Top 5 Festivals You Can’t Miss in 2016

A trip that coincides with a major festival is a unique way to delve into a place’s culture. We line up the top carnivals, festivals and celebrations for the year ahead.

Running of the Bulls, Spain

July 4-16

The eight-day Festival of San Fermín, which takes place annually in the city of Pamplona, has its origins in the 14th century, when bulls were transported from the fields outside the city to the bullring. The festival begins with a prayer to Saint Fermín, patron saint of the city and the festival, before the bulls are released for the 826-metre run through the Old City and into the bullring, alongside runners dressed in traditional white shirts and trousers and red waistbands and neckerchiefs.

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Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Scotland

August 5-29

Established in 1955, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the world’s largest showcase of performing arts, including cabaret, comedy, dance, circus, music, musicals, opera and theatre. As well as ticketed events – held at all manner of venues, including theatres, historic castles, churches and even public toilets – there are Fringe Street Events each day along Edinburgh’s Royal Mile and Mound Precinct.

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La Tomatina, Spain
August 31

An epic tomato fight that takes over the streets of Buñol, Spain on the last Wednesday of August each year, La Tomatina began in 1945 when a fight broke out at a town festival and participants ransacked a vegetable stall, using tomatoes to pelt each other; banned in the early 50s, it became an official city event in 1957. Some 150,000 low-grade tomatoes, grown just for the festival, are used in the one-hour food fight, which culminates with the city streets – and the participants – being hosed down by fire trucks.

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Oktoberfest, Germany
September 17-October 3

What began in 1810 as a celebration of the marriage of King Ludwig I to Princess Therese has now evolved into Oktoberfest, an international event centred on Munich that draws millions of visitors, making it the world’s largest celebration of beer. The first day kicks off with the ceremonial tapping of the first beer keg at noon, while for the rest of the festival revellers enjoy quality local brews and Bavarian delicacies such as sausages, pretzels and potato dumplings in cavernous tents, along with plenty of music, dancing and carnival attractions.

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Dia de Los Muertos, Mexico

November 1-2

Originating from an Aztec festival dedicated to the goddess Mictecacihuatl, the Day of the Dead is Mexico’s most colourful festival, especially in the central and southern regions. Family and friends traditionally gather to pray for the spiritual journey of loved ones who have passed, and build ofrendas, or private altars. La Calavera Catrina – the elegant skull – is the most recognisable symbol of the festival.

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Times Square New Year’s Eve, United States
December 31

Created in 1907 by Adolph Ochs, owner of The New York Times, New York’s Times Square New Year’s Eve event is arguably the biggest end-of-year celebration in the world. Crowds are entertained during the lead-up to midnight by big-name artists such as Taylor Swift and Lady Gaga, but the highlight is the countdown to midnight while the giant Times Square Ball drops down a flagpole.

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This story was published on Hong Kong Tatler.

Lead image by Richard Cawood (cawood on Flicker.com).