SUMMER IS HERE! If there is something to be celebrated in this life it is the arrival of nice weather, vacations on the beach and a time for travel and new experiences! That’s why I started looking how the world celebrates the longest day of the year and the summer season in festivals and celebrations that you can experience while teaching English abroad!
It seems that summer brings on a change in our behavior, our attitude and also, our energy. There is something different in the air and our DNA seems to switch our energy levels up every time that the summer arrives - we feel more active, more engaged with the world and of course we are ready to have fun!!! That’s why the summer inspires some of the great festivals around the world and provides fantastic opportunities to experience culture, music, art, drinks and cuisine of different countries around the globe!
"White Nights of Summer" - St. Petersburg, Russia
If there is a season when a romantic and festive spirit takes over the streets of St. Petersburg, it is undoubtedly during summer time. From May through July, local citizens and visitors celebrate the “White Nights” when the sun barely sets and the (mostly) sun-filled days never seem to end. Known as “Beliye Nochi” to the Russians, it is a time to be on the streets and to attend an endless array of special concerts, festivals, ballet, and opera, as well as restaurants and bars that stay open late into the morning hours. Other highlights include the raising of the bridges over the River Neva (ideally viewed during an evening cruise), swimming in Lake Ladoga, and strolling through the immaculately landscaped Letnii Sad, or "Summer Gardens". The festivities reach a crescendo on June 22, when more than a million people gather for the Scarlet Sails. Featuring the sailing of tall ships and a mock pirate battle on the Neva that recreates a popular children's story, it is the largest annual public gathering in Russia!
Wianki Festival - Krakow, Poland
“Wianki” is the name of one of the most popular summer celebrations in Poland that claims its roots in an ancient pagan fertility festival. “Wianki” means “wreath,” which symbolizes the future, good fortune in love, and also fertility.
Traditionally, young women weave special garlands with symbolic herbs to wear and then deposit in the river. Boys hiding in boats along the river then make their best efforts to catch their girlfriend’s wreaths as they flow past.
The festival is celebrated throughout Poland, but originated in Krakow, which is still home to the largest and most famoust celebrations of “Wianki.” Celebrations are concentrated along the Vistula River where festivities typically include special wreath-floating events, festivals, concerts, bonfires, traditional food, firework displays and vodka drinking. Ohhh so much fun!!!
“The Night of Fire” Festival of Sant Joan - Barcelona, Spain
Spain seems to be a country where there is always a good reason to hold a festival and the Feast of Sant Joan in Barcelona is no exception! Celebrating the longest day of the year and start of the summer, festivals are held on the night of Sant Joan when the sun reaches its highest point, representing fertility, wealth and strength, which is symbolized by bonfires and fireworks throughout the city.
There are three symbols of Sant Joan:
Water, representing healing and cleaning of the sins. This inspires thousands of locals to hop in the Mediterranean for a late-night swim!
Herbs, which represent remedy and healing. Thyme, rosemary and verbena are traditionally eaten on the Night of Sant Joan, as they are believed to possess aphrodisiac properties.
Fire symbolizes abundance, purity and fertility. Fire is also important because it will clean your sins and rid you of bad luck. This inspires the tradition of lighting bonfires and fireworks that illuminate the night skies of Barcelona.
Aomori Nebuta Matsuri Festival, Japan
This Japanese summer festival is held in Aomori prefecture and is one of the largest festivals of the country, attracting more than 3.5 million people every year. According to tradition, “Nebuta” means “being sleepy” and Aomori citizens originated this event to put away the drowsiness that plagued them on hot summer days. Who doesn’t feel a bit lazy when is too hot, right?
During the festival, held from August 2nd - 7th, giant floats made from wood and paper are eleaborately decorated and illuminated from inside and are paraded through the city accompanied by taiko drums, flutes and hand cymbals.
This event is free but attendees are requested to join in the dancing while wearing the traditional haneto dancing costume! Sound like a deal? If you are in Japan and want to immerse yourself in the Japanese culture this festival provides a great opportunity!
Are you excited to live abroad next summer and experience these local festivals as a local?
- Barcelona, Spain Q&A with Lexi Sabatino
- Ultimate Japan: 11 Highlights of Living and Teaching English in Japan
- Discover the Beauty and History of Spain while Teaching English
- Teach English in Krakow, the Gem of Poland
- 5 Reasons Why Russia is a Top Job Market for Teaching English Abroad
- ¡Visca el Barça! - Teach English in Spain with a Barcelona TEFL Certification
- TEFL: The Easiest Way to Fulfill Your Dreams - Teach English in Japan
About the Author -A Chilean and a former resident of Seoul, Korea, Gabriela Fernandez is a passionate traveler, journalist, writer and political scientist with extensive international experience working as a broadcaster, writer and actress for television channels, radio stations and magazines across the globe. With a Master's Degree in International Development & Cooperation, she has explored cultures and cuisines the world over while traveling to 6 continents, more than 20 countries and hundreds of cities worldwide.