Here are the best festivals in December for your festival calendar. If you want something to look forward to in winter, these are the December festivals for you.
December festivals are obviously among the coolest of the year, in all senses. Don’t retire to the fire for fear of a chill, get out there and make the most of the mulled wine and hot cider opportunities.
The festive feel and impending New Year makes this month one of the best for exploring new cities and events, so get the thermals on and get out there for a last go at making this year the best one yet. Here are some of the best festivals in December for you to enjoy around the world.
Best Festivals in December
These annual December celebrations offer a unique insight into cultures around the world. Add these festivals December to your must do list.
1. Fête des Lumières, Lyon, France
7th – 10th December 2023
This one is all about Mary. As in Jesus’s mum.
The Virgin Mary is Lyon’s beloved saviour and Lyon honours her each year with the great Fête des Lumières. The four-day event is a testimony to what Mary means to the city – many believe it was she that saved them from destruction when the city was riddled with the plague.
Ever since those dark days of the 1800s, the people of Lyon have taken the time to show their appreciation with light and colour. From the 8th to 11th of December this year 2022, every house puts candles in their windows to honour her but, it’s the lighting up of the Basilica of Fourvière and the Place des Terreaux light show that truly wow.
This looks like one of the most amazing festivals in December there is. I’ve always wanted to go!
2. Mother City Queer Project, Cape Town
Mother City Queer Project seems to describe this festival well. A summer kickstart in Cape Town, MCQP is all queens, spangled jeans and love machines – but everyone’s invited.
It began in 1994 once apartheid was out and equality was in, giving gay people a platform to show how proud they were of who they were. Since then, the epic party has gained whole load of momentum and is now the most flamboyant fancy dress event in any Cape Town diary. Failure to comply with the annual theme, which could be anything from ‘farm fresh’ to ‘kitsch kitchen’, means there’s no getting in, so read up on the requirements and get sewing.
More of a party than a December festival, but absolutely brimming with those party vibes.
3. Burning the Clocks, Brighton
21st December 2023
While you might hear the word ‘festival’ and think mud, wipes and raves, Burning the Clocks in Brighton is a gentler take and one for all the family.
Led by community art charity Same Sky, crowds walk through the city’s streets with paper lanterns on 21st of December, the shortest day of the year. Once the crowds have gathered on the Brighton shores the lanterns are added to a collective bonfire which burns bright as families contemplate the year’s end and watch the firework display.
Since 1994 Same Sky has brought the community together on this one night to be thankful over the holiday season, marking one of the most special days in December locally. I really want to go to this December festival – need to make it happen this year!
READ MORE: The Best Present Ideas for Festivals
4. Hogmanay, Scotland
31st December (Annually)
Hogmanay is the Scottish version of a New Year’s Eve. That means NYE with a wee bit more alcohol, a good few ceilidh numbers and a lot of laughs. For Scotland new year brings with it full-scale parties whether you’re battling the cold at Edinburgh’s street party, enjoying a Glasgow rave or just having wee dram with your pals at a December festival.
While being Scottish may be reason enough for the excessive celebrations, the real reason behind the full-force extravaganza is the lack of Christmas back when Bonnie Scotland wasn’t getting on with church. Since then NYE celebrations have been hard to shake and all Scots like to see in the bells with style… and an unforgettable group rendition of Robert Burns’ Auld Lang Syne.
I went to Hogmanay back and had a brilliant time, you can check out my Hogmanay experience here.
5. Krampusnacht Festival, Vienna
5th – 6th December 2023
If you’ve kept the cursing to a minimum and avoided those Saturday sessions then you might have made it onto Santa’s ‘good’ list. For those who’ve behaved a little more liberally (moi? neverrrr) then the Krampus may be coming for you.
Originating from German legend, Krampus is a demon who doles out the coals and punishes those on the naughty list. On 5th December, the people of Vienna celebrate this evil little man by dressing up as him and competing in a race. With alcohol as liquid fuel, this parade soon turns into a Krampi party complete with costume.
However, this demonic event is scaring the kiddies so much that Austrian authorities are contemplating banning Krampus altogether. Need to get to this December festival ASAP before the fun gets shut down!
