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 in December to your must do list.
1. Snowglobe, Lake Tahoe, California
Snowglobe Festival on December 29th every year
If your first thought was that this was a convention filled with thousands of snow globes then you may be slightly disappointed. Instead of sharing an appreciation for all things miniature and snow-covered, Snowglobe Lake Tahoe is in fact a Christmas-loving December music festival that requires attendees to bundle up in their winter best so they can enjoy the epic tunes without falling victim to frostbite.
While the California location might have you doubting such duffle coat temps exist, the Lake Tahoe spot is actually a ski resort which means it’s scarfs on and dancing moves out.
Snowglobe takes place from December 29th right through until the new year. It’s the perfect spot to see in the new year and the last chance you’ll have to really live it up this year.
2. Fête des Lumières, Lyon, France
Fête des Lumières Festival on December 5th to 8th (ish)
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 5th to 8th of December 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!
3. Mother City Queer Project, Cape Town
Mother City Queer Project Festival on December 31st
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.
4. Burning the Clocks, Brighton
Burning the Clocks Festival on December 21st
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. I really want to go to this – need to make it happen this year!
READ MORE: The Best Present Ideas for Festivals
5. Hogmanay, Scotland
Hogamanay Festival on December 31st every year
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.
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.
6. Krampusnacht Festival, Vienna
Krampusnacht Festival on December 5th (ish)
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!
7. Chichibu Yomatsuri, Japan
Chichibu Yomatsuri Festival on December 2nd and 3rd every year
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 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.
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!
8. Junkanoo Parade, Bahamas
December 26th to January 1st
Want to go to a festival in December in the Caribbean? Well, Junkanoo in the Bahamas could be the one for you.
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.
9. Al Dhafra Festival, Abu Dhabi
October to January
As December events go, this is definitely a unique one. The Al Dhafra Festival in Abu Dhabi is a celebration of Bedouin lifestyle that takes place over three weeks in December and January.
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.
10. St Kitts-Nevis Carnival
Start of December to start of January
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.
11. Rakastella, Miami, Florida
Saturday December 4th, 2021
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
12. Rise Festival – Les Deux Alpes, France
11th to 18th December, 2021
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. 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.
13. Night of the Radishes, Mexico
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.
Know of any other good festivals in December?
Let me know in the comments below!
NEXT MONTH: Check out the Best Festivals in January!