The start of the spring is a popular time for festivals, not just in Europe, but around the globe. Whatever you have planned, make sure you join in at least one of these festive events, where you can learn all about the culture of a place.

Rio de Janeiro Carnival Brazil (21 – 28 February)

Known as the biggest of all festivals, Rio Carnival is a week-long event that consists of lots of beautiful dancing which encourages participants to dress up, enjoy the music and have fun! The purpose of Carnival is for the two million people who participate every year to indulge before Lent. People work hard in the lead-up to practice elaborate dance routines to perform throughout the week and choose the perfect outfits to accompany them. In this festival, freedom of expression is important, so anything goes here, and outfits range from the extravagant to skimpy.

The purpose-built Sambadrome, which dates back to 1983, is where most of the festivities take place and consists of a large parade area across a 570m strip along with several stadiums. Opening night occurs on a Friday, when the crowning of King Momo takes place. A Latin American character known as the King of Carnivals, King Momo will start dancing after becoming crowned, to which the crowd will erupt in dance around him, marking the start of the festival.

This will kick start the parade, featuring King Momo dancing at the front, with impressive carriages following him and many different dancers with their beautiful, colourful costumes, which usually entail fancy headwear displaying jewels and feathers. Samba is a lively dance that has African influence, making it very rhythmic with accompanying theme music. There are different types of samba, including solo samba, couple samba which is more intimate, reggae samba which is accompanied with drums, samba rock which tends to be played throughout the nightclubs, and much more. This is the most prevalent dance here, as it originated in Brazil so features heavily throughout the parade.

This merriment continues throughout the week, with more parades that are made up of samba schools competing for the honour of being a part of the final parade. Each school will have a different theme for their routine, with jungle, fantasy or magic being examples of some of the most popular contenders. Those unable to get tickets for the events within the Sambadrome will not be at a loss for what to do, as they can still join in the festivities within the street parties known as Blocos, filled with people dancing to great music, celebrating and having a good time.

Mardi Gras New Orleans (25 February)

The Mardi Gras celebrations are similar to those in Brazil. The French phrase, when translated into English means Fat Tuesday, which we would refer to here as Shrove Tuesday. It is the time before Lent when everyone uses up their rich ingredients prior to the commencement of fasting. It is traditionally a French festival (in Paris known as Paris Carnival), but was introduced to New Orleans for the first time in 1699 by French explorers who held a small celebration and named the spot they had arrived at on the eve of the festive holiday, Pointe Du Mardi Gras. Costumes were later introduced by a group of students in 1827, who had observed the traditions in France and took to dancing in the streets in fun attire, encouraging others to join in the festivities. The first parade was ten years later, following on from the students’ influence, which continues in New Orleans to this day.

A Christian tradition, Mardi Gras Festival, like other festivals taking place during this time of the year, was the welcoming of the springtime and is also celebrated in other highly populated Christian countries worldwide. It is celebrated with street parties and a parade, and would not be complete without a royal king. Each Mardi Gras parade is held in King Rex’s honour, whose royal colours of purple, gold and green have become the traditional colours of the Festival. King Rex is known for being a very generous king, who celebrates with ‘throws’, gifts that are thrown throughout the procession such as soft toys, colourful beads, and other such treats, which onlookers eagerly grab.

King cakes are a big tradition of the Mardi Gras Festival, made in the Mardi Gras traditional colours. In previous years these were fairly basic ring cakes made with modest decoration. Nowadays however, bakeries go all out, creating them with frosting and in different shapes. The cakes are sculpted with a small plastic baby figure inside. The person who receives the slice with the baby is considered to have been bestowed with luck and is destined to bring the next Mardi Gras cake or host the next party for the following year.

Masks are another big part of Mardi Gras, with those participating on floats having to wear them by law. The idea behind the masks is that people are free to be whoever they want and enjoy the festivities without having to worry about class restraints within society, which adds to the thrill of the day. All those attending the celebrations are encouraged to wear them, and they are big and bold to hide the person’s identity.

Mardi Gras is a day full of secrecy and was previously used as an opportunity to settle scores. Krewes would be formed, which were made up of organisations from the higher classes within society at the time, such as kings, dukes, knights and captains alike. Entry to these krewes was by invitation only and would cause a lot of rivalry. Those who were treated as slaves and in the lower classes within society were excluded, and they had to find their own way to celebrate Mardi Gras. Today, the participation of Mardi Gras Indians is a tradition that is kept, as African American members of society come together to participate in the parade, to remember the times when they were not included. While the clandestine element remains for today’s celebrations, inclusion is respected by the wearing of masks, where everyone within society can participate in the festivities.

Holi Festival India (10 March)

On 10 March, go big or go home with the Holi Festival in India, which takes place throughout the country. This festival focuses on the triumph of good over evil and is celebrated to drive away a demoness who goes by the name of Holika. Lord Vishnu, the Hindu God of preservation has a big part to play in this, as he assisted in the destruction of the demoness.

Folk tales of Lord Krishna, a reincarnation of Lord Vishnu, tell of how the prankster liked to play tricks on the girls in the village by soaking them with water and colourful powder. Others rely on the story that Lord Krishna, who was depicted with dark blue skin, did not like the colour of his girlfriend, Radha’s fair skin. On telling his mother, she suggested he smear her with paint so that it was a different colour.

Following on from these stories, people like to play with paints and water on Holi Day, throwing a mix of both at friends, family, and even strangers. During the celebrations, you will find the drink of choice to be bhang, an intoxicating lassi drink containing cannabis. This provides a relaxed atmosphere, where anyone is fair game in this vibrant festival, so be sure to have your water guns at the ready!

