With decorated floats, marching bands and age-old cultural traditions, parades and festivals dazzle spectators of all ages. Here are some of the most interesting parades around the world.
Torchlight Procession (Edinburgh, Scotland)
Those searching for a unique way to ring in the New Year can head to Scotland’s capital city for Hogmanay (Gaelic for New Year’s Eve). It offers a centuries-old Viking tradition sprinkled with some modern elements. The New Year’s Eve festivities kick off early with a parade on December 30, where Edinburgh’s Royal Mile lights up with a Torchlight Procession. The parade showcases bagpipers along with troops of Vikings in full costume yielding massive fiery torches. On the 31st, the city’s New Year’s Eve celebration kicks into overdrive with live concert performances, traditional Scottish dancing, a fireworks display over Edinburgh Castle and plenty of scotch.
Holi Festival (Braj Region, India)
Signifying the arrival of spring, Holi is a traditional Indian celebration of love and devotion. Groups of festival-goers celebrate with drums and other musical instruments as they parade through town singing and dancing. The time-honored tradition is centered on colored powder being thrown at one another while playfully squirting water guns. This annual free-for-all celebration is appropriately nicknamed “Festival of Color.”
Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (New York, New York, U.S.A.)
An American tradition since 1924, this celebration of the country’s history offers spectators a parade full of character balloons, marching bands, decorative floats and plenty of live entertainment. Parade-goers claim territory early in the morning for the best views along this 2.5-mile Manhattan celebration. Catch the behind-the-scenes action on the eve of Thanksgiving where spectators can watch the balloons inflate on Central Park West & 79th Street.
Kandy Esala Perahera (Kandy, Sri Lanka)
Known as the Festival of the Tooth, this cultural procession takes place each July and August. The tribute dates back to the 16th century. In hopes of ensuring a blessing of rain from the gods, a parade of festively adorned elephants walk through the streets of Kandy. Handlers and officials march along the route with the animals. Entertainment comes via death-defying acrobatics, whip dancers, daring flame-throwers and musicians.
Mardi Gras (New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S.A.)
Mardi Gras celebrates the last hurrah before the sacrifices of Lent begin. The festivities kick off two weeks before Fat Tuesday with the largest parades taking place in the final five days of Mardi Gras. Parade goers line the streets of NOLA in hopes of catching the colorful plastic beads, coins and other treats being tossed from the decorated floats.
St. Patrick’s Festival Parade (Dublin, Ireland)
You don’t need to be Irish to love a good St. Paddy’s Day celebration and Dublin is the place to be to experience one of the world’s most festive parades. From some of the best high school marching bands to floats decorated in every shade of green, the Irish pride comes alive in historic Downtown Dublin each March. The party doesn’t end when the last float passes — far from it — parade attendees hit the pubs for some Irish music and a pint (or more) of Guinness.
Venice Carnival Water Parade (Venice, Italy)
Venice’s pre-Lent celebration takes place late winter with dates varying each year. Watch the festively decorated Venetian boats with elegantly masked passengers sail along Rio di Cannaregio, one of Venice’s main waterways. Following the parade, St. Mark’s Square comes alive with hundreds of costumed participants transporting visitors to another era. The celebration continues with masquerade balls, parties, concerts and fireworks displays for a one-of-a-kind celebration not to be missed.