Know Before You Go: Festivals and Holidays
While America has a few great national celebrations and individual cities host some nice fairs, it is hard to beat some of the festivals one can find overseas where it often seems like a country will use any excuse to get its people together and throw a party. Even a country’s own holidays are somehow more special when celebrated overseas.
Many countries even have government departments responsible for organizing annual festivals. In some form or another most every country celebrates…
- Christmas or an equivalent holiday
- the country’s independence day
- the arrival of Spring or beginning of Lent
- the New Year
During the three-day Festival of Holi in India, the entire country welcomes spring as residents fill the streets with colorful costumes, music, dancing, and gaiety. China heralds the New Year with lanterns, a dragon dance, parades, red costumes, and fireworks. For three weeks each year Muslim countries conclude a day of fasting by enjoying an Iftar, a huge feast with friends and family. The entire continent of South America, celebrates the beginning of Lent, or “Carnival”, with one big party, complete with lavish outfits and lots of dancing and singing in the streets. European countries commemorate Lent as well with their own Carnivals, like the three-day celebration of Fasnacht in Basel, Switzerland (see the picture above), where you’re sure to get doused with confetti before the night is over!
Do a search on the internet or look in a guidebook for the country you’ll be living in to find out more about the country’s festivals and different ways to celebrate.
Other Country Festivals
In addition to a country’s unique national festivals, expats living in foreign countries enjoy observing their own holidays as well. American embassies often celebrate Independence Day with a party for the American community. Many other countries do the same thing for their honored events: Guy Fawkes Day for the Brits and the Beaujolais Nouveau fest for the French. In many cases expats of all nationalities are invited to celebrate these festivals with the sponsoring country.
Holiday celebrations don’t have to stop with local parties. You can celebrate events overseas in ways that just aren’t possible in your home country. For Halloween, imagine visiting Dracula’s castle in Transylvania, Romania!