December is a big month for holidays in the United States. Families around the country celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza and the New Year. They spend time with family, gather with friends and take part in traditions, both old and new. If you’ve ever wondered about important festivals and celebrations that take place in other parts of the world, you’re in the right place. Consider adding any of these seven festivals to your family’s holiday calendar this coming year.
The Harbin International Snow and Ice Sculpture Festival is the largest snow and ice festival in the world. This winter festival, held in Harbin, Heilongjiang, China, starts in early January and lasts into late February, but can go even longer if the weather cooperates. Visitors, who come from all over the world, are treated to enormous lighted snow and ice sculptures displayed in two different areas—Sun Island and Ice & Snow World. Tourists can also ski and swim in the icy cold waters of the Songhua River when they visit. Cold is the name of the game at this global competition and celebration!
Celebrate this brrr-ight festival at home by building your own snowy sculptures or building at home. If you don’t live in a snowy climate, bring the fun inside using sugar cubes or wintery-colored LEGOs to recreate some of the magnificent structures featured at the festival.
It’s considered the biggest carnival in the world and it’s celebrated the week before lent (usually in February) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Carnival is a sensory experience that’s so original and so exciting, people come from all over the world to experience it in person. The first Carnival was held in 1723; now the celebration boasts millions of people who flood the city daily to watch the elaborate floats, costumes and samba school dancing and drumming in the Sambadrome, or to attend street festivals around the city. After you celebrate Carnival, check out these other cool facts about Brazil.
SATURDAY SCAVENGER HUNT – BRAZIL
This celebration is all about samba music and dancing, so plan to do lots with the kids. But it’s also about pageantry and ornate masquerade masks. So put magnificent mask crafting on your activity checklist too!
Holi, the Festival of Colors, is a Hindu festival celebrated (mainly) in India and Nepal, but its popularity has spread far beyond these countries in recent decades. It’s not surprising, as the event itself is playful and fun—it involves throwing powdered color on friends around you. Sounds like the perfect kid-fest! For Hindus, the celebration marks the start of spring, and it’s often a time in which people let go of past transgressions, forgive one another and end ongoing conflicts. It typically falls in the month of March.
Celebrating this holiday with the kids is a great excuse to get outside and run around. All you need is a white t-shirt and some powder packets and you’ve got an awesome afternoon planned. Don’t forget the bath!
Spring is all about beautiful blooms, and the world’s tulip festivals offer quilted farm fields of color as far as the eye can see. The Netherlands is the place to be when it comes to celebrating all things tulip. Since the official Tulip Festival season typically runs from late March through early May, there are lots of opportunities to celebrate. Visitors flock to watch tulip parades, take a helicopter ride over the fields or simply visit local gardens near Amsterdam (or peruse powerhouses like Keukenhof Gardens), there are so many ways to enjoy these spring blossoms.
Families can get creative when they create a tulip festival at home. It’s easy to plant bulbs in the fall and harvest them in spring to enjoy at your place or share with a neighbor. But crafting is probably the easiest way to bring this festival to life, as far as your kids are concerned. Get out your spare yarn and make these festive yarn wrapped flowers with the kids, or upcycle leftover egg cartons to make a vibrant 3-D picture sure to brighten anyone’s day.
Mark the dates for AgitÁgueda in July as your days to celebrate the art around you. AgitÁgueda has been celebrated in Águeda, Portugal since 2006, as a way to promote local artists and musicians and encourage the “sustainable use and enjoyment of public spaces.” Thousands of people flock to the city to enjoy this grassroots, homegrown festival that showcases both local and international talent. It sparks creativity and appreciation in everyone who visits!
There are so many ways to celebrate and make art as a family, but since this festival centers around outdoor art installations, make a point of visiting a sculpture park or seeking out art.
The Yee Peng Lantern Festival in Chiang Mai, Thailand is similar to the larger Loy Krathong Festival celebrated throughout the country, but a little bit different. Rather than releasing krathong (banana leaf or bread boats) into the river, the Yee Peng Festival includes floating thousands of lanterns into the sky at night. This Buddhist ceremony, like many new year traditions, marks the release of the past year’s misfortunes and invites participants to make a wish for the upcoming year they believe will come true once your lantern flies. This visually memorable celebration usually falls in mid-November.
While there are all kinds of lantern crafts to make with kids, making one that flies is what you really need. This requires some specific materials and definite parental supervision to make, but watching it take flight is totally worth it!
Every November 1st and 2nd, people in Mexico and throughout Latin America celebrate Dia de los Muertos—the Day of the Dead. The festival’s roots lie in Catholicism and ancient Aztec rituals and serve to celebrate the departed, rather than mourn them, believing they would much prefer the former. It’s punctuated with lively parties, food, and drinks the dead enjoyed in life. And throughout Mexico, you’ll find calacas (skeletons) and ofrendas (alters) set out to honor the dead. In recent years, Dia de los Muertos has become widely celebrated in the United States as well.
Take part in this festival at home by making a simple calacas collage that can easily be customized to match your creative kid’s personality. Or set out an ofrenda to honor and remember relatives who are no longer with you. Candles, marigolds, and sugar skulls can be part of this enticing alter.
Any Day You Play
You can think about festivals when you pull out your World Village Playsets for the kids, too. When Joe and Emma wander the cities, towns, and countryside of the Emerald Isle, maybe they’ll head to Killorglin for the annual Puck Festival, one of the country’s oldest gathering celebrations. It’s been around for 400 years! Nowadays the festival spans three days in August and involves crowning a goat “king.” As the pair makes their way to China, they can plan to celebrate the Chinese New Year, the country’s most important holiday. Plan your celebration sometime in January or February, depending on the year. How will you play today?
Looking for more Kids Adventure Day ideas? You Might Also Like: