Some federal holidays happily coincide with European festivities
Stars and Stripes January 20, 2023
Many federal employees residing outside the U.S.A. have experienced the elation that comes with having a holiday while most other people in their country of residence have a regular old work day. Of course they also know what it’s like to have to work while the locals enjoy their own days off! Every once in a while, U.S. holidays happen to fall on dates when there are plenty of noteworthy events taking place, either locally or in Europe at large. With a bit of advance planning, here are three U.S. holidays to make the most of in 2023:
Washington’s Birthday equals carnival fun
The long weekend created by Washington’s Birthday on Monday, Feb. 20, coincides with the culmination of carnival festivities throughout much of Europe. That very Monday, known as Rose Monday, is celebrated unrestrainedly throughout many parts of Germany, particularly in the carnival stronghold cities of Cologne, Düsseldorf and Mainz, which organize huge parades on the day.
Italy is also the scene of some extravagant celebrations. The city of Ivrea, outside of Turin, is famed for its Battle of the Oranges, in which nine teams pummel one another with tons of sticky citrus (Feb. 18-21). Venice’s celebrations, synonymous with masks and mystery, take place day and night (Feb. 4-21). The Dolomites town of Madonna di Campiglio reverts back to the age of Emperor Franz Joseph I and his wife Sisi during its Hapsburg Carnival (Feb. 19-24). Other unmissable events unfold in Viareggio, Putignano and Sicily’s Acireale.
Spain’s best bets for carnival fun over that same long weekend might include Cádiz, home to one the country’s biggest bashes (Feb. 16-26); or that of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, where festivities have a Brazilian touch (Jan. 20-Feb. 26). Additional cities with festivities worth checking out might include Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Sitges and Badajoz.
Other places where carnival is a big deal include the city of Nice, France, which celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2023 with appearances of special guests from Rio de Janeiro’s carnival scene. Feb. 18 is one of the four days on which Nice stages its Carnival Parade of Lights. In Funchal, the capital of the Portuguese island of Madeira, a high point of festivities is a parade made up of elaborate floats on Feb. 18. Rijeka, Croatia, celebrates with a huge parade on Feb. 19.
Memorial Day and Whitsun celebrations
Monday, May 29, is U.S. Memorial Day, which coincides with Whitsun, an official holiday across many European countries including Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, Netherlands, Norway and Switzerland.
In Germany, a number of events related to music and culture are held on what amounts to a long weekend. Berlin pays homage to the homelands of its substantial immigrant population through its exuberant Carnival of Cultures May 26-29, the highlight of which is a huge parade on May 28. From May 26-29, Würzburg hosts its annual International Africa Festival, billed as Europe’s biggest event for African music and culture. The stunning Blühendes Barock gardens surrounding the Ludwigsburg Castle set the scene for the International Street Music Festival, in which musicians from around the world perform in bids to be named best artist (May 26-28). Darmstadt’s Schlossgrabenfest is a music festival offering three days of concerts by popular artists (May 25-28).
The Belgian city of Liège celebrates Whitsun by holding its annual Summer Beer Lover’s Festival, four days in which to sample the beers of local artisanal breweries (May 26-28).
Ascona, Switzerland takes advantage of the long Whitsun weekend to stage its Street Artists Festival, in which dancers, jugglers, tightrope walkers, musicians and other talents show off their skills to their enthralled audiences (May 27-29).
Juneteenth and solstice-related celebrations
The newest U.S. federal holiday, Juneteenth, will always fall on June 19, no matter the day of the week. In 2023, this date falls on a Monday, thus creating a long weekend that coincides with Europe’s longest days and shortest nights. A number of high-energy, feel-good celebrations are held at the time of the summer solstice.
St. Johann in Tirol, Austria, marks the occasion by staging bonfires on the summits of its mountains, including the Wilder Kaiser, Kalkstein, Loferer and and Kitzbüheler Horn. The mysterious and magical spectacle was believed to harness the power of the sun and shield people and animals from evil. The fires are scheduled to take place on June 17, weather permitting. The Harschbichlbahn cable car runs exceptionally on the night.
Another Austrian solstice-related celebration takes place along the Danube. On June 17, several villages in the Wachau Valley float thousands of twinkling lights on the surface of the river, while the steep vineyards are lit by torchlight and fireworks burst overhead. Several shipping companies offer riverboat cruises on the night.
Also at this time of year, the exquisitely well preserved Czech town of Český Krumlov in Bohemia holds a fest in keeping with its character. The Five Petalled Rose Festival, planned for June 16-18 in 2023, harks back to the reign of the noble Rožmberk family. Each year, the scenario is based on specific historical events associated with the family and the town. Festival highlights include parades featuring more than 700 costumed participants, a knight’s tournament and a historical market, along with plenty of music, theater, games and fun.