The world is a huge place filled with light and color and dance. In every corner of the Earth, people look forward to days to embrace their cultural identity, commemorate religious traditions, and, really, just to have a blast. A number of local and national celebrations have received international acclaim, leading to lavish, gigantic, and lively annual celebrations with countless visitors from across the globe.

Holi Festival of Colors – India

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On the evening of “Full Moon Day” of the Hindu Calendar, people throughout India gather around bonfires to celebrate the victory of good over evil as told through the parable of malicious Holika, who was purged in fire. Religious rituals often revolve around self-purification and prayer. This evening marks Holika Dahan, the precursor to Holi, the Festival of Colors and of Love. All around cities and villages, the streets ring with vibrant plumes as people from all ages, classes, and walks of life celebrate the day by soaking one another with paints, powders, and color. Music and dance spread through the streets during the festival, and at the end of the day, people feast and drink, before tidying up to see their friends and family.

La Tomatina – Spain

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Not all festivals are rooted in sacred ritual and religious text. Sometimes it can be as simple as a schoolyard quarrel. In the town of Buňol, Spain, in 1946, a group of young boys plotted against their rivals. To prepare for a skirmish, the boys gathered tomatoes from home and confronted their foes. When the groups clashed, the boys rained forth a storm of produce. And thus, history was written. Though the festival was at one point banned by authorities, La Tomatina went on to become a local tradition. Eventually, the festivities garnered attention that started to draw in substantial international crowds. Every year, visitors and townspeople engage in mass tomato warfare, strictly for fun. The growth of the crowd over the years has made custom of dealing with the inevitable surplus of spontaneous tomato pulp, which is—to be clear—not trivial. In 2015 alone, approximately 1.5 tons of tomatoes were thrown in the town of Buňol.

Carnivale of Venice – Italy

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The Venetian mask is a timeless icon of mystery and elegance as much as of celebration and joy. Masking in Venice has a long tradition dating back to the 13th century. High fashion, masks, and dance intermingle in the fusion of traditions marking the end of Lent in Venice. However, in the 18th century, Carnivale began to decline as a Venetian spectacle and eventually was banned altogether by Mussolini in the 1930s. However, 1979 saw a revival of the practice at the hands of a group of Venetian artists. It’s thanks to them that the celebrations of Carnivale in Venice are alive and well.

Yee Ping Festival – Thailand

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Every year, on the full moon of the 12th lunar month, the skies of Chiang Mai, Thailand, glow with the aura of a thousand lanterns. Locals in the area believe that this date marks the day of brightest moons and fullest rivers. During the festival known as Yee Ping, lanterns are released into the sky or onto the river to symbolically release the ills and misfortunes of the preceding year. Some Buddhists also believe that if you make a wish as the some of the lanterns float on the river, it might come true from karmic return on your good deeds in the coming year. The Thai lantern festival is preceded by traditional parades, handicrafts, and celebrations across the city, drawing tourists from all over the world looking for a moment of wonder and peace.