13 Best Festivals in December Around the World 2023-2024

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Everyone enjoys celebrating, so here are 13 of the best festivals in December around the world to add to your bucket list!

December is a great time to travel and there are many fantastic festivals around the world held at this time of year. There is no better way to really experience and try to understand a culture than to participate in a local festival. The memories of the music, food, ceremonies and traditions will stay with you forever.

There are so many amazing festivals in December around the world to experience, so here is our bucket list pick of the 13 best December festivals that offer something for everyone.

N.B. We will updating this list regularly, so if you have any festivals, events or celebrations in December you think should make the list, please let us know in the comments section.

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Did You Know?

  • December was originally the tenth month of the year in the Roman calendar. It gets its name from the Latin word “decem” which means tenth. However, when the Romans added January and February to the calendar, it became the twelfth month. They still kept the name, though.
  • The term Yuletide comes from a Norse tradition of cutting and burning a tree to bring in the Winter Solstice. This was to last through 12 days – later known as the 12 days of Christmas.
  • Saint Nickolas, who would eventually be called Santa Claus, was originally the patron saint of children, thieves and pawnbrokers!
  • December is the month to celebrate National Christmas Lights Day (1st), Letter Writing Day (7th), Bake Cookies Day (18th), Christmas Eve (24th), Christmas Day (25th) and New Year’s Eve (31st).

“Here’s to the nights that turned into mornings, and the friends that turned into family.”

– Anonymous –

Festivals in December Around the World

Here are the best December festivals and celebrations to add to your bucket list travel calendar.

1. Amsterdam Light Festival – Amsterdam, Netherlands

Recommended by Nina at ‘Lemons and Luggage’

light display of tulips in amsterdam
Light Display at the Amsterdam Light Festival in December
  • Where: Amsterdam, Netherlands
  • When: Annually in December and January: 30 November, 2023 – 21 January, 2024 | 2024 – 2025 dates TBC
  • Duration: Approx. 2 months

The Amsterdam Light Festival takes place annually in the Dutch capital from December to January. With the drop of temperatures and the shorter, darker days, the Amsterdam Light Festival is a great way to still get out and about and enjoy Amsterdam, the beautiful capital city of the Netherlands.

For the Amsterdam Light Festival, several national and international artists create fascinating light displays that can be seen on a winter walk along the city’s canals. Visitors can purchase a map to follow the route of the artworks or try to find them on their own. But another very popular way of enjoying the festival is on a boat tour through Amsterdam’s canals. In fact, some of the displays can only be seen properly from the water.

With the canal cruise, you have different options ranging from the cheapest option at around €26.50 on a small boat with an open roof, all the way to €70 for a luxury boat tour which includes drinks and a light snack.

Due to the nature of the displays, they are only on in the afternoons and evenings so they can be seen properly. That means you can do all your regular sightseeing in Amsterdam during the day and then head to the light festival after dinner.

Don’t miss out – book early! Check rates and availability of accommodation options in Amsterdam here!

2. Dickens Festival – Deventer, Netherlands

Recommended by Cosette at ‘KarsTravels’

actors dressed as policemen in street
Dickens Festival
  • Where: Deventer, Netherlands
  • When: Annually on the weekend before Christmas in December: 16 – 17 December, 2023 | 14 – 15 December, 2024
  • Duration: 2 days

The Dickens Festival is held in Deventer. Deventer is a city in the East of the Netherlands. Each year in December on the weekend before Christmas the Bergkwartier area (medieval part of the city) is turned into a 19th Century English town from Dickens. For 2 days you can feel like you’re part of the books of Charles Dickens.

People from the whole country and neighbouring countries flock to this festival, since it’s perfect to get into the festive Christmas spirit. The actors do their performances well and stay in character the whole time.

During the festival over 950 actors and residents play the roles of Scrooge, Queen Victoria, carol singers, Oliver Twist and chimney sweeps. They perform sketches, choirs and plays. The atmosphere is perfect, the backdrop being the medieval part of town only adds to this.

There’s no entrance fee for the festival. However you do have to wait in line to enter the festival. This can be up to 1 or 2 hours. There’s only one way in and one way out to this outdoor festival. You’ll follow a designated route, during which time you can engage with the actors. This will take at least 2 to 3 hours.

Dress up in warm, comfortable clothes, since it can be cold and/or rainy. Wear sturdy shoes since you’re walking a lot. 

Check availability AND RATES oF accommodation options in Lake Louise HERE!

3. Dwijing Festival of Chirang – Chirang, Assam, India

Recommended by Raksha at ‘Solo Passport

coloured flgas in the water
Dwijing Festival of Chirang, Bodoland
  • Where: Chirang, Assam, India
  • When: Annually from the 27 December to 7 January: 27 December, 2023 to 7 January, 2024 | 27 December, 2024 to 7 January, 2025
  • Duration: 12 days

Organised by Assam and Bodoland tourism departments, the Dwijing Festival of Chirang is an annual river festival that is celebrated on the banks of River Aie near Hagrama Bridge in Assam state of India. Dwijing means riverbank and Aie means mother in Bodo language. Started in 2016, the Dwijing Festival is conducted every year during the last week of December and first week of January.

The festival brings out the best and importance of Assamese culture and traditions, especially that of the Bodo people. It is a 12-day celebration that has music, dance, art and handicraft exhibitions, and food.  

The music at the festival entails the beautiful and colourful line-up of cultural concerts and dance forms, performed by the local artists and performers. One of the most important dance forms that is performed at the festival is the Bihu dance form. Bihu dance is an indigenous folk dance, usually involving young women and men dancing by brisk steps and rapid hand movements.

The exhibitions at the festival have stalls that sell the handicraft and art products produced by the local artisans. They also have the traditional attire and jewellery that is worn by the local Bodo people. What makes the festival more special is the food that is sold and served. There are a lot of stalls selling the local delicacies, including rice cakes and silkworms.

Check RATES AND availability oF accommodation options in Assam NOW!

4. Feria de Cali (Cali Fair) – Cali, Colombia

Recommended by Daniel at ‘Layer Culture’

paper mache heads of 2 women in a street parade
Feria de Cali Festival in December – Cali, Colombia
  • Where: Cali, Colombia
  • When: Annually on the 25 – 30 December: 25 – 30 December, 2023 | 25 – 30 December, 2024
  • Duration: 6 days

From the 25th December to the 30th of December in Cali, Colombia you can find one of the biggest and most anticipated Salsa festivals in the world. This is a festival that has been running since December 1957 and is one of the best things to do in Cali for anyone who is interested in arts and culture.

La Feria de Cali usually attracts more than 2 million visitors who travel from all corners of the globe to get involved in the festive party atmosphere. For example, the Salsadrome is usually the opening act to start off the rest of the events throughout the week. So it is on the 25th where you’ll see the liveliest dancers, colourful costumes, and some of Colombia’s best salsa dancers, many of whom dance the well-known Caleño Style salsa which most salsa aficionados visit Cali for.

Not only is this festival a tribute to the people of Cali, but showcases many elements of local Afro-Colombian culture. Everything from the music, the gastronomy, the live concerts, salsa marathons, and fireworks all have a special place during these 6 days of fun in December. Many of the events are free, but to get a seat to see the Salsadrome live in action, you must purchase tickets.

DON’T MISS OUT! Check availability on accommodation options in Cali HERE.

5. Harbin Ice and Snow Festival – China

Recommended by Pete at ‘The Backpacking Family

ice sculptures of lit up buildings
Harbin Ice Festival, China
  • Where: Harbin, Heilongjiang province, China
  • When: Annually in December through to February: 17 December 2023 – 28 February 2024 | 224 / 2025 dates TBC
  • Duration: Approx. 68 days

The Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival is one of the most impressive festivals we have witnessed in all our travels. This superlative festival consists of giant ice buildings and intricate sculptures of animals, people and mythical creatures. By night, lights shine through the ice to produce an array of colours creating a surreal winter wonderland. The ice festival often includes fun activities such as ice slides and skating rings

The Harbin Ice Festival is testament to the commitment, determination and collaboration of the Chinese community. As soon as the Songhua River freezes over, work begins constructing the biggest and most impressive ice sculptures in the world. Engineers and artists work side by side to carve giant blocks of ice which are then sculptured and assembled into the 3D work of art.

Harbin is located in the Heilongjiang province of North China. Dress warm as winter temperatures average around -17oC (around 1.4oF) and regularly dip as low as -25oC (which is -13oF). The dates of the Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival vary from year to year. You can see ice harvesting and construction in November and December. The Ice and Snow World is normally open from late December until February. Tickets cost around 250 yuan (around £30 or roughly $40).

The Harbin Ice and Snow Festival is considered to be one of the most amazing festivals around the world to attend, so this festivals should definitely be added to your bucket list!

ACCOMMODATION BOOKS OUT EARLY… Check RATES AND availability oF accommodation options in Harbin NOW!

6. Hogmanay – Edinburgh, Scotland

firework display above a castle
Hogmanay, Scotland
  • Where: Edinburgh Scotland,
  • When: Annually on 31 December: 31 December, 2023 | 31 December, 2024
  • Duration: 1 day

Hogmanay is the Scottish name for the last day of the old year and is synonymous with the celebration of the New Year.  Its origins date back to the celebration of the winter solstice among the Vikings with wild parties in late December.

On this day, the Scottish observe many traditions, but the most famous of these is first footing which stems back to Viking times. The first footer is the first person to cross over your threshold after midnight and is seen to bring good luck in the coming year.

There are many celebrations in the city on New Year’s Eve including a torchlight procession creating a river of fire down the historic Royal Mile. Party-goers gather at Princes Street for the world famous Edinburgh Hogmanay street party, and at midnight there is a spectacular firework display on and above Edinburgh Castle. The fireworks are followed by a national sing-along to Robert Burns’ Auld Lang Syne.  

What better way to ring in the New Year than at one of the best party festivals in the world!

BOOK EARLY! Check availability on accommodation options in Edinburgh NOW.

7. Lightopia Festival – London, England

  • Where: London, England
  • When: Annually from mid-November to early-January: 17 November, 2023 – 2 January, 2024 | 2024 / 2025 dates TBC
  • Duration: approx. 7 weeks

We have added Lightopia Festival to our post on the ‘Best Festivals in November” as it begins in the middle of November. However, this festival can also be enjoyed from November through to early January each year.

Read more about the Lightopia Festival in London, England in our post on the Best November Festivals Around the World

8. New Year’s Eve – Worldwide

firework display in nightsky above water
  • Where: Worldwide
  • When: Annually on 31 December: 31 December, 2023 | 31 December, 2024
  • Duration: 1 day

Generally, most countries celebrate New Year’s Eve at evening parties where there is lots of dancing, drinking, music, eating, and fireworks bring in the New Year. These celebrations generally go on past midnight into the early hours of New Year’s Day, the 1st January.

Interestingly, different countries in the world have very creative and culturally unique ways of welcoming the New Year. Here are some examples I bet you didn’t know!

  • Chile: New Year’s Eve masses are held not at church, but in cemeteries so deceased loved ones are included in the New Year’s Eve celebrations.
  • Ecuador: Ecuadorians parade around the city with scarecrows made to look like popular politicians and cultural icons, and at midnight the scarecrows are burnt in a bonfire to cleanse the new year of everything evil.
  • Brazil: Brazilians throw white flowers into the ocean to make offerings to Yemoja, a water deity, to get her blessings for the year to come.
  • Russia: Two divers – Father Frost and the Ice Maiden – plant underwater trees in the world’s largest lake, Lake Baikal.
  • Denmark: It’s a Danish tradition to throw plates at your friends’ and neighbours’ front doors on New Year’s Eve.
  • Italy: Italians wear red underwear on Ney Year’s Eve as the colour red symbolises fertility.
  • Greece: The Greeks hang onions to promote growth throughout the New Year.
  • Turkey: It is considered good luck to sprinkle salt on your doorstep as the clock strikes midnight.
  • Ireland: Single ladies sleep with a mistletoe under their pillow on New Year’s Eve to help them find their future husband.

Check PRICES AND availability oF accommodation options here!

9. Rann Utsav– Kutch, Gujarat, India

  • Where: Kutch, Gujarat, India
  • When: Annually during Winter: 2023 / 2024 dates TBC
  • Duration: approx. 100 days
4 indian musicians sitting on a map in the desert
Rann Utsav Festival in Kutch, India: Image by Ali Tinwala at Pixabay

We have added Rann Utsav to our post on the ‘Best Festivals in January” as it is said the best time to visit this festival is in January. However, this festival can also be enjoyed from November through to February each year.

Read more about the Rann Utsav in Kutch, Gujarat, India in our post on the Best Festivals held in January Around the World

10. Sydney New Year’s Eve – Worldwide

firework display from sydney harbour bridge
Sydney New Year’s Eve: Image by Padraig Treanor at Unsplash
  • Where: Sydney Harbour
  • When: Annually on 31 December: 31 December, 2023 | 31 December, 2024
  • Duration: 1 day

Sydney New Year’s Eve festival is held in Sydney Harbour each year and consists of many events throughout the course of the day. Bands play at various locations around the harbour, but the main events are the two firework displays: the 9pm Family Fireworks and the Midnight Fireworks.

The Midnight Fireworks display is centred on the Sydney Harbour Bridge and has a different theme each year set to music. This fireworks display is televised internationally to more than one billion people worldwide and symbolises the start of global New Year festivities.

When visiting Sydney, allow some extra time to enjoy the many coastal and rural towns close by that make ideal day / weekend trips from Sydney.

DON’T MISS OUT… Check PRICES AND availability oF accommodation options Sydney NOW!

11. Whirling Dervishes in Mevlana Festival – Konya, Turkey

men dancing in long white cloaks spinning in circles
Whirling Dervishes Festival in December in Konya, Turkey: Image by Hulki Okan Tabak at Unsplash
  • Where: Konya, Turkey
  • When: Annually on 17 December: 17 December, 2023 | 17 December, 2024
  • Duration: 1 day

Most people are probably familiar with the visual spectacle of the Whirling Dervishes, men dressed completely in white and spinning with their arms spread wide as if in a trance. The tradition dates back over 700 years, but today two of the most important remaining Mevlevihanesi (the real name of the Whirling Dervishes) that perform the Whirling Dervish Ceremony are the ones in Konya and the Galata Mevlevihanesi in Istanbul.

The Whirling Dervishes Ceremony / ritual is performed each year on the anniversary of Rumi’s death. Large crowds (expect in excess of 1 million tourists and pilgrims at Konya) from all over the world come to watch displays of the Whirling Prayer Ceremony.

The Whirling Dervishes Ceremony is the inspiration of Rumi, as well as a part of the Turkish custom, history, beliefs and culture. The Sema ceremony represents a mystical journey of man’s spiritual ascent through mind and love to perfection. The ritual consists of seven parts, each having its own meaning.

The dervishes start the ceremony in dark cloaks, but then remove their cloaks and headdress symbolising the start of their spiritual journey. To the sounds of Sufi music, the Dervishes spin with their arms over their chest showing their unity to God. They then extend their right arm towards the sky and left arm down towards the earth receiving the spiritual gift from God and passing that goodness on to the people.

To become a Dervish, one must take a vow of poverty and live in monastic conditions, similar to Christian monks. For these Dervishes, spinning is their way of worshipping.

Check RATES AND availability oF accommodation options in Konya HERE!

12. Winter Festival of Lights – Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada

rainbow light display behind niagara falls
Winter Festival of Lights: Image by Bryan Goff-G at Unsplash
  • Where: Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada
  • When: Annually from November to February (Winter): 11 November, 2023 – 19 February, 2024 | 2024 – 2025 dates TBC
  • Duration: 101 Nights

We have added the Winter Festival of Lights to our post on the ‘Best Festivals in November” as it begins in the month of November. However, this festival can also be enjoyed from November through to February each year.

Read more about the Winter Festival of Lights in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada in our post on the Best November Festivals Around the World

13. Woodford Folk Festival – Woodford, Queensland, Australia

  • Where: Woodford, Queensland, Australia
  • When: Annually from 27 December to 1 January: 27 December, 2022 – 1 January, 2023 | 27 December, 2022 – 1 January, 2024
  • Duration: 6 days

The Woodford Folk Festival, also known as Woodfordia, is an annual music and arts festival that takes place over six days in Woodford, Queensland, Australia. The festival was first held in 1986, and has since grown to become one of the largest cultural festivals of its kind in the country.

The event boasts over 2000 performers and over 400 events, featuring a wide range of music, dance, and theatre performances, as well as art exhibitions and workshops. It is also home to the largest fire parade in the southern hemisphere. People of all ages and interests will enjoy the programs on offer.

The best way to make the most of this festival experience is to buy a season ticket which will cover you for the entire six days of the festival, and set up your tent, van, caravan or motorhome and camp onsite. Get in early though as camping sites are limited, and are booked on a first-come, first-served basis. Alternatively, you can also buy a one-day ticket, however, you must specify the date you will attend.

If you are planning to stay a little longer in the region, there are lots of things to do on the Sunshine Coast, including visiting the quaint towns in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland, enjoying one of the many hiking trails, or visiting the world renowned Australia Zoo.

BOOK EARLY… Check availability on accommodation options in Woodford HERE!

December Celebrations Around the World FAQs

Where are the top festivals in the world?

Where are the best music festivals in December?

Some of the best music festivals December are the following:
* Woodford Folk Festival in Woodford, Queensland, Australia
* SnowGlobe Music Festival in Lake Tahoe, California
* Rise Festival in Les Deux Alpes, France
* Feria de Cali (Cali Fair) in Cali, Colombia

Where are the best New Year festivals around the world?

Some of the best party festivals in the world for New Year’s Eve are the following:
* Sydney, Australia
* Hogmanay in Edinburgh, Scotland
* New York, USA
* Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
* Berlin, Germany

Where are the best December holidays worldwide?

Some of the best party festivals in the world for New Year’s Eve are the following:
* Krampusnacht in Germany
* Hannukah
* Santa Lucia in Scandinavia
* December Solstice and Yule
* Christmas
* New Year’s Eve

In Summary – The Best Festivals in December Around the World

You can find many world festivals and holidays celebrated in December around the world which are held every year. You will be spoilt for choice if you choose to celebrate at one of the many December festivals worldwide as there are lots of both smaller and larger festivals out there for you to pick from and enjoy. Find the festival you love in the country you love, and dive on in to the celebrations.

What is your favourite December festival around the world and why? Have you been to any of our list of the best festivals in December around the world listed above? Have we missed any major festivals around the world in December you think we should add? Post your tips, comments and questions below.

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