Itchy feet? Perhaps it’s time for an impromptu vacation and February is the month with plenty of fun-filled festivals the world over.

 

Chinese New Year

Where: Various destinations

When: February 19

chinese-new-year-dragon-macau

You can bring in the Year of the Sheep in spectacular style if you’re heading to China’s capital Beijing, however there are fabulous festivals in Chinatowns the world over including Singapore, Hong Kong, New York and San Francisco; this truly international event is celebrated by billions.

While activities vary from city to city, some aspects are universal – high-energy street parades, dragons and dancing – all washed down with wonderful street food.

 

Mardi Gras

Where: New Orleans, USA

When: February 17

mardi-gras-festival

Mardi Gras is also an international festival, with regional variations. The French name literally means ‘Fat Tuesday’ in English and originated from eating rich and fatty foods before the more austere celebration of Christian Lent. The first European settlers to New Orleans were French, hence the European influence; voodoo associations can be explained by the later Creole and West African influences.

Celebrations include flamboyant street parades, dancing, music and fabulous Creole food.  Other festivals in North and South America have their origins in Mardi Gras, including Rio’s famous Carnivale.

 

Tet Nguyen

Where: Vietnam

When: February 19

Tet Festival, Vietnam

Tet, as it’s known, celebrates the Vietnamese New Year and is the biggest holiday in Vietnam. It’s a traditional family holiday where respects are paid to ancestors and people farewell an old year and welcome a new one – cleaning the house, buying new clothes and exchanging gifts. Homes are decorated with lights, lanterns and flowers.

Tourists should be aware that some shops, attractions and restaurants may be closed during the first few days of Tet, but the upside is that it’s an authentic glimpse into traditional Vietnamese culture and many places – such as beaches and big cities – will be quieter than usual.

Maha Shivaratri

Where: Nepal

When: February 17

Maha Shivaratri Festival, India

Maha Shivaratri is a Hindu festival – in English ‘The Great Night of Shiva’ – honouring the great Hindu God Shiva, and celebrated extensively in India and Nepal. Devotees attend shrines throughout Nepal, but one of the main locations is around the temple at Pashupatinath, a few kilometres from Kathmandu.

Pilgrims, children, tourists, street vendors and barely-clothed Sadhus all gather to celebrate the days and nights before and after the festival.  For visitors, it’s an intriguing glimpse into the religious life of a fascinating country.

 

Carnevale

Where: Venice, Italy

When: February 17

Venetian costumes at Carneval, Venice

This festival is related to the ‘Carnivale’ festivals throughout European history and the Mardi Gras festivals of North and South America have their origins in the same tradition. The Venice version is famed for its elaborate masks that are intriguing and even slightly creepy!

This magical of Italian cities becomes a playground and party city for the days leading up to Carnevale and culminates in the final big party when the crowds are huge, especially around St Mark’s Square. Hire a costume – at the very least a mask – and attend one of the many Carnevale balls.

 

Sapporo Snow Festival

Where: Sapporo, Japan

When: February 5–11

Sapporo Snow Festival, Japan

For some magical winter action, head to Hokkaido’s capital for one of Japan’s hugely popular winter celebrations; the Sapporo Snow Festival (‘Yuki-matsuri’ in Japanese).

For a whole week, this festival of snow features snow and ice sculptures, and a party atmosphere that attracts more than two million local and overseas tourists. There’s a snow sculpture contest, snow and ice slides, and plenty of adventure on the slopes.

 

Thaipusam

Where: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

When: February 3

Thaipusam devotee, Malaysia

Thaipusam, a key festival in the Tamil Hindu calendar, is celebrated throughout south-east Asia, but most famously at Batu Caves where thousands of devotees and tourists gather each year. Thaipusam is a riot of colour with orange and yellow flowers and fruit, monkeys everywhere, tasty Indian street food, vendors and travelling holy men.

Batu Caves, just 13 km from Kuala Lumpur, are one of the most popular Hindu shrines outside India. The caves are well worth a visit, with interesting limestone formations, the 42-metre high gold statue of Lord Murugan – the Hindu god of war – and lots of monkeys.