11 of the Best, Most Stunning Festivals in the World
Your Coachella days may be behind you, but there are festivals around the world that don’t involve flower crowns or short-short cut-offs. From revelries of color and tomatoes to celebrations of fire and ice, these 11 fetes are worthy of a trip for the photo opps alone.
When: Early spring
The Hindu festival, known as the “Festival of Colors,” celebrates the victory of good over evil with a free-for-all of rainbow splatter—participants cover each other with brightly pigmented powders as they sing and dance through the open streets.
Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Stringer/Getty Images
Where: Buñol, Spain
When: The last Wednesday in August
What began by chance in 1945 has evolved into the most beloved annual one-ingredient food fight in the world. Set in the town square, a gigantic pile of tomatoes awaits excited participants ready to pummel each other for an hour or so until they wash off the remnants in a local pool. The good news? The citric acid actually leaves the streets extra clean.
Yi Peng Festival
Where: Chiang Mai, Thailand
When: A full moon of the second month of the Thai lunar calendar
Sky lanterns are essentially small hot-air balloons constructed of rice paper. While used for centuries around Asia for different festivities (and also for military reasons), the most popular occasion is held in the ancient capital, where thousands of people launch their lanterns to bring good luck and tham bun (or Buddhist merit) and fill the night sky with light.
Jan Sochor/CON/Getty Images
Dia de Los Muertos
Where: Mexico City, Mexico
When: October 31 to November 2
While the “Day of the Dead” is widely celebrated across Mexico and even internationally, the holiday (during which families honor their ancestors and pray for their spirits in the afterlife) is best enjoyed in Mexico City. Exquisite altars covered in marigolds, painted skeleton faces and dancing Calavera Catrinas (“Dapper Skeletons”) make their way in Technicolor down the four miles of the Paseo de la Reforma as hundreds of thousands cheer on the parade.
Mondial Air Ballons
Where: Chambley-Bussières, France
When: Every two years at the end of July
Beating out the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta for the largest hot-air-balloon gathering in the world, the Mondial Air Ballons draws over 300,000 spectators over ten days to gawk at the 900-plus balloons in the sky.
Where: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
When: Four days before Ash Wednesday
Brazil’s most popular national holiday attracts tourists from all over the world (about half a million people!) to take part in the parties, music, drinking and, of course, the famous parade—aka “The Greatest Show on Earth”—as a major brouhaha before Lent. The event is so important, the city built the Sambadrome, a street-turned-permanent parade ground with bleachers, specifically to house it.
Snow & Ice Festival
Where: Harbin, China
When: January to February
If you thought that party luge at your friend’s wedding was spectacular, you’ll be absolutely floored by the scope of this winter festival’s sculptures: They’re basically frozen cities constructed of ice. The best part? At night, the buildings and monuments glow as multicolored lights shine through their translucent walls.
Where: Nara, Japan
When: The fourth Saturday of January
While the origins of this tradition vary—no one’s sure whether it was a boundary dispute between two temples or a way to prune wild boar pests—the dead grass of Mount Wakakusa is burned in an annual “mountain roast,” which is followed by a fantastic fireworks display. The resulting firelight leaves bystanders with a spectacular, one-of-a-kind light show.
Carnevale di Venezia
Where: Venice, Italy
When: 40 days before Easter
Similar to Carnaval in Rio, this pre-Lent celebration is world famous for its grandeur—especially the elaborate costumes. The artisan-made masks even have names, like the bauta, a simple stark white or gilded one; the Colombina, a half-mask decorated with gold, silver, crystals and feathers and held up with a baton; the Medico della peste, aka the plague mask; the volto, the classic Venetian mask usually with a white base and gilded details; and so many more.
Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
Up Helly Aa Fire Festival
Where: Lerwick, Scotland
When: The last Tuesday in January
The torch-lit, half-mile procession and burning of a Viking longship has been an annual Shetland tradition to mark the end of the Yule season since the 1880s. While a thousand or so male participants dress up and take part in the procession, only the head of the festival, the Guizer Jarl, and his squad can don Viking garb. As for women and children, it’s viewing with the 5,000 onlookers from the sidelines (or now even streaming online).
Erika Goldring/Getty Images
Where: New Orleans
When: The Tuesday before Ash Wednesday
Another let’s-party-before-Lent celebration, this famous Louisiana fete has the masks of Venice’s Carnevale, the party vibes of Rio’s Carnaval and the beads you don’t want to ask your friend how she got. With a major parade every day of the two-week celebration, there’s really no party like a Bourbon Street party.
Right now, around the world, brave members of America's armed forces are on duty, defending our freedom and upholding our values.
When not laser-focused on the mission at hand, they're looking forward to the day when their service to our nation is fulfilled and they can reunite with their families.
They are also imagining how they can use their hard-earned skills to build an exciting, rewarding and important career when they return home.
I want them to look no further than United Airlines.
That's why we are focused on recruiting, developing and championing veterans across our company, demonstrating to our returning women and men in uniform that United is the best possible place for them to put their training, knowledge, discipline and character to the noblest use.
They've developed their knowledge and skills in some of the worst of times. We hope they will use those skills to keep United performing at our best, all of the time.
That's why we are accelerating our efforts to onboard the best and the brightest, and substantially increasing our overall recruitment numbers each year.
We recently launched a new sponsorship program to support onboarding veterans into United and a new care package program to support deployed employees. It's one more reason why United continues to rank high - and rise higher - as a top workplace for veterans. In fact, we jumped 21 spots this year on Indeed.com's list of the top U.S workplaces for veterans. This is a testament to our increased recruiting efforts, as well as our efforts to create a culture where veterans feel valued and supported.
We use the special reach and resources of our global operations to partner with outstanding organizations. This is our way of stepping up and going the extra mile for all those who've stepped forward to answer our nation's call.
We do this year-round, and the month of November is no exception; however, it is exceptional, especially as we mark Veterans Day.
As we pay tribute to all Americans who have served in uniform and carried our flag into battle throughout our history, let's also keep our thoughts with the women and men who are serving around the world, now. They belong to a generation of post-9/11 veterans who've taken part in the longest sustained period of conflict in our history.
Never has so much been asked by so many of so few.... for so long. These heroes represent every color and creed. They are drawn from across the country and many immigrated to our shores.
They then freely choose to serve in the most distant and dangerous regions of the world, to protect democracy in its moments of maximum danger.
Wherever they serve - however they serve - whether they put on a uniform each day, or serve in ways which may never be fully known, these Americans wake up each morning willing to offer the "last full measure of devotion" on our behalf.
Every time they do so, they provide a stunning rebuke to the kinds of voices around the world who doubt freedom and democracy's ability to defend itself.
Unfortunately, we know there are those who seem to not understand – or say they do not - what it is that inspires a free people to step forward, willing to lay down their lives so that their country and fellow citizens might live.
But, we – who are both the wards and stewards of the democracy which has been preserved and handed down to us by veterans throughout our history – do understand.
We know that inciting fear and hatred of others is a source of weakness, not strength. And such divisive rhetoric can never inspire solidarity or sacrifice like love for others and love of country can.
It is this quality of devotion that we most honor in our veterans - those who have served, do serve and will serve.
On behalf of a grateful family of 96,000, thank you for your service.
Each year around Veterans Day, Indeed, one of the world's largest job search engines, rates companies based on actual employee reviews to identify which ones offer the best opportunities and benefits for current and former U.S. military members. Our dramatic improvement in the rankings this year reflects a stronger commitment than ever before to actively recruiting, developing and nurturing veteran talent.
