Asia’s vibrant and multicoloured festivals find themselves splayed across the pages of hundreds of magazines. From Holi to Songkran, we have heard of them all. But did you know that Europe has some of the most fascinating and diverse festivals as well? A mix of traditional and modern beliefs, these European festivals light up the streets for days at a time.
Up Helly Aa
Originating in the 1800s, this fiery festival takes to the streets in January each year to mark the end of Yule. Thousands march through Scottish streets of Shetland Islands, draped in Viking costumes, torches ablaze. Steeped in Nordic heritage, the vast landscapes are decorated with locals adding the final touches to the star of the show- a gargantuan longship. On the night of Up Helly Aa, locals march towards the longship in a cacophony of song and dance, before tossing their torches onto the longship and setting it ablaze.
Photo credits: Fredrik Fjeld
The annual food festival, with a particular focus on fermented fish, pays homage so some of Norway’s oldest and most celebrated dining traditions. What started out in 1993 as a place to try rakfisk has evolved into a festival attending by tens of thousands from all over the would to sample Norwegian food. From the traditional Rakfisk, semi-fermented trout, to whale meat, there is so much for people to try and see!
Held over the course of 18 days, the Venice Carnival dates back to the 11th century! It celebrates the coming of Lent, starting out in early February and ending with a pomp on the day before Ash Wednesday. Masks are an iconic symbol of this festival and are worn by those taking part in the carnival. Attracting millions each year, the carnival is culturally important to Venice. One of the most important events of the carnival is la maschera più bella. This is where an international panel of judges come together to pick the most beautiful mask of the festival.
Photo Credits: MikeJamieson(1950)
One of Europe’s most famous festivals started out in 1945 on the last Wednesday of August and since then, the party has not stopped. Celebrated annually, the story of how this festival came to be is rather unique. It started out as a fruit battle to express dissent but the iconic battle made history and turned into a local tradition. Immensely popular amongst locals and tourists, attending and taking part in the fruit wars can be rather pricey.
Photo Credits: Ninara
Also known as Butter Week, Maslenitsa is celebrated during the last week before Lent. An Eastern Slavic tradition, it is celebrated widely in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. During the week-long festival, people take part in a hoard of social activities from sledding to feasting on dairy-rich foods. The festival begins on a Monday where Lady Meslenitsa is welcomed into the town. She is built using straw and paraded around with food that will be donated to the poor. However, each region has their own traditions that dictate how each day of the week should be spent before the sombre period of Lent.