Who doesn’t like a party? These five traditional night-time festivals are representative of cultures around the world, and each city or country are well worth a visit–from celebrations of life and rebirth to sacred rituals of cleansing and purification, we bring you some of our favorite international nocturnal festivals. (Special thanks goes to one of our favorite online magazines, NatGeo Traveler, who recently posted about their favorite post-nightfall festivities–we loved their list, but we also had our own picks to add.)
1. Noche de Brujas (or The Night of Witches), Veracruz, Mexico:
Once a year, shamans, healers, and fortune-tellers convene in Catemaco to celebrate the Night of the Witches. During this night-time festival, magic is king–self-declared witches, psychics, and spell casters peddle their wares from stalls set up in the roiling streets, and if you’ve got the money for it, you can buy various potions and healing herbs, or even curse your enemies with a spell.
2. New Year’s Eve, Rio de Janiero, Brazil:
Filled with fireworks and samba dancing, Rio de Janiero’s annual New Year’s Eve festival inundates the beautiful Copacabana beach with white-clad locals and tourists eager to send out offerings to Iemanjá, the Goddess of the Sea. Millions of little paper boats filled with perfume, flowers, and rice are released into the ocean, as thousands of floating candles illuminate the dark sky.
3. Lantern Festival, Pingxi, Taiwan:
Just a little while after Rio celebrates the coming of the new year, visitors flock to the small hillside town of Pingxi for Chinese New Year (which falls somewhere between mid-January to mid-February, depending on the lunar calendar). In a gesture that started during the Han dynasty as a way to let others know the town was safe from the crime that characterized the era, the people of Pingxi now buy paper lanterns and paint their wishes on them before releasing them en masse into the night sky. It is estimated that somewhere between 100,000-200,000 paper lanterns are launched every year.
4. Albequerque International Balloon Fiesta, New Mexico, USA:
Though technically not exclusively a nocturnal festival, one of the most popular events at Albequerque’s annual International Balloon Fiesta, which attracts hot balloonists from around the world, is the Dawn Patrol Show, a choreographed inflation and launch set to music that takes place at 5 AM, just before sunrise. A part of the festival since 1996, the Dawn Patrol Show evolved from another event, called a balloon glow, which is a nighttime inflation (but not an ascension) of all participating balloons that originated as a gesture of thanks to the community.
5. Jani, Latvia:
Every June, people all across Latvia celebrate Jani, or the first night of midsummer. Residents of a town called Kuldiga bring in the season by running naked through the streets. Elsewhere, Latvians make themselves crowns of flowers or oak leaves, and just before sunset, they light bonfires filled with medicinal Jani-herbs. According to Nat Geo Traveler, “specially prepared straw torches are used to drive away evil spirits” throughout the night.