Winter festivals you shouldn’t miss

By Sergio González | 12:27

Winter is a great time for visiting some of the most touristic destinations and avoiding high season crowds, but it’s also the right time to enjoy some of the coolest winter festivals around the world.

Groundhog Day in North America is one of the most well-known winter traditions where people gather around its burrow every year to see if the little rodent decides Spring is coming. However, we want to share with you a growing festival that happens at the same time in Scotland and Ireland: the Imbolc.

The Imbolc is an ancient celebration that’s half Gaelic and half Celtic and marks the beginning of spring. The earliest Irish literature mentions Imbolc as the most important time of the year but there are megalithic monuments in Ireland tracing this festival back to the Neolithic period.

Imbolc was a celebration with feasts, holly wells and divination, but as soon as a certain St. Patrick guy arrived on the island in the 5th century, the traditions were Christianized. The pagan goddess Brighid became St. Brighid and making crosses was added as another part of Imbolc.

More and more Christian rites and imagery were added until Imbolc was finally gone in the 19th century. However, the tables have turned in the recent years and the so called Neopagans hold Imbolc once again.

Bringing in every legend and custom Neopaganism is making Imbolc a trendy winter celebration that involves dancing around a bonfire, chanting to the full moon and obviously great food and drinks; it’s the whole Neopagan experience. Besides, there’s no way you can miss it because it’s not only popular in some former Celtic European countries (1st-3rd February) but also in the Southern Hemisphere (1st-2nd August).

One of the most interesting winter festivals happens in June, although it’s still winter around the Equator line. The Inti Raimy Festival in Peru celebrates the winter solstice as the ancient Incas used to do and it’s possibly the most colorful celebration in the world.

The last time a real Inca emperor was present during the 9-day long ceremony was in 1535 because the Catholic Church prohibited “such heathen” rites” as soon as the Inca Empire became the Viceroyalty of Peru.

According to the 16th-century chronicler and writer Garcilaso de la Vega, son of a conquistador and an Incan noblewoman, it was the most important festival in Cusco because it marked the beginning of a new cycle -the time for the Incas was cyclic- and it told the story of their origins so it won’t get lost.

Despite the religious ban, Garcilaso’s writings survived through history and 1944 the first Inti Raimy of the modern era took place based on his recordings of the original celebration.

Inti Raimy (Festival of the Sun) is a huge celebration in Cusco filled with all things Inca from history and religion, to outfits, music and food and you totally should keep in mind to book your trip to Peru. However, all sorts of sun-worshiping festivals happen throughout the Andes during June and July so all odds are you’ll be watching history occur with your very own eyes.

There’s a winter tradition we all share around the world, Valentine’s Day. What’s not to like about being in love and stopping the world for a moment so you can devote yourself to your beloved one? And it’s a real challenge because Valentine’s Day is still a working day in most countries.

As with every good story, Valentine’s origins are tangled between history and mythology. It seems quite possible that there were not one but several early Christian saints with the name Valentine in Rome, all of them honored during February. However, one of these Valentines stuck out, and according to the legend he did so because he only asked couples to be in love to marry them.

In a time when people couldn’t marry whoever they wanted, Valentine became a powerful symbol for true love. Valentine’s Day grew under romantic and courtly love and gift giving became part of it during the Middle Ages and has endured until nowawadays. 

Valentine may be a legend, but perhaps not. He has somehow managed to keep on making people fall in love. If you are single this February don’t worry because you still can make it: Valentine’s Day falls on June in Brazil and Eastern Europe! 

What is your favourite winter tradition? 

Photo credit: Carlos Díaz

 

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