6. Chichibu Yomatsuri, Japan
2nd – 3rd December (Annually)
Chichibu Yomatsuri is a nighttime event full of pretty lights, ornate floats and a two-hour firework display. Celebrated on the 2nd and 3rd of December just outside of Tokyo in the town of Chichibu, the two-day event celebrates the local shrine’s more than 300-year history.
Ornately carved and beautifully decorated floats, or mikoshi, are carried by teams of Japanese men through the town. These men consider the physical tough act a rite of passage at this, one of the best festivals in December around the world.
Adorned in tapestries and intricate paintings, thousands come out to see the 10-tonne floats as the bearers drag them up the hill to the plaza at the city hall. This in itself represents a tough physical journey and is rewarded with the colourful fireworks. Make sure you dress up toastie!
7. Junkanoo Parade, Bahamas
26th December – 1st January 2024
Want to go to a festival in December in the Caribbean? Well, Junkanoo in the Bahamas could be the one for you. It’s one of most colourful and fun occasions in December to enjoy, so it’s quite a popular one.
This is a full on party, and attendees and locals spend months preparing themselves with costumes, floats and special dances. The main event of this December festival is obviously, the parade. The Junkanoo Parade celebrates Garifuna culture, mostly through drums and cowbells. If you want to see a glimpse of the festival without actually going, then check out James Bond – Thunderball, Jaws the Revenge and Miami Vice.
8. Al Dhafra Festival, Abu Dhabi
21st October 2023 – 8th February 2024
As December events go, this is definitely a unique one. The Al Dhafra Festival in Abu Dhabi is a celebration of Bedouin lifestyle that runs from October to January annually.
Go to this festival in December and you might even catch a glimpse of the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and deputy commander in chief of the UAE armed forces – they’re the hosts. The Al Dhafra Festival takes place in the desert in Abu Dhabi and sees camels and tribes descending to celebrate together.
Expect Saluki dog races, traditional falconry displays, handicrafts and an amazing array of food too. It’s all about the camel competitions and trading though.
9. St Kitts-Nevis Carnival
15th December 2023 – 2nd January 2024
Also known as Sugar Mas, the St Kitts Carnival marks the end of the year and the start of a new one. This December celebration lasts a full two weeks from Christmas right through to the new year and is the biggest festival in St Kitts.
The Caribbean colours and calypso tunes along with numerous parades, parties and performances taking place across the island make the St Kitts Carnival the perfect place to escape the usual Christmas festivities. There’s also the crowning of the carnival queen, the calypso contest and the Grand Parade to watch out for.
After all that, it’s just about time to collapse on the beach. And WHAT a beach it is.
I’ve not actually been to the St Kitts Carnival, but I have been to St Kitts for one of the best festivals in December. Check out my St Kitts restaurant guide and my guide to what to do in St Kitts too.
10. Rakastella, Miami, Florida
Miami, Florida, isn’t just about spring break – its thriving art scene is brought to the forefront with the annual Art Basel. For 16 non-stop hours, Rakastella takes over the famous Virginia Key Beach Park with specially prepared stages and lighting design with this festival in December.
“Explore a myriad of immersive sensory experiences within the raw beauty of nature’s surroundings. Bringing environmental art to a tropical shaded grove bordering the sea where Rakastella will call home this December. Enjoy the sunset while taking a dive into our Vinyl pop up shop, where you’ll find hidden gems, memorabilia and nostalgia… because you are what you listen to, and one should never try to mute the noise.
There’s a certain liberation that comes with a leap of faith. Lovers intertwine to become a singular force of nature with energy bound to unknown limits. When harnessed, a labor of love such as Rakastella is born. Pure unadulterated love for radical music selection drew both Innervisions & Life and Death to continue pushing boundaries into this truly exotic experience.”– Rakastella Festival
11. Rise Festival – Les Deux Alpes, France
9th – 16th December 2023
Bet you never thought there’d be a six-day fiesta in December happening up in the French Alps!
