We know summer is already in full swing, but in case you’re jetting off on vacation in the coming weeks, or you’re an eager traveler wanting to plan ahead for next year, we’ve pulled together some of the most interesting summer traditions in Scandinavia, Russia, Japan, Ireland, and China just for you!
Although many travelers flock to Scandinavia during the winter months in search of the Northern Lights, a Scandinavian vacation in the summer is definitely one to add to your wish list. Throughout Scandinavia, particularly Sweden, Midsummer is one of the most important holidays. Originally a pagan festival, Midsummer celebrates the constant daylight following the long, dark winters and sees friends and families flocking to the countryside.
Besides dancing around the maypole in traditional folk costumes, the Scandinavians dig into classic Midsummer dishes, including pickled herring and boiled new potatoes.
WHITE NIGHTS, ST. PETERSBURG, RUSSIA
Approximately 90 miles from the Arctic Circle, St. Petersburg is the world’s most northern city and revels in close to round-the-clock daylight during the summer. Attracting millions of tourists each year, these ‘White Nights’ are a phenomenon allowing you to appreciate everything St. Petersburg has to offer twenty-four hours a day. On top of the non-stop parties, the city also plays host to firework displays and daily live music, opera and ballet performances during the summer months.
AOMORI NEBUTA MATSURI FESTIVAL, JAPAN
Discover another summer tradition at the Aomori Nebuta Matsuri Festival in Japan. Between August 2nd – 7th, vibrant lantern floats depicting gods and mythical characters are paraded through the streets. Constructed out of washi, a traditional Japanese handmade paper, the floats take up to one year to construct. As the floats are pushed through the streets, creating a river of color, the parade is brought to life by groups of taiko drummers and dancers. What’s more, the top three floats win the chance to cruise along the bay on a boat on the final day of the festival. There’s nothing like a bit of healthy competition!
PUCK FAIR, KILLORGLIN, IRELAND
As you know from our St. Patrick’s Day article, Irish people definitely know how to celebrate and the same goes for summer traditions. The Puck Fair, celebrated in the small town of Killorglin in County Kerry, gets its name from the Irish word ‘poc,’ which means billy goat. But what does a goat have to do with it? Although the origin of the festival is unknown, it is said that the event honors a wild goat that acted heroically during the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland in the 1600s. Upon seeing Cromwell’s army, the goat broke away from its herd in fear. Its arrival at Killorglin warned the people of the army’s impending arrival, giving them time defend themselves against an attack.
As a tribute to that goat, the people of Killorglin choose one mountain goat each year and crown him “King Puck” for the duration of the 3-day festival. The town also hosts a horse fair, live music and dance performances, firework displays, and a colorful parade in celebration. Now, how’s that for a summer tradition!
GHOST FESTIVAL, CHINA
In China, the seventh lunar month of the Chinese Lunar Calendar is Ghost Month. At this time, the gates of hell open, allowing the ghosts of the deceased to re-enter the living world. To keep the ghosts satisfied and prevent them from wreaking havoc, families worship their ancestors by offering sacrifices of food, money and entertainment.
This year, on August 25th (the 15th day of the seventh Chinese month), you can also expect to see glowing lanterns floating along the river. According to Chinese tradition, these lanterns direct the lost ghosts back to their families. The Ghost Festival is also celebrated in other parts of Asia, including Japan, Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia. Although this is a less joyful festival, its deep roots in Asia’s history and tradition enables you to gain an insight into this culture.