Europe is a mosaic of cultures and personalities. It brims with colourful, sometimes even strange festivals that have grown oh-so important over time. Here's just a handful of these festivities that are definitely worth checking out during your Europe class trip.
1- Walpurgisnaght (Germany)
Held on the night of April 30th, Walpurgisnaght is Germany's way of warding off the witches and demons awaiting the start of spring. Locals dress up as witches, adorn colourful face paint and dance the night away around bonfires. The best place to celebrate is in the town of Thales, which welcomes thousands of people each year for the festivities.
2- Cooper's Hill Cheese Rolling (England)
While not technically a 'festival', Cooper's Hill Cheese Rolling is a renowned event that draws tourists from around the world. Every year towards the end of May, large crowds gather atop Cooper's Hill; a 9-pound round of Double Gloucester Cheese - local to the area - is then rolled down the hill and a mad dash ensues, chasing the cheese to the finish line at the bottom. The first to cross wins the ultimate prize: the cheese. The cheese round was recently replaced by a foam wheel so as to avoid injury to onlookers and participants... because, you know, people who hurl themselves at top speed down a hill are generally very concerned about safety.
3- Le Carnaval des Geants du Nord (France)
Every year in September, small towns across northern France (and parts of Belgium) parade massive figures known as les Gayants. They are literally giants, handcrafted to symbolize and celebrate the collective identity of the communities that build and carry them. They each have their own mythology and are often accompanied by musical themes and dragons.
4- Bog Snorkeling Festival (Wales)
When you picture snorkeling, it's most likely somewhere tropical where the water's pristine and full of life. That's not even close to what goes down at Wales' Bog Snorkeling Festival. Every year, just before Labour Day, brave participants adorn goggles and snorkels and plunge into murky brown rivines in hopes of crossing the finish line the fastest. The event draws much international fanfare and challengers from all over the world - word on the street is that it'll be a popular event at the next Olympics.
5- la Tomatina (Spain)
Perhaps the best-known festival on this list. Every year, on the last Wednesday of August in the town of Buñol, Spain, something very special happens: tens of thousands of people come together to partake in the world's largest food fights. The tomato-throwing festival has grown so popular that an organization has been created to manage it and to sell tickets to tourists. Anyone can partake if they wish, as long as they have a ticket; you might want to bring some old clothes, too, and maybe a bag of nachos.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg!