Europe loves a party and February will be no exception. While many parts of the continent will still be shivering in the winter cold, the Mediterranean is warming up making it the perfect time to celebrate.
In Germany, this month is all about Karneval with both Cologne and Dusseldorf holding simultaneous events in the opening few days. Across the rest of Europe there are some weird and wacky events taking place that need to be seen to be believed. The added bonus is that you can enjoy some winter sun along the way.
Here are five festivals you can’t miss out on this February.
Carnival Tenerife – Tenerife, Spain
Its festival season in the Canary Islands and Tenerife throws a party like no other. Hot on the heels of the Rio Carnival in Brazil, this is a slice of Mardi Gras slightly closer to home. Kicking off at the beginning of the month and running until February 14th it is a celebration of colour, music and dancing.
While the carnival is spread across the island, the capital of Santa Cruz de Tenerife is the centre of it all. In a tradition that dates back over 200 years, the carnival’s culminates in the Coso Apoteosis del Caranval, the Grand Carnival Parade, which sees floats and performers process through the streets to huge fanfare.
Le Carnaval de Nice – Nice, France
Le Carnaval de Nice is the biggest party the French Riviera has to offer. Starting this year on February 13th, it is one of the largest carnivals in the world offering a programme to rival the best in the business. Over the two weeks, thousands of musicians and dancers from every corner of the globe descend on Nice to join in the festivities.
Stunningly decorated floats parade on the Promenade des Anglais, each more extravagant than the last. Then there is the Flower Parade, a tradition since 1876, where bouquets of flowers are thrown from the floats to the waiting crowds. It is all capped off at the emblematic Carnival venue of The Place Massena where the parades light up the night sky.
Battle of the Oranges – Ivrea, Italy
Okay, now for something a little different. Every year the people of Ivrea, a northern Italian town close to Turin, pummel each other with oranges to celebrate Ivrea’s liberation.
Legend has it that between the 12th and 13th century, the daughter of a miller fended off, and killed, the tyrannous lord of Ivrea. Violetta is represented by a woman dressed in white with a crimson headdress who throws yellow flowers and sweets to her admirers, the oranges rather grizzly depict the severed head of the vanquished lord.
While it is regularly likened to Spain’s La Tomatina, it is a much different affair. Nine competitive teams, numbering almost 4,000, pound each other with oranges in a truly bizarre spectacle and you can get involved by being part of a ‘rebellion of the people’. Just be warned as you’ll probably wake up with a few orange-shaped bruises but nothing a bit of mulled wine won’t fix.
The carnival takes place on the Sunday, Monday and Tuesday (Mardi Gras) before Ash Wednesday.
Photo credit: Giò-S.p.o.t.s. via Flickr.
Fête du Citron – Menton, France
From oranges to lemons. Fête du Citron, or the Lemon Festival, is a much different affair to the Battle of the Oranges. While oranges are hurled in Ivrea, lemons are used as decoration in Menton, in the south of France.
Tucked away in the beautiful Côte d’Azur, artists and residents alike come together every February to create some of the most stunning statues, made completely out of fruit. From pandas, giant heads and dragons to full size Asian temples, they are truly an amazing, albeit slightly odd, sights. And like with any carnival it is rounded off with a parade through the streets.
Photo credit: Saskia Heijltjes via Flickr.
Viareggio Carnevale – Viareggio, Italy
Deep in the heart of rural Tuscany is the town of Viareggio and throughout the month of February its carnival season. Starting on February 7th, and running each weekend till March, the town comes alive with the sight of thousands of costumed revellers.
It has become an annual tradition since 1873 and the festivities have got bigger and better with every passing year, so much so that it is even broadcast on Italian television. Five parades are held through the carnival leading up to the Mardi Gras-style Fat Tuesday while the town’s promenade is lined with boutiques, bars and nightclubs which remain lively well into the early hours.
Floats and huge figures are created by the local residents and depict everything from historical figures to satirical politicians, each wowing all spectators that attend.
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