Best International Parties

Maybe you’ve already been to all the big parties in the US. Or maybe you just want to see how your neighbors in the Global Village celebrate. But in case you were wondering, there’s a whole world of parties out there.

Carnival- Rio de Janeiro

Although Carnival is celebrated in towns and villages throughout Brazil and other Catholic countries, Rio de Janeiro has long been regarded as the Carnival Capital of the World. Foreign visitors to it alone number around 500,000 every year.

Rio Carnival is a wild four-day celebration held 40 days before Easter. It officially starts on Saturday and finishes on Fat Tuesday with the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday, after which one is supposed to abstain from all bodily pleasures. Carnival’s excesses are a farewell to the pleasures of the flesh. Carnival generally occurs in February, the hottest month in the Southern Hemisphere, when the Rio summer is at its peak.

It begins with the crowning of the Fat King, who is presented with a giant silver and gold key by the city’s mayor. Then Carnival explodes in the streets and squares, bars, clubs and all other venues, taking over the whole city. The climax of the grand revel is the Carnival Parade also known as the Samba Parade. In between the crowning of the king and the parade there are balls at the Copacabana Palace, parties on the beach and street carnivals.

The parade is put together by Rio’s Samba schools, social clubs who start planning the festivities a year and a month before the parade. The schools choose a theme for their displays and create a pageant incorporating songs, dances, floats and costumes into the production. In December, the schools record and release their Carnival songs.

Then the school’s samba song of the year is selected while the school’s designer gets to work on the costumes and the floats. By December, rehearsals begin and, in time for Christmas, the various schools’ annual samba songs are recorded and released.

The parade used to be held on Rio’s streets, but it now has a dedicated venue, the Sambodromo–the stadium of samba. A giant concrete structure that seats 90,000 and was especially built for the parade, it features a runway that paraders march down with grandstand seats and luxury boxes on either side.

Fiesta de San Fermin – Pamplona, Spain

Toro Sanfermines Pamplona Encierro
Creative Commons License photo credit: Eneko Alonso

You don’t have to go running with the bulls if you attend the Festa de San Fermin; the bulls are just part of this eight-day bacchanalia held every year from July 6-14.

Festivities begin with the Txupinazo, on July 6 when a rocket is set off in the Plaza del Ayuntamiento,and the chant “Pamploneses, Viva San Fermín, Gora San Fermin!” signals the start of the celebrations, From then on it’s no-holds-barred partying.

Much like Rio’s Carnival, the eight-day fiesta is organized by peñas, or party clubs. The peñas open up their doors along Pamplona’s Jarauta Street, in the heart of the old quarter, to visitors wanting food and drink. At the bullfights each afternoon, peña members sit under their own banner and wear the distinctive dress of the club. And all during the festival, each peña has a brass band that circulates throughout the day and night.

The Encierro, or running of the bulls, takes place at 8 am every day of the feast when the bulls to be used in that afternoon’s bullfight are run to the bull ring. The run began as part of the process of moving bulls from the edge of town to the bullring. At some point during the mid 1800s, people began to join the herd on their journey. Then Hemingway wrote about it. Now everyone does it.

Full Moon Party Koh Phangan, Thailand

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Not an annual, but a monthly affair, the Full Moon Party at Koh Phangan has been described as the biggest beach party on the planet, attended by 7,000 to 10,000. The party begins on Haad Rin beach at dusk and lasts the whole night as scores of international DJs play everything from reggae to drum‘n’bass.

Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts – Glastonbury, UK

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The world’s largest performing arts festival draws more than 175,000 a year to the legendary home of King Arthur for more than 700 acts on 80 stages. Visitors crowd to the mystical “Vale of Avalon” around summer solstice time for the music as much as the parties. Amy Winehouse, Bjork, Shirley Bassey, David Bowie, Oasis and Al Greene have all played here at one time or another. Headliners next year are Kings Of Leon, Jay-Z and he Verve.

Hong Kong Rugby Sevens – Hong Kong

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Hong Kong’s biggest sporting event is also an excuse for the city’s biggest party, a rollicking weekend that can no longer be held within the confines of Hong Kong Stadium.

The idea for the came about when Ian Gow, a tobacco executive asked Tokkie Smith, the president of the Hong Kong Rugby football union, about sponsoring an international rugby tournament. Smith suggested that a ‘sevens’ game would be more feasible than a game with 15 players.

And so it was that teams from Asia, Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific competed in the first rugby sevens tournament sponsored by Rothman’s tobacco and Cathay Pacific.

Sevens is a speeded up version of traditional rugby with fewer rules. The Hong Kong Rugby Sevens is the main event in a larger Sevens tournament that tours the world, with the ultimate champions decided on points earned from all of the tournaments.

Today people fly in from all over the globe to attend. Party Central is the South Stand, where hordes of rugby fans dress up, dance, throw empty beer jugs and occasionally streak across the pitch. But since not everyone can get tickets to the tourney–the stadium only seats 40,000–pubs, bars and restaurants offer special Hong Kong Rugby Sevens deals to party goers.

New Years Eve Reykjavík

Fireworks overhead
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Almost everyone in Reykjavik is armed with some sort of pyrotechnic to help ring in the New Year thanks to liberal laws that allow people of all ages to buy unlimited amounts of fireworks in the days leading up to December 31.

The night begins at one of many bonfires lit up throughout the city Trolls, fairies and elves are said to join revellers around the fires where folk songs are sung and candles are waved prior to the midnight firework displays. The dancing and partying lasts until sunrise.

Oktoberfest Munich

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It’s the biggest public festival in the world, it’s two weeks long and it’s a celebration of beer.

Oktoberfest begins with the grand entry of the brewers and their families who arrive in decorated carriages and the traditional horse-drawn drays of the breweries accompanied by barmaids on decorated floats and the beer tent bands. During the next 16 days, the festival’s 14 beer tents offer food, shows, live music and specially brewed beers.

It’s a massive undertaking. At this year’s recently concluded festivities, 6.6 million people consumed about 12 million pints of beer, which washed down about 280,000 sausages.

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