Whether steeped in ancient mythology or incorporated into uniquely local traditions, colour is glorified the world over with some weird and wonderful festivals. We’ve scoured the globe for the best, most colourful festivals to visit. From tossing tomatoes in Spain to Japan’s cherry blossom commemoration, these vibrant festivals will inject a good dose of colour into your life.
Day of the Dead, Mexico
Who’d have thought a seemingly macabre festival could be so joyfully colourful? Based on ancient beliefs, Mexico’s Day of the Dead honours the deceased, who have a 24-hour window to return from heaven to reconnect with families and friends. The result? Lively parades replete with vividly decorated skulls, technicolour costumes and plenty of good vibes.
One of the most famous colourful festivals, you’ll know it from those famous powdery plumes of paint being thrown through the air in a kaleidoscope of colours. A Hindu festival celebrated in India and Nepal, Holi honours the arrival of spring with a riot of hot pink, magenta and lemon. For two days, crowds unite in public spaces armed with a rainbow palette of gulal (coloured powder), flinging it at passers-by.
La Tomatina, Spain
There’s one colour that underpins this rather fruity festival: red. Held in the Spanish town of Bunol near Valencia, La Tomatina is one giant food fight where participants hit the streets to hurl an arsenal of over-ripe tomatoes at one another. It dates back to 1945, when youths gatecrashed a festival stage, knocking a musician into a stall of vegetables and starting a food fight. Residents have been reliving this scene annually ever since.
In spring, Japan is carpeted with candyfloss coloured cherry blossoms. Hanami (or, The Cherry Blossom Festival) is a centuries-old tradition where the Japanese venerate the blossom’s transient beauty with al fresco parties beneath the cherry blossom boughs in parks and gardens. The date is decided each year by cherry blossom prophets, who predict the exact arrival of the pretty floral display. To visit Japan during spring is the most magical time to go.
When: March – May
Mardi Gras, New Orleans
For southern Louisianans, ‘Fat Tuesday’ is a time to indulge in rich foods before Lent and to take to the streets for a week’s worth of extravagant processions. Think: crazy costumes, colourful floats, drinking, dancing and revelry. One of America’s biggest street parties, Mardi Gras in New Orleans is an unmissable experience.
Chinese New Year, China
Heralding the arrival of a new lunar year, Chinese New Year explodes with a cacophony of colour and sound in cities and towns across China and beyond. Rainbow-hued dragon dances make their way through the streets while homes are illuminated with strings of red paper lanterns at this colourful festival.
When: January or February
Rio de Janiero Carnival, Brazil
Bright colours. Bold costumes. Lively samba sounds. It could only be the Rio de Janiero Carnival. The world’s biggest fiesta, it’s a 2 million-strong street party held before Lent with an electrifying atmosphere and glitter and feathers galore. The Rio de Janiero Carnival is a spectacle that comes to a crescendo with a competition between seven samba schools.