There are loads of festivals in January to enjoy. Think ‘festivals’ and you might just think summer, but… you’re wrong!
Hands up if you’re not a fan of January?
Cash strapped from Christmas, bad weather and a case of the winter blues mean many of us spend the month wishing spring would hurry up and arrive. It doesn’t have to be a total white out though.
The best way to beat the January blues is to check out this January festival calendar, and pick one or two to spice up the start of the year.
Give yourself something to look forward to!
January festivals around the world
Here are the best January celebrations to add to your year’s festival calendar.
1. Falls Festival, Australia
Approx: 28th December to 6th January
The first question to ask yourself is where in the world isn’t seeing significant amounts of snow and rain in January? Australia will do.
Falls Festival tours to Lorne, Marion Bay, Byron Bay and Fremantle from the 28th of December right through to the 6th of January giving you plenty of places to choose from.
In its 28th year, the music fest knows how to put together a line up and does a good job of blending interactional acts like Halsey, Vampire Weekend and Disclosure with locals ones too.
Falls Festival is one of the only music festivals in January around the world.
2. Harbin Ice Festival, China
Approx: 25th December to February 25th
If you’re a fan of Frozen, put this Chinese January festival on your list. Each year between Christmas Day right through to February 25th, hundreds flock to the town of Harbin in Heilongjiang province. It’s here that people showcase their sculpting skills for the annual display of the world’s best ice and snow sculptures.
And I’m not just talking small snowmen, people make whole buildings, towers and palaces big enough for visitors to walk into. At night they’re all lit up and create what feels like an entire city of icy magic.
I don’t think you’re getting much closer to Elsa than that.
3. Hogmanay, Scotland
New Year’s Eve and Day
Hogmanay was the best New Year’s Eve I’ve ever had. I was invited to attend Hogmanay as a travel blogger (amazing press trip!) and had the opportunity to join the parade through Edinburgh with the vikings, to climb up the tower, and to party all night long too.
The atmosphere in the city was awesome. So much buzz and there’s a big concert in the Gardens outside the Edinburgh Castle too. Such a fun night – I’d definitely recommend Hogmanay for a different take on a January festival.
4. Kaapse Klopse, South Africa
Kaapse Klopse is a bright festival that takes places in the streets of Cape Town in South Africa. A huge parade swans on through with music, dancing and fun, and if you go to this festival in January, you can be a part of it too.
“The Kaapse Klopse is a Cape coloured minstrel festival that takes place annually on 2 January in Cape Town, South Africa. It is also referred to as Tweede Nuwe jaar. As many as 13,000 minstrels take to the streets garbed in bright colours, either carrying colourful umbrellas or playing an array of musical instruments.”– Kaapse Klopse
5. Chinese New Year, Worldwide
Chinese New Year is celebrated the world over, mainly so everyone can eat Chinese with glee. Of course it’s a lot more important than just that to anyone in China, or with Chinese roots.
Join any of the Chinese New Year January celebrations around the world and you can expect loud parades, big meals, paper lanterns and fireworks too. Every year the ‘year of’ changes – in 2021 it’ll be the Year of the Tiger.
In England you can head to city centres and their ChinaTowns for the best celebrations. Chinese New Year is definitely one of the biggest celebrations in January around the world.
6. Sapporo Ice Festival, Japan
End of January
The Sapporo Ice Festival is based around huge ice sculptures crafted out of ice, and based on famous figures of the time. When I went there was a huge Star Wars ice display. As in, huge!
There are hundreds of ice sculptures, a snow plaza, a huge ice rink and loads of fun things to do in Sapporo. Also, it’s where the Sapporo Brewery is – fun!
You can find out more about my weekend at the Sapporo Ice Festival here.
7. Otaru Ice Festival, Japan
End of January
I went to the Otaru Ice Festival in Japan a few years ago, it was magical. I was in the north of Japan, in Hokkaido, to go to the famous Sapporo Festival – one of the best January festivals around. It just so happened that the Otaru Festival was on at the same time, nearby.
Thought I might as well pop over for a look.
I actually liked the Otaru Festival better than the Sapporo one, it was just prettier and more magical. If you want to know more about this January festival, take a look at the link above.
8. Ocaso Festival, Costa Rica
2nd to 7th January
If there’s one place that’ll pull you right of that post-christmas funk it’s a trip to Costa Rica, and Tamarindo’s Ocaso Festival gives you the perfect excuse to go. Go and as well as a brilliant festival, you’ll also get some much needed winter sun.
