Winter Carnival

There may be a chill in the air, but that’s no reason to stay in and hibernate. All across Europe, people are gathering, finding unique ways to fend off the cold of winter.

Venice Carnival

In many European nations, the onset of the New Year marks the beginning of Carnival Season. Italy is no exception, and though the nation boasts scores of annual celebrations, one of its most famous yearly festivals is the Venice Carnival. A deceptively modern tradition, Venice’s Carnival began in 1979 and has continued gaining in popularity and notoriety since. However, like many Venetian traditions, Carnival’s roots extend well into the City of Bridges’ history, and was celebrated in the region as early as the 11th century. Historically, masks played a crucial role in the celebrations. To foster a truly inclusive, lively atmosphere, citizens of Venice donned masks, hiding their identities from one another and ruling out any chance of exclusion based upon heritage or class. When the Carnival tradition was revived in the late 20th century, masks were brought back to the forefront of the celebration. Ironically, the contemporary practice of costuming represented a sort of homage to Venice’s rich cultural tradition, rather than a means to mask one’s heritage. Throughout late January and early February, Venetians take part in Carnival with art, dance, and music. Yet, detailed, ornate facades remain a highlight of one of Venice’s biggest annual celebrations.

Croatia Bike Tour

Opposite Italy on the Adriatic Sea, Croatia rings in the New Year with a large festival season beginning on January 17. Each major Croatian city has its own way of celebrating Carnival in the early days of winter, and the partying usually continues through mid-February. One of the more noteworthy, and unorthodox celebrations occurs in the port city of Rijeka, Croatia’s third largest. Small parades and outdoor gatherings occur throughout January and February, but the Carnival Season truly culminates on the Sunday before Ash Wednesday, February 19 this year. Beginning at noon, a city-wide procession draws onlookers from many of Rijeka’s surrounding communities. The parade continues through the day and winds down in the evening, as spectators gather near the sea to take in the Burning of the Pust. A large puppet that is held responsible for all of the previous years’ misfortunes, the Pust’s charges are publically read, and then he is sent out to sea to be burned. As the Pust misdeeds smolder in the distance, the slate is clear for a new year to roll on, and a Mediterranean jubilee ensues.

Temple Bar

Stemming from Ireland’s grand musical tradition, Temple Bar Trad Fest comes to Dublin each January to celebrate concert and Irish Culture. Boasting over 200 free events and three major headliner’s venues, there’s no shortage of ways to partake in Dublin’s largest festival. Concerts will be held outdoors, inside historic halls, and of course in pubs throughout the Temple Bar area of central Dublin. In addition, there are Irish Dance exhibitions and a rural Irish village built right into the heart of the city. Though only in its seventh year, Temple Bar Trad Fest is quickly becoming one of Europe’s must-see events.

Join in on the celebration with a biking or walking vacation with VBT and fill us in on your favorite festival in the comments below!