7 Worldly Celebrations & the Reasons Why They Exist

7 Worldly Celebrations & the Reasons Why They Exist

Image: Stefan Ritt

Around the world, locals and travellers alike love celebrating holidays like Cinco de Mayo, St. Patrick’s Day and Oktoberfest. But do you know the reasons why these festivals exist today?

1. Cinco de Mayo, Mexico (May 5)

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Image: Bisayan Lady

At first glance, Cinco de Mayo – both in the Mexican state of Puebla and in certain destinations across the U.S. – seems to be a celebration of everything Mexican, from parades and dancing to piñatas and margaritas.

But few realise that Cinco de Mayo is the day, in 1862, when the Mexicans defeated the French, despite being seriously outnumbered, at the Battle of Puebla.

2. Oktoberfest, Germany (September)

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Did you know that Oktoberfest has been going on since 1810? It began as a public celebration of the marriage between Crown Prince Ludwig and Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen, complete with horse races and wine and beer tasting.

The celebration was repeated year after year, but it wasn’t until 1818 that beer stands first began to appear. In 1896, the stands were replaced with beer tents and halls … leading to the character of the infamous festival we know today!

3. Burning Man Festival, U.S. (August/September)

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Image: Victorgrigas

Over 65,000 from 68 countries participated in the Burning Man Festival in 2014.

But back in 1986, when it first started, it wasn’t much more than a group gathering.  Larry Harvey and Jerry James, the festival founders, reportedly made a human effigy and burned it on a beach in San Francisco to celebrate the Summer Solstice.

The spectacle grew year after year, and was eventually relocated to Black Rock City in 1997. Today, it’s known as a celebration of artistry, self-expression and community.

4. Holi Festival, India & Nepal (February/March)

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Image: KwasnikPictures

Covering yourself in colour is a common thing to do at Holi … but why does this colourful craze take place?

One legend tells of the deity Krishna, who as a young child had blue skin thanks to the poison of a demon. Krishna, wanting Radha (and other girls) to like him, approached her and coloured her face, too. And it’s said that this tradition of colouring continues to this day in the celebration of Holi.

5. St. Patrick’s Day, Ireland (March 17)

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Image: Giuseppe Milo

For most of us, St. Patrick’s Day means dressing up in green, having a few Guinnesses and catching (or participating in) a parade.

But St. Pat’s Day actually has its roots in the 17th century, when the day was marked as the official Saint’s feast day.

Since the holiday also takes place during Lent, Lenten rules are lifted and the Irish are free to enjoy as much food, meat and drink as they like!

6. Halloween, U.S. (October 31)

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Image: Marissa Babin

Dressing up and trick-or-treating on All Hallows’ Eve has found popularity all over the world.

But back in pre-Christian times, the celebration actually began as a Celtic pagan festival of the dead, called Samhain, when people thought that the dead (as well as other creatures) were able to mix in with the living.

Over the years, disguises, costumes and carvings were also integrated into the tradition, with many believing these would ward off or trick any evil being lurking about.

7. La Tomatina, Spain (August)

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Image: MikeJamieson (1950)

Why on earth would thousands of people get together and peg each other with tomatoes?

La Tomatina essentially began by accident, when a group of young boys decided to take part in a local parade, causing another man to fall off his float.

In anger, the man started a fight, which quickly spread into the crowd. Tomatoes were thrown … and the rest is history!