Festivals and Traditions Around the World

Cultures from around the world celebrate the passing of the seasons and significant occasions with festivals and traditions dedicated to gods, saints, political revolutions, and people. 

These celebrations are more than just a good excuse to party and gather with friends. They form part of the cultural fabric that makes every nation and region special. This means traditions like Tijuana’s Day of the Dead can be educational, as well as fun, if you’re a tourist who wants to learn more about religions, customs, and beliefs that bind people across the globe. 

However, if you do decide to engage in educational tourism, you’ll need to show proper respect and deference to the folks you meet. Some festival organizers will invite you to enjoy the party-like atmosphere, others will expect you to act with care while observing their cultural customs. You’ll also need to embrace an ethos of slow travel if you really want to understand festivals and traditions around the world, as this will give you time to appreciate every element of the culture you’re visiting. 

Seasonal Celebrations

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Most modern American celebrations coincide with meaningful political events (the 4th of July, Thanksgiving, and President’s Day, to name a few). However, the rest of the world commonly celebrates older traditions that revolve around the passing of the seasons. For example, in the UK, the summer solstice marks a major milestone in the calendar, as thousands of people gather at Stonehenge to witness the rising and setting of the sun on the longest day of the year. 

Similarly, in Japan, the emergence of cherry blossoms signals the start of spring and attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists who want to witness the pink petals for themselves. According to Travel Japan, the blooming of the cherry trees symbolizes the transience of human life, as many people gather for Hanami parties to enjoy the passing of winter and the coming of spring. 

If seasonal celebrations like Hanami sound appealing to you, consider lengthening your stay and engaging in slow tourism. As well as allowing you to immerse yourself in the seasonal celebration fully, slow tourism has benefits like: 

Sustainability: Traveling around your destination city by foot or bike won’t just save you cash — it’ll reduce your carbon footprint, too. You’ll see far more of the places you visit when traveling slowly, too, which can deepen your appreciation of the seasonal event. 

Stress Relief: Seasonal celebrations are usually themed around slowing down and appreciating the world as it is today. By giving yourself plenty of time to see the sights, you can create some much-needed slack in the schedule and relieve some of that stress. 

Community Connection: Tourist-y celebrations are great for the local economy, but won’t give the deeper appreciation of a culture that you’re looking for. By taking it slow, you can see how folks really celebrate the passing of the seasons and can meaningfully shift your worldview. 

You’ll need to pack sustainably if you want to adopt a slow-travel approach. Packing just the right amount of clothing will help you pivot when new opportunities arise and will ensure that you don’t leave a trail of waste behind you when on your adventure. This is particularly important if you’re traveling to a site of spiritual significance. 


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In countries like the UK and the USA, celebrations of life are typically reserved for folks who fell during military service. Typically, this coincides with national holidays as folks gather for Remembrance Day or Memorial Day. However, other cultures remember their dead with festivals and carnival-like celebrations that encourage happy recollections. 

If the idea of commemorating loved ones appeals to you, consider attending Tijuana’s Day of the Dead celebrations. The Day of the Dead celebrations have their roots in traditions that predate the colonization of Mexico and blend ancient traditions with elements of modern Catholic rituals. It was made a federal holiday by the Mexican government 50 years ago and is well-loved by tourists and residents of Tijuana alike. 

In Japan, many people partake in the annual Obon Festival. The Obon Festival is a Buddhist tradition that encourages participants to light lanterns, dance, and reunite with family. Local festivals are often held during this three-day holiday period, and folks get together to tend to the shrines of their ancestors. If you do decide to partake in Obon, be sure to book your accommodation early as many areas become extremely busy during this time. 

Upbeat Festivals 

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Most folks who live in the US are familiar with religious festivals and holidays like Christmas, Easter, and Hannuka. However, other cultures side-step the Christmas cake and chocolate eggs in favor of carnivals and pilgrimages. 

If the idea of an entertaining festival appeals to you, consider a trip to Rio de Janeiro during Carnival. Carnival is an annual celebration that precedes Ash Wednesday and blends Catholic tradition with samba. This attracts two million people a year and is sure to leave lasting memories. 

You may also enjoy participating in Holi celebrations in South Asia. Holi, which is known as the Festival of Colors, is a Hindu celebration that symbolizes rebirth, rejuvenation, and the beginning of spring. There’s plenty of dancing involved and you’re almost certain to get covered in iconic colored powders that give the celebrations an upbeat, bright feel. 

It’s important to remain respectful at Carnival or Holi. While you may be in awe of the colorful dress and detailed garb, take measures to avoid cultural appropriation when dressing yourself. Many folks accidentally disrespect or demean important cultural events by copying carnival dresses and Holi paints without properly understanding the meaning behind them. You can avoid cultural appropriation while fitting in with celebrations by: 

Avoiding items that mock religious figures or symbols 

Refraining from stereotyping

Spending time researching the culture so you can avoid causing offense

There can be a fine line between appreciation and appropriation when at fun, upbeat festivals. If you’re unsure, work with a local guide to better understand how you should dress to show due deference to the culture you’re visiting. 


Photo Credit: Deposit Photos.

Visiting other countries around the world during times of festivals and traditional celebrations can widen your horizons and help you better understand different cultures. Just be sure to research customs and expectations before you go to avoid cultural appropriation and get more from the time you spend overseas.

About the Author

Photo Credit: Sam Bowman.

Travel writer. Adventure seeker. Culture lover. Sam Bowman enjoys writing about sustainable travel, cultural immersion, and adventure tourism around the world, sharing tips and stories to inspire your next trip.