"We've spent a lot of time over the past 12 months looking for ways to better connect with our employees who served and attract new employees from the military ranks," said Global Catering Operations and Logistics Managing Director Ryan Melby, a U.S. Army veteran and the president of our United for Veterans business resource group.
"Our group is launching a mentorship program, for instance, where we'll assign existing employee-veterans to work with new hires who come to us from the armed forces. Having a friend and an ally like that, someone who can help you translate the skills you picked up in the military to what we do as a civilian company, is invaluable. That initiative is still in its infancy, but I'm really optimistic about what it can do for United and for our veteran population here."
Impressively, we were the only one of our industry peers to move up on the list, further evidence that we're on a good track as a company.
The question of where David Ferrari was had haunted retired U.S. Army Sergeant Major Vincent Salceto for the better part of 66 years.
Rarely did a week go by that Salceto didn't think about his old friend. Often, he relived their last moments together in a recurring nightmare. In it, it's once again 1953 and Salceto and Ferrari are patrolling a valley in what is now North Korea. Suddenly, explosions shatter the silence and flares light up the night sky.
Crouching under a barrage of bullets, Salceto, the squad's leader, drags two of his men to safety, then he sees Ferrari lying face down on the ground. He runs out to help him, but he's too late. And that's when he always wakes up.
Italian Americans from opposite coasts – Salceto from Philadelphia, Ferrari from San Francisco – the two became close, almost like brothers, after being assigned to the same unit during the Korean War. When Ferrari died, it hit Salceto hard.
"After that, I never let anyone get close to me like I did with Dave," he says. "I couldn't; I didn't want to go through that again."
When the war ended, Salceto wanted to tell Ferrari's family how brave their son and brother had been in battle. Most of all, he wanted to salute his friend at his gravesite and give him a proper farewell.
For decades, though, Salceto had no luck finding his final resting place or locating any of his relatives. Then, in June of this year, he uncovered a clue that led him to the Italian Cemetary in Colma, California, where Ferrari is buried.
Within days, Salceto, who lives in Franklinville, New Jersey, was packed and sitting aboard United Flight 731 from Philadelphia to San Francisco with his wife, Amy, and daughter, Donna Decker, on his way to Colma. For such a meaningful trip, he even wore his Army dress uniform.
That's how San Francisco-based flight attendant Noreen Baldwin spotted him as he walked down the jet bridge to get on the plane.
"I saw him and said to the other crew members, 'Oh my goodness, look at this guy,'" she says. "I knew there had to be a story."
The two struck up a conversation and Salceto told Baldwin why he was traveling. She got emotional listening to him talk and made a point of fussing over him, making sure he and his family had everything they needed.
About halfway through the flight, Baldwin had an idea. She and her fellow crew members would write messages of encouragement to Salceto and invite his fellow passengers to do the same.
"We did it discreetly," says Baldwin. "I asked the customers if they saw the man in uniform, which most had, and asked them if they wanted to write a few words for him on a cocktail napkin. A lot of people did; families did it together, parents got their kids to write something. After the first few rows, I was so choked up that I could barely talk."
When Baldwin surprised Salceto with dozens of hand-written notes, he, too, was speechless. He laid the stack on his lap and read each one. At the same time, the pilots made an announcement about the veteran over the loud speaker, after which the customers on board burst into applause.
"It seems contrived, and I hate using the word organic, but that's what it was; it just happened," Baldwin says. "Mr. Salceto was so loveable and humble, and what he was doing was so incredible, it felt like the right thing to do. And you could tell he was touched."
On June 27, Salceto finally stood before Ferrari's grave and said that long-awaited goodbye. As a trumpeter played "Taps," he unpinned a medal from his jacket and laid it reverently on the headstone.
"I had gotten a Bronze Star for my actions [the night Ferrari died] with a 'V' for valor, and that was the medal I put on Dave's grave," says Salceto, pausing to fight back tears. "I thought he was more deserving of it than I was."
For the first time in years, Salceto felt at peace. His mission was accomplished.