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7 Spring Festivals Worth Traveling For

1/31/17 by Samantha Larson

Between warmer weather, fresh harvests, and blooming blossoms, spring gives us plenty that’s worth celebrating. And boy, do the celebrations take place—there’s a lifetime’s worth of fairs, festivals, and other events held around the world in the spring and early summer. If you want to take a trip to commemorate spring but don’t know where to start, you’re in luck: We dug up some of the most interesting and exciting shindigs across the globe from Scandinavia to India to the South Pacific. From an elegant ceremony to honor passed veterans, to a month of mouthwatering barbecue and rock n’ roll in one of America’s coolest towns, to an enormous bonfire on an island in the middle of Stockholm, here are some recommended places and parties that fully embrace this wonderful season.

1. Lantern Floating (Oahu, Hawaii; May)

A woman reads the messages that have been sent out to the sea at the Hawaii Lantern Floating Ceremony.
A woman reads the messages that have been sent out to the sea at the Hawaii Lantern Floating Ceremony. Anthony Quintano

Each May, thousands of Hawaiians gather at Ala Moana Beach on the island of Oahu for Lantern Floating, a festival to honor veterans who have died in service. The ceremony begins with the sound of the pū (pronounced poo), a conch shell that is played like a trumpet as a call to the divine. Taiko drumming, Hawaiian chants, and hulu dancing follows, leading up to the ceremonial lighting of the lanterns. Participants write messages on their lanterns before floating them on top of the water, and then letting them loose across the Pacific.

2. Hanami (Japan; mid-April)

Hanami honors the springtime cherry blossom bloom.
Hanami honors the springtime cherry blossom bloom. Dick Thomas Johnson

Hanami is the Japanese tradition of savoring spring’s ephemeral petals—the most notable of which are the country’s cherry blossoms. Japanese families set aside time to take in their beauty, typically by holding a picnic beneath a blooming tree. Planning a trip to Japan to see Hanami can be tricky, since the timing of the blooms varies by location and from year to year. However, aside from the outer island of Okinawa, which reaches peak bloom in early February, most regions are in full bloom in early to mid-April.

3. Holi (Vrindavan, India; March)

The colorful faces of women celebrating Holi.
The colorful faces of women celebrating Holi. Harsha K R

Holi is the Hindu celebration of colors, love, and the victory of good over evil. While it is observed across India around the vernal equinox, the most breathtaking Holi festival takes place in the town of Vrindavan, where the whole city becomes awash in a rainbow of brightly tinted powders. Participants playfully throw the powder, called gulal, at each other is part of the revelry, and makes for some eye-popping photos.

4. Memphis in May International Festival (Memphis, Tennessee; May)

Memphis is a must-visit town—and there’s no better time to do so than its annual spring festival.
Memphis is a must-visit town—and there’s no better time to do so than its annual spring festival. Roger Hsu

Each May, this Southern blues mecca hits the spotlight with a month packed full of music, food, and fun. The festival honors a country each year (in 2017, it’s Colombia), and includes a week of exhibits, screenings, and performances dedicated to that country. Other festival events are more traditionally Tennessean, include the Beale Street Music Festival, which features local and national musicians, the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest, and the Great American River Run Half Marathon and 5K—a great way to work off all that finger-licking barbecue.

5. Morocco Rose Festival (El-Kelaâ M’Gouna, Morocco; May)

The springtime festival held in El-Kelaâ M’Gouna is the perfect opportunity to stop and smell the roses.
The springtime festival held in El-Kelaâ M’Gouna is the perfect opportunity to stop and smell the roses. Martin and Kathy Dady

About a six-hour drive southeast of Marrakesh is a valley bursting with a medley of red poppies, purple gladioli, and, most famously, pink roses. The use of roses in fragrance and cooking is a longtime Moroccan tradition, so when the blooms are harvested each spring it calls for a big celebration. The Festival of Roses, held in the city of El-Kelaâ M’Gouna in mid-May, is just that: a three-day carnival that includes feasting, dancing, and showers of petals, all while some 20,000 revelers soak up the sweet aroma of the festival’s namesake flower.

6. Valborgsmässoafton (Stockholm, Sweden; end of April-early May)

Spectators watch the huge bonfire as part of Walpurgis Night at Skansen in Stockholm.
Spectators watch the huge bonfire as part of Walpurgis Night at Skansen in Stockholm. Rutger Blom

Valborgsmässoafton, also known as Walpurgis Night or Witches’ Night, is a festival that dates back to pre-Christian paganism, celebrated on the eve of Beltane (May Day) across Northern and central Europe. It commemorates the coming of spring with enormous bonfires—some nearly 30 feet tall. The tradition dates back to the 18th century, when bonfires were lit in order to scare away predators as farmers let their cattle graze. One of the best places to celebrate Valborgsmässoafton is at Skansen, an open-air market on the island of Djurgarden within the center of Stockholml. Word has it that they’ve been holding one of the biggest Walpurgis Night celebrations in the country since 1894.

7. Naghol Land Diving (Pentecost Island, Vanuatu; April)

A man jumps off the platform to perform “Naghol”, or land diving.
A man jumps off the platform to perform “Naghol”, or land diving. Choguet

There are a lot of wild spring festivals out there, but Naghol may be the most exciting of them. When the people of the Sa Tribe harvest the first yams from their island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, the men begin to build a tall tower out of branches and sticks in order to prepare for their adrenaline-pumping ceremony. Once it’s done, male volunteers then climb up the tower to perform an outrageous feat: after tying vines to their ankles, they plunge head-first off the tower until the vines catch them just as their head and shoulders brush the ground. The ritual, which dates back hundreds of years, is an offering to the earth as well as a coming-of-age tradition. If it sounds a little familiar, that’s because it is: After New Zealand entrepreneur AJ Hackett witnessed it in the 1980s, he traveled back home to inspired to create the first bungy cord.

Originally written by RootsRated for ExOfficio.