Kicking off right after New Years on the 2nd until the 7th of January, this underground music festival runs a line up of the hottest electronic acts with a focus on Costa Rica’s homegrown talent. But don’t expect them to be performing somewhere as mundane as say a stage; the acts perform poolside, beachside and even in a jungle making sure that the underground tunes are anything but underground.
If you can tear yourself away from the music, you can also test out Tamarindo’s surf culture.
READ MORE: The Best Festivals in September
9. Voodoo Festival, Benin
Looking for something a little different in your list of world festivals?
Start the year in Benin where each year on the 10th of January the country pays homage to its ancestors and various gods in a celebration of African spirituality. While it’s a national holiday countrywide, the town of Ouidah is the epicentre of all the celebrations with beach parties, costumes, drums, horse racing, sacred ceremonies and sacrifices.
This is probably one of the most unique festivals in January you’ll find.
No matter where you’re going for your January festival, always get international travel insurance beforehand. If anything happens it can save you thousands, and a lot of hassle. Do NOT travel without it!
10. International Kite Festival, India
If you’ve mastered how to fly a kite then kudos to you, but if you want to pick up some tips on harnessing the wind, see how the pros do it in India.
On the 14th of January, thousands of kite lovers come from over 40 countries to Ahmedabad in Gujarat where, from dawn till dusk, their homemade colourful creations fill the sky. It’s one of the most popular kite festivals around the world.
And the fun isn’t just reserved for the flyer. Locals and tourists make a real day of it by hosting viewing parties, eating special foods like laddoos and a pop-up kite bazaar even opens for the full week before.
The International Kite Festival is just one of the many amazing festivals in India worth travelling over there for.
11. Winterworld, Germany
A little closer to home and not hitting the bank balance quite as hard, Winterworld takes place in Germany’s Karlsruhe on January 19th.
In its 17th year, it’s another for electronic music fans as well as those with a penchant for EDM and drum and bass, bringing together top DJs from across the genres. For ten solid hours, 8,000 people pack into the city’s dm-Arena and with tickets under €50 it’s a bargain.
12. Sneeuwbal Winter Festival
Rather than running from it, one option is to fully embrace the colder weather in all its fur-wearing glory and head somewhere like Utrecht in the Netherlands for the Sneeuwbal Winter Festival. This is one of the coolest options on the January festival calendar.
On the 26th of January, top house and techno acts take the stage from 2pm in what organisers call an atmosphere of an ‘après-ski party.’ Adding to the theme, festivalgoers can alternate between listening to acts in igloos and activities like ice skating or snow sliding.
Dress code? Your wildest winter outfit whether that be 80s ski apparel or an ugly Christmas sweater. How’s that for a fun January festival for you? It’s definitely one of the best winter festivals you could choose. Check out these great skiing festivals in Europe too.
13. Up Helly Aa, Shetlands, Scotland
Last Tuesday in January
You may think Scotland in the depths of January isn’t the best idea but I promise you Up Helly Aa, aka Europe’s largest fire festival, will soon warm you up.
On the last Tuesday in January, the town of Lerwick in the Shetland Islands embraces its Viking heritage putting a year’s worth of preparation out in full display. Think authentic music and dance performances, epic costumes, the burning of a Viking boat and plenty of beer before 1,000 Viking clad residents hold burning torches in a parade through the town.
This is the type of festival I’m meaning when I talk about the importance of festivals in this article. Check it out to learn more on why we NEED festivals back!
14. Sundance Film Festival, USA
End of January
The Sundance Film Festival takes place every year in Salt Lake City in Utah. It’s where the newest films are shown for critical acclaim.
This is the ultimate film festival in January for movie buffs to attend, and one of the most exciting January events in the film calendar.
“In 2021, we will offer an online platform featuring seven days of premieres, events, artist talks, and cutting-edge XR exhibitions. We will also be partnering with independent cinema communities across the U.S. and beyond to safely host in-person events. Adventurous audiences and indie film lovers everywhere will come together to be the first to discover and celebrate the bold, creative visions and exciting new talent that people will be talking about all year.”– SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL
15. Straw Bear Festival
On the first Monday after Twelfth Night the Straw Bear Festival takes place in Whittlesey, near Peterborough.
At the Straw Bear Festival, a straw bear is paraded around the town. Dancers and musicians from all over the country come to take part. The star attraction is a man covered from head to foot in a straw costume, dressed like a bear, which weighs 30kg!
Festivals in January
Going to a January festival is a great way to kick the year off in style. January can be a funny month, with dodgy weather, no money and everyone trying to get started on their New Year Resolutions. I recommend you ditch all that for next year, and just book yourself a festival in January to have a great way to kick off what’s going to be a brilliant year for you.
Which of these January festivals sounds best to you?
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