If you are ushering in the new year (and perhaps a hangover) with a party, you are among thousands in Europe doing the same thing. If there’s one things Europeans like to do and do well, it’s celebrate.
With roots going back centuries, Europe’s parties and festivals range from the sublime (Venice’s elegantly costumed Carnivale) to the ridiculous (Spain’s huge tomato fight called La Tomatina).
The Continent hosts music festivals, flower festivals, children’s festivals, historical festivals, religious festivals, food festivals, drink festivals, and — well, just about any kind of festival you can think of.
• Salzburg Festival, end of July to August: This five-week classical-music festival features concerts, drama and operas performed by international artists.
• Bataille de Fleurs (Battle of the Flowers), February, Nice: Part of the Nice Carnival, this annual flower show features floats bearing beautiful people and colorful blooms.
• Foire du Trone, April through June, Paris: The French capital bills this as Europe’s largest temporary “fun fair,” attracting millions of visitors with its rides and shows.
• Cannes Film Festival, May 12-23: The world’s glitterati flock to this town on the Riviera for the annual international film fest.
• International Giant Sand Sculpture Festival, May through June, Hardelot, Nord-Pas-de-Calais: Sand sculptors make miles of sand dunes come alive at this creative festival.
• Bastille Day, July 13, Paris: Parties, parades, fireworks, picnics..
• Fasching, various dates near Ash Wednesday, which falls on Feb. 25, throughout the country: Germany’s colorful and raucous version of Carnival, Carnivale or Mardi Gras, a last chance at excess before Lent.
• Spring Festival, April 17 to May 1, Munich: This two-week festival features a fair with the usual fairground rides plus beer tents and beer garden.
• Munich May Dult, April 24 to May 2, Munich: A traditional antique fair held in the Mariahilfplatz, with a fair to entertain the children.
• Love parade, July 10, Berlin: The big techno party attracts an enthusiastic body-baring crowd.
• Rhine in Flames, various dates, along the Rhine River: On the prettiest stretch of the Rhine, towns and cities take part in this pyrotechnical spectacle, including decorated promenades, towns hosting fireworks displays, and flames illuminating castles, palaces and famous monuments.
• Oktoberfest, Sept. 17 to Oct. 4, Munich: Bavaria’s capital city proudly hosts the world’s largest beer bash and fun fair. It traditionally starts in the third weekend in September and ends the first Sunday of October.
Holland and Luxembourg
• Keukenhof Gardens in Spring, March 25 to May 20, Lisse: More than 7 million buds emerge in this spectacular flower garden. The festival includes competitions for the best flower garden displays and flower arranging displays.
• North Sea Jazz Festival, July, the Hague: Widely recognized as one of the best jazz festivals in the world, this event attracts many of the bigger names in jazz.
• St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, throughout Ireland (but the big party is held in Dublin): Festival honoring the patron saint of the Emerald Isle. Marked by much revelry and wearing of the green, which often starts before the actual holiday.
• Carnivale, Feb. 6-24, Venice: Held every February in anticipation of the religious festival of Lent, this event brings masked Venetians (and some tourists) to the Piazza San Marco to strut their mysterious stuff.
• Vogalonga, May 30, Venice: Hundreds of small rowing boats race 18 miles, finishing in the Grand Canal.
• The Palio, held twice each summer, Siena: Three days of partying culminate in a lunatic bareback horse race through the town.
• Feria d’Abril, April 27 to May 2, Seville: Flamenco dancing goes on until dawn, there are bull fights, a horse fair and hundreds of hospitality tents.
• Barcelona Summer Festival, June to July: Features dance, music and theatre.
• Pamplona Bull Run, July 6: Part of the spectacular Fiesta de San Fermín, this events draws thousands of people to Pamplona to try to outrun frenzied bulls in the town’s streets as they are driven to the bullring.
• La Tomatina, Aug. 25, Bunol: Thousands of people pelt each other with tons of ripe tomatoes brought into the city for the town’s annual food fight.
• Montreux Jazz Festival, July, Montreaux, Vaud: This world-famous festival attracts around 200,000 people. The program also has grown to include rock, blues and pop.