traditional Bavarian fare which of course means it’s the Wurst festival around.

8. St Patrick’s Day Festival

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Although the New York parade is iconic of this saint day, the real flavour is to be found in Dublin where the parade becomes a 5-day festival and celebration of everything Irish. In 2011, the whole city is going green. All businesses are being asked to stick in green light bulbs and lamps and change neon lights to green where they can. Fun fairs, road races, concerts, and fireworks are all set to dazzle visitors.

I hope that’s given you a few ideas for when you next organise a family gathering.

Top Photo Credit: Wolfgang Bartelme

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