September 18, 2019 | How To
Surviving and thriving during the world’s best festivals
By Abby S.
I’m Abby, a Senior Trip Consultant and an expert on three of the best parties the world has to offer. I like to consider myself a professional celebrator, if you will, so I’m here to tell you about some of my favorite celebrations across the globe.
St. Patrick's Day
Ahhh St. Paddy’s Day, or “Paddy’s Day” as the locals call it. This was my first major international celebration and let’s just say I’ve been hooked ever since.
Time of year: Ireland starts getting into the St. Paddy’s Day spirits (pun intended) for the whole month of March, but the main event takes place on March 17.
What you’re celebrating: St. Paddy’s Day was a very religious holiday created to honor St. Patrick, who ministered Christianity in Ireland during the fifth century. Overtime, churchgoers started celebrating their Irish heritage with cheeky pints of Guinness and live music on March 17. Now, it’s more widely known as a global celebration of Irish culture.
What it’s like: Coming from Boston where we treat St. Paddy’s Day as a drinking holiday, I was prepared for the same thing in Ireland. To my surprise, it’s a very family friendly event and the city of Dublin turns into a sea of green. Both locals and Europeans flock to the city to take part in the celebrations, so it feels like you’re a part of an authentic, traditional experience.
How you celebrate: The St. Patrick's Day parade is the main event (don’t forget to wear the colors of the Irish flag!). Think of it as the Irish version of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, but many of the floats represent Irish folklore. Pro tip—the folklore stories are amazing and mystical so make sure to ask the locals what they mean. More importantly, be prepared for large crowds of people traveling to O’Connell Street early in the morning…and then flocking to the Temple Bar district to continue the celebration.
Why it’s awesome: Pints of Guinness, Irish step dancing, singing songs you don’t understand, and cheering “sláinte” to happily partying strangers all day—what’s not to like?!
Top tips: Have a buddy to navigate the crowds with and set meeting points. It’s important to pace yourself since it is an all-day beer-drinking celebration, so remember to hydrate and eat something amid all the partying. To go off the beaten path, avoid the Temple bar district and visit the Brazen Head. It’s the oldest pub in Ireland and you’ll find more of the locals celebrating there.
Who should go? If you have Irish heritage or just love Guinness and Irish accents, then this trip is for you.
I had to check this one off the list considering my ancestors were from Germany.
Time of year: End of September to the beginning of October.
What you’re celebrating: Oktoberfest started back in 1810 to celebrate a royal wedding. All of Bavaria was invited to attend the celebration, which closed with horse races and a large festival for the patrons. Turn up.
What it’s like: Oktoberfest is like a magical German wonderland held on five acres of fields, which consist of giant (and beautifully decorated) tents, fair rides, delicious food, fresh beer, and more music than anyone could ask for. Since it is a fair, it is also a family-friendly event. And let me tell you, there is nothing cuter than the little kids in their dirndls and lederhosens.
How you celebrate: Girls, wear your dirndls, and, guys, throw on your ‘hosen for the best party of the year. Maybe I’m biased, but it really doesn’t get any better than Oktoberfest. Get ready to “prost” your steins of beer with people from all over the world while singing and dancing to German drinking songs. Ultimate Break reserves a table for the group in a tent for a few hours, which includes a stein of beer and Wiesen Hendl. After that, feel free to go tent hopping, eat more fair food, and go on some rides.
Why it’s awesome: You’re friends with everyone even though you may not all speak the same language. Plus, all of the beer is locally brewed so you know it’s tasty and fresh. Not to mention the tents. These tents are huge wooden structures decorated according to their brewery. Outside each tent are beautiful Clydesdale horses who stand proudly representing barrels of the tent’s beer. Magical.
Top tips: It’s important to pace yourself and make sure you eat. Drink one glass of water per stein and order a radler, which is half lemonade half beer. And be sure to eat spaetzli, that’s spit roasted chicken! I’d recommend buying your dirndl or lederhosen in Munich for the most authentic look. Plus, make sure you check out as many tents as you can since each one has a different theme.
Who should go? If you have German heritage, like theme parties, are a fan of dancing on tables to live music, and singing German songs, this is for you.
Full Moon Party
Let’s kick it up a notch here with Thailand’s Full Moon Party. This is an all-night neon party held on Haad Rin beach on the southernmost tip of Koh Pha Ngan island where the moon shines the brightest.
Time of year: Quite literally this party happens every full moon. There are also smaller half moon parties in between the full moon.
What you’re celebrating: The origin of the full moon party is a mystery. Legend says it was a birthday celebration, some think it was purely just to celebrate the moon, and others claim it was just a great place for tourists to party until the early morning since Haad Rin’s pristine beach is only accessible by boat.
What it’s like: Tourists from all over the world flock to Haad Rin to dance to EDM played by DJs who line the beach. One section of the beach plays old school hip hop and top 40 songs as well if you’re not a big EDM fan. The Full Moon Party is known for its bucket drinks, neon outfits, body paint, and fire-throwing entertainers—so be prepared to sweat and dance until the sun comes up.
How you celebrate: My group and I had the whole day before the Full Moon Party to lay by the pool, go to the beach, shop for our party outfits, and eat some delicious Thai food to prepare for the all-nighter we were about to pull. Getting ready is one of the best parts of the night because you get to lather yourself in body paint and if you’re anything like me, dump glitter all over yourself. Then, put on your party pants (which must be neon) and get ready to burn a million calories dancing under the moon.
Why it’s awesome: Forget about Coachella. If you want to go to the ultimate dance party, this is it. You meet people from all over the world who travel to Haad Rin for the same purpose. Everyone is so friendly and ready to have a good time.
Top tips: Share the buckets with friends and don’t drink too many. They’re very strong and can sneak up on you if you aren’t careful. Be sure to wear sandals with a hard sole or sneakers since there can be broken glass in the sand. Also, do not bring a purse or bag. Bust out your fanny pack and only bring your phone and some cash with you. Keep all the other valuables in your hotel room. It’s also important to make sure you hydrate. One last hot tip is to buy your outfit when you get there. The island is very cheap and lined with rows of stores that sell Full Moon Party outfits, paint, glitter, flower crowns, and everything your little festival heart desires.
Who should go? If you love music festivals, you’ll love the Full Moon Party. For me, this was a bucket list international celebration I had to attend. The Thai Islands feel like you are on a tropical paradise—and it doesn’t hurt that everything is extremely affordable and the food is incredible.