Festivals across the world are some of the best places to get a feeling for the local life and how different cultures have fun, celebrate their heritage and build community. Festivals come in all shapes and colors, from straightforward musical showcases to dangerous endeavors like running with the bulls through narrow city streets. When looking for different experiences that inspire childlike happiness, few come as close to taking us back to our youth as those places and events where you are encouraged to get wet, dirty, messy and as colorful as you can.
There is nothing like feeling the freedom to get messy with hundreds of other like-minded people, it’s one of those liberating actions that make you laugh uncontrollably in the moment and keep you smiling many months and years after you’ve experienced it. With good amounts of open-mind, carefulness and a daring attitude, the following festivals can be experiences to remember forever and that will open a window into other cultures and ways of thinking.
La Tomatina Festival, Spain
La Tomatina (source hotelclub.com)
Every August, the town of Bunol in the Valencia province in Spain, welcomes thousands of people eager to take part in one of the world’s most famous and messiest festivals, La Tomatina. During the short one hour the event lasts, about 150,000 tons of tomatoes (crushed for safety reasons) are thrown about coloring everything and everyone in sight with red paste, just for fun. The origins of the festival are not steeped in tradition or a higher celebration though, in 1947 a group of youngsters caused a fight with one of the people participating in a parade, who in turn proceeded to grab what was closer in the first market stall he could find, i.e. a handful of tomatoes, and threw them at the offending group, they responded in kind and ended up in jail. The following year, the young people thought it would be fun to do it again and a tradition was born. There is nothing better than a messy festival done just for the fun of getting soaked in tomato juice.
Holi Spring Festival, India
Holi Festival (source igotravel.info)
To welcome spring, cities in India host street parties where thousands of people throw colored and perfumed powders at each other. The festival marking the end of Winter and beginning of spring has a religious significance for Hindus celebrating the victory of good over evil, who burn a demonic goddess, Holika; at the origins of the festival, people would take the ashes of the bonfire and applied it to their foreheads. This practice evolved over time to include colored powder and make it the messy celebration of today when the colored powder is thrown around until everyone embodies a full rainbow. The Holi festival has been adopted by many countries in the Western world to mark the start of spring albeit without the religious significance it has in India or Nepal, many cities around the world host runs where the participants are showered with colored powder throughout the course of the race.
Songkran Festival (source bangkokhasyou.com)
If water is what you crave, this is the festival for you. To mark the Thai New Year, usually also the hottest time of the year in the country, people take to the streets armed with water guns, canons or buckets, to wish each other Happy New Year in the form of a good splashing. Not that anyone is complaining as it comes as a welcome relief from the oppressing heat. Sounds heavenly, but be careful as the notoriously dangerous traffic of the crowded cities in Thailand becomes even more dangerous during the festivities. With people all around trying to win the water fights stepping on to traffic and causing an increase in accidents that has threatened to stop the festivities.
Batalla del Vino, Spain
Batalla del Vino (source yimg.com)
You’ll get wet at this festival, but with something more staining than water. Rioja in Spain is a region known worldwide for the quality of their wine, every year to celebrate St Peter’s day in June, the towns get together to throw the wine at each other. The origins of this messy festival date back to the 18th century when the annual review of the borders between two towns broke down into a fight and people started throwing wine at each other, from then the “War of Wine” was born. Traditional attire calls for full white and a red scarf; everyone picks their side and picks their weapon of choice: buckets, sprayers, water guns, anything that can be used to pour thousands of wine liters all over the crowd. People also are encouraged to pour wine in each other’s mouths so the festival ends very late in a loud celebration.
Boryeong Mud Festival, South Korea
Boryeong Mud Festival (source roughguides.com)
For a really messy experience, make a pilgrimage to the Mud Festival in Boryeong, South Korea. Every July, for a week, people from all over the world come to experience that amazing feeling of being a kid and jumping in a puddle of mud after the rain has stopped, but without the complaints of their mothers for making a mess of the clothing. The last weekend of the festival, mud is brought from the mud flats close to town to create an amusement park worth of muddy attractions: mud pools, mud skiing, mud slides, mud volleyball, anything you can play you can play it while getting completely covered in the gray mud.
The festival doesn’t have the highest-minded origin; it was started by a cosmetics company trying to promote the health benefits of the mud found in the area which is said to be rich in minerals beneficial for the skin. It has taken a life of its own becoming one of the messiest festivals in the world.