How lucky are we to live in such a melting pot of different heritages, cultures, and ethnicities?
In the USA, we are so fortunate to have each come from a rainbow of different cultural backgrounds from all over the world. Teaching our children the importance of embracing different cultures and ethnicities allows them to develop qualities of equality early-on in their lives. Experiencing new and exotic cultures is not only a lot of fun for children and adults alike, it’s also life-changing, mind-enriching, and enlightening.
The good news is that you don’t necessarily need to fly half-way across the world to experience new and exotic cultures with your family. You can do it right from your home town or city. A quick Google search will help you locate an array of international festivals near you. Here’s a list of common cultural festivals found in cities all around the USA.
Wooden Shoe Tulip Fest
You don’t have to fly to Holland to enjoy endless fields of gorgeous blooming tulips in the springtime. You can just head to Wooden Shoe, Oregon instead. The Wooden Shoe Tulip farm invites you to come stroll through 40 acres of picture-perfect tulip blooms every year from March until the beginning of May. This festival is the perfect opportunity to spend time in nature and enjoy the fresh spring air. Visitors are encouraged to bring a picnic, indulge in a wine tasting, and enjoy the majestic views of Mt. Hood.
Get your best flower crown and renaissance costume ready for a medieval good time! There’s no better place for old style entertainment than traveling back in time to the days of yore and merry England. Drink mead while you watch chivalrous knights joust on their noble steeds. Usually these festivals have a myriad of performers, storytellers, jugglers, acrobats, and even mermaids, enjoyable for both children and adults alike. Don’t forget to try the old fashioned mini-cakes with a glass of tea!
Kite festivals have been celebrated worldwide for ages. This tradition was originally formed in India hundreds of years ago as a symbol of awakening the gods from their deep sleep after winter. Nowadays, each springtime, this colorful festival is celebrated in cities all around the world. Enjoy an array of different kites in a variety of designs and a rainbow palette of different colors. You can either fly your own kite, or you can just go to enjoy the spectacle and the fresh air.
African Dance & Drumming Festival
African men and women swathed in colorful kangas and decorative jewelry stomping their feet and shaking their hips to djembe beats and bongo drums: what a spectacle. Dance is an integral element of African culture, as it is the common thread connecting the many countries and cultures throughout sub-Saharan Africa. Sample the traditional dishes of ugali, ndazi, and chapati while you sit back and become one with the heart of Africa through a traditional dance show.
The bright, high-energy nature of the Latino culture comes alive in the form of colorful fabrics, spicy foods, and passionate traditional dances. Latino festivals celebrate an array of different sub-cultures, from those of Mexico down to Argentina. Swing your hips to salsa or bachata dance music, delight in as many tacos topped with guacamole and pico de gallo as you possibly can, and enjoy activities for kids, such as Mexican flower arrangements and colorful face paintings.
Celebrate the French culture with fine cheeses, sweet crepes and fun activities. Between the mimes, stilt walkers and classic wine barrel rolling competitions, it’ll feel as though you’re celebrating right under the Eiffel Tower. Don’t forget to grab a classic glass of Burgundy or Bordeaux to amp up the authenticity!
Native American Pow-wow
Debatably the most relevant culture to observe on this entire list for us Americans: Let us celebrate the peaceful-hearted humans who have reminded us time and again to walk the earth in harmony. There are over 500 Native American tribes, each with their own language, culture, traditions, and customs, but typically pow-wows hold similar traditions across tribes. Celebrate with tribal singing shows, displays of impressive beadwork, handmade clothing, and traditional ceremonies held inside of tipis. Children can learn how to craft a dreamcatcher and take part in a traditional dance. Don’t forget to try the Native American fry bread, it’s a mouth-watering treat!
Bring your little bohemian dressed in boho clothing and experience authentic live gypsy and folk music performances. Hungarian festivals are known for their great puppet shows, which are a hit for the little ones. It’s no secret that Hungarian food is one of the world’s best kept secrets, so don’t miss out on the goulash, strudels, fried dough langos, and sour cherry soup.
Diwali: The Hindu Festival of Lights
This ancient festival represents the light overthrowing darkness, good defeating evil, knowledge instead of ignorance, and hope over despair. Diwali is derived from the Sanskrit word “deepavali” meaning, “row of lights.” So naturally, this festival is illuminated with boundless candles and small clay lamps filled with oil to symbolize the feat of light over darkness. The flames are left burning all night to welcome the Hindu goddess of happiness, Lakshmi, to come roam the earth during the festival and bring good fortune to the clean-hearted. Firecrackers are lit to drive away impure spirits, treats like khil (rice puffs) are shared, and many families draw a rangoli, a decorative, colorful pattern, in the entrance of their homes.
Lunar New Year
Determined by the lunar calendar, Chinese New year falls on a different date every year and is regarded as the most important festival in China. This day is best spent exchanging red “Lai-See” envelopes filled with good-luck money to all your loved ones, watching an ethereal golden dragon dance, and seeing how long you can resist those wafting scents of savory Chinese finger-foods before you give in to those delicious dumplings already. Chinese New year represents turning over a new leaf and spreading wishes of good fortune, health, wealth and happiness along to all of your family and friends.
Ever wanted to learn a Greek-line dance whilst indulging on flavorful Mediterranean cuisine? Head to the nearest Greek festival for authentic Hellenic musical performances, traditional dancing, and a lively dose of fun. And let’s not forget about the stuffed grape leaves (coma), kieftethes (greek meatballs), feta fries, gyros, goat burgers, and robust Greek wines! Greek festivals are a great opportunity to taste the mountains, islands, villages, and true culture of Greece without the 9 hour flight.