Holi Festival is the celebration of the start of springtime, where the Indian population gives thanks for harvest season. After a day of celebrating with water and colour fights and general frivolities, large bonfires are lit in the evening in order to burn the demoness. People dance around these fires, with some even walking on the coals, and the party continues well into the night.

The main tip for the Holi festival is to wear clothes that you do not mind ruining. With all the colours and water, it is unlikely they will make it past the celebrations, so ensure you leave all valuables safely in the hotel. Also be sure to stick in a big group, as the experience can be overwhelming, especially as tourists are the prime targets in this festival. Women who have attended have spoken of their experiences, detailing how everyone will want to hug and splash you, and personal space is not respected, so be aware of this before heading out.

For those a little wary of big crowds, perhaps consider staying somewhere with a terrace nearby, where you can safely enjoy the festivities from a height. Apart from that, ensure you have fun. All people are equal during the festival of colours, with features such as race and age being put aside, and everyone blending together as one in an array of beautiful colours.

St Paddy’s Day Ireland (17 March)

This festival is not contained to just Ireland, but takes place all over the world, where many come together to remember St Patrick, known as the patron saint of Ireland. He was a Christian Bishop recognised for his great missionary work in the fifth century. It is believed that he was born in England but was captured by Irish pirates as a 16-year-old teenager.

This time in captivity was crucial in assisting with the development of his spirituality and his faith in God. After six years, he heard a voice which told him he would be able to return home, and he managed to escape from his captors. Once home, he continued to dedicate his life to prayer and Christianity.

There are several legends about the great Patrick, who was known to use a shamrock as a symbol of the holy trinity to show there were three beings in one: the father, the son and the holy spirit. One of the main fables was that of Patrick banishing snakes. Historical records reveal that snakes never existed in Ireland at this time. Extensive research has been carried out, with fossils showing no evidence of the reptile.

In celebrations today, everyone wears green to mark the remembrance of Saint Patrick. This originated from his love of the shamrock which was also green. As this celebration spread all over the world, so did the importance of wearing something green. Most will then head out in their greenery to the pub to enjoy a couple of beers with friends and celebrate. For those religious folk in Ireland, St Patrick’s Day consists in starting off the day by heading to mass, followed by a wholesome roast dinner at home with the family.

This popular festival has spread to many countries, but it is especially popular in the United States, where they held their first St Patricks Day parade in 1766. The Americans also celebrate by drinking green beer in keeping with the usual tradition of the day. This is simply made by adding green food colouring to the normal tipple. Unknown to many is that the festivities didn’t used to end there for the Irish.

The day following St Patrick’s day was previously known as Sheelah’s Day, falling on 18 March. Most would celebrate long into the night the start of Sheelah’s Day. There are many theories as to who Sheelah actually was. Some believe it was St Patrick’s wife, while others think it may have been his mother. On this day, shamrocks would be worn on the clothing of the Irish. These would be thrown into the last glass of whisky at the end of the night, which was known as the drowning of the shamrock. These days, Sheelah’s Day is no longer officially celebrated in Ireland resulting in its origin having been long forgotten!

Las Fallas Valencia (14-19 March)

Just a short taxi ride from its airport, Valencia is a beautiful city full of delicious Spanish cuisine and rich in culture. At this time of year, the elements can take you by surprise, where one moment you can be sitting in the fabulous sunshine with a refreshing sangria thinking the summer is well on its way, and the next, running for shelter when the skies open up with a downpour. It will definitely keep you on your toes, so be sure to pack for all types of weather scenarios.

Las Fallas Festival is a Valencian tradition that started in the second half of the 18th century by carpenters who would burn all the old wood that was used to hold lights during the dark, winter months. While celebrations start officially on the 1 March, with decorations and displays being erected at the start of the month, the festivities takes place a little later from 14 – 19 March.

The event on the 19 March signifies the start of the Spring, as it symbolises the burning of the wood that was used to light fires to give way to the lighter months of the Spring. This old wood was used to create ninots, larger than life mannequins which have evolved over the years. Initially constructed of wood and straw with heads of wax, these would burn quickly. In the 1950s, it was popular for them to be made with paper mache, quite a difference to today’s plastic polyester equivalents, which appear more realistic and true to life. These are moulded to look like characters in today’s world, with political leaders such as Trump and Putin often featured.

Costumes are worn by individuals who partake in several parades over the course of the festival, dancing through the streets of Valencia, making it a very comical spectacle. During this time, fireworks, referred to as mascletàs, are fired through the skies every afternoon at 14:00 in front of the city council offices, to ensure that everyone has finished hibernating and is ready to partake in the festivities. Be sure to get a good spot here a little earlier to witness the firework display as well as the ninots which will be parading by a little later on. Finally, a winning ninot is chosen to join its pre-successors in the Las Fallas Museum, a fate far greater than the others, which are all set on fire at the stroke of midnight.

Nyepi Day Bali (25 March)

There is only one festival to avoid during this month, and that is Nyepi Day in Bali on 25 March. This is a day of silence for all the inhabitants, where there tends to be no moving around, so no site-seeing, taxis, flights nor electricity. People take the day to reflect and some even fast. It’s not all quiet this time of year though, as this is the Indonesian New Year celebration and follows on from Melasti processions which take place a few days earlier, featuring paper mache dragons that parade through the streets.