Combining winter magic and music, Rise Festival will have you set up in comfortable lodges with optimum mountain-top views, yoga in fresh air and six-day lift passes for the requisite ski hours. When your face has skimmed red from the cold, mulled ciders and frothy drinks get passed around cafeterias.
Maybe you’ll even sign up for a husky safari – or skip straight to the main event at one of the best festivals in December. Shed your thick coats at night as you jump to the beat of fantastic stages, hosted in various venues. Some performances are cast in a green glow while others fire up streamers and confetti bombs. It’s not exactly your typical December festival but adds to the fun.
Check out these other cool skiing festivals in Europe for your winter of fun.
12. Night of the Radishes, Mexico
23rd December (Annually)
Each December, Mexico celebrates the Night of the Radishes. On this night locals compete to carve the most impressive radish display in the neighbourhood. Noche de Rabanos, as it’s known in Mexico, dates back over a century. It was originally created to try and persuade people out of their houses and into the town plazas.
Popular scenes for the radish carvers include the Nativity scene, local wildlife, and well-known or local architecture. Being Mexico, of course there are a lot of fun traditions surrounding the Night of the Radishes, but the carving and the displays are at the centre.
13. Djakarta Warehouse Project, Jakarta
8th – 10th December 2023
The Djakarta Warehouse Project, commonly referred to as DWP, is one of the largest electronic dance music (EDM) festivals in Asia. Founded in 2008, the festival takes place annually in Jakarta, Indonesia and has since solidified its reputation as a must-attend event for dance music aficionados from around the world.
Originally conceived as a club event by the Indonesian concert promoter Ismaya Live, DWP quickly grew to be a huge party for EDM lovers. It started in warehouse-like settings – hence the name – but is now more of a large-scale, huge spectacle.
The lineup is a bit like a “who’s who” of the dance music world. Over the years, international headliners such as David Guetta, Martin Garrix, Calvin Harris, and Skrillex, among many others, have graced its stages.
Beyond the music, DWP is also a visual spectacle. With state-of-the-art light shows, pyrotechnics, and stage designs, it’s quite an impressive festival in December to check out.
Best festivals in December
As the year comes to an end, there are so many celebrations in December around the world to indulge in. They’re not all Christmas and New Years-related either, with lots of the best festivals in December celebrating an array of things from nature to arts to different cultures. But if you do love the winter wonderland festivities, there’s also plenty on offer too.
The December festival list is full of interesting places to visit too, so it’s easy to make a festival part of a wider trip of exploring new places. From Dubai to Mexico to the French Alps, it’s definitely worth taking a trip abroad to finish off the new year in style.
What festival is celebrated in the month of December?
December is a crazy, full month when it comes to festivals. While Christmas, commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ on the 25th, is undeniably one of the most prominent events in December, the month also hosts other cultural and traditional celebrations. Some of these include Hogmanay in Scotland which heralds the New Year, and the Dongzhi Festival in China that marks the winter solstice. All in all, December is a great time of global festivities.
What are the best holiday festivals?
When you think of standout holiday festivals, Christmas often takes the limelight as it’s celebrated by many around the world. Hogmanay in Scotland is all about ringing in the New Year with jubilation, and there’s also bonfires in Brighton and lights in Tokyo that form part of the December international events.
Which are the best music festivals in December?
December offers plenty of music festivals across different genres. Rampage in Europe is known for its electrifying drum & bass and dubstep beats. On the other side of the world, the SnowGlobe Music Festival in the US blends EDM, hip-hop, and indie rock amidst a snowy backdrop. For those inclined towards Afrobeats, dancehall, bashment, and hip-hop, Afro Nation is a crowd-puller.
Are there EDM festivals in December?
December sees a surge in EDM (Electronic Dance Music) festivals, especially as the countdown to New Year begins. The SnowGlobe Music Festival is a notable one in this category. When it comes to EDM festivals in December in the UK, there are lots of club nights and events featuring top EDM acts. On a global scale, destinations like Bali host the Djakarta Warehouse Project, celebrated as one of Asia’s premier dance music festivals. For the latest EDM action, a glance at festival calendars and local listings would be quite enlightening.
NEXT MONTH: Check out the Best Festivals in January!
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