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5 Foreign Holidays We Should Celebrate in the United States
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August 6, 2019
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Travel Trivia Editorial
europe

Other countries celebrate holidays quite unlike anything in America. Below, we suggest five foreign holidays we should celebrate in the United States.

Burns Night, Scotland

Beautiful cityscape in Scotland at night
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Each year on January 25, Scots gather to celebrate the works and life of their national poet, Robert Burns. The first Burns Night celebration occurred in 1801 and involved a traditional Burns Supper complete with speeches, toasts, and ceilidh dances.

Today, attendees usually recite poetry, especially the poet's famous poem, "Address to a Haggis," an ode to the Scottish national dish made from the liver, heart, and lungs of a sheep. You'll find haggis with neeps and tatties (rutabagas and potatoes) at a Burns Supper. Neeps and tatties are the traditional accompaniment to haggis.

So, we can certainly emulate Burns Night by celebrating renowned American poets and storytellers in the United States. Some names that come to mind include Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, Robert Frost, and Maya Angelou.

La Tomatina, Buñol, Spain

People throwing overripe tomatoes at each other
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Each year, tens of thousands of people flock to the Valencian town of Buñol to throw more than 100 metric tons of overripe tomatoes at each other. Regardless of what you think about the practice, this traditional celebration reveals the fun-loving and friendly nature of the Spanish people.

That said, the narratives surrounding the origins of La Tomatina vary greatly. The most common account refers to a music festival in Buñol in 1945, when a group of young audience members rushed the stage. In the confusion, someone knocked over a fruit cart, which prompted others to pick up tomatoes and throw them at each other.

Nyepi Day, Bali, Indonesia

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A Hindu holiday primarily celebrated in Bali, Nyepi Day is a "Day of Silence" to usher in the Balinese New Year. Nyepi Day is also held on the spring equinox, when commercial activities on the island come to a grinding halt.

Stores close, vehicles stay off the road, and there are no flights out of the airport on that day. Almost every type of public activity is prohibited. Hindu adherents use this special day of silence to connect with God on a deeper level. Many engage in prayer, fasting, and meditation. The Hindu faithful focus on self-reflection and evaluate how they have exemplified love, truth, kindness, and generosity in their lives.

In the United States, many of us take a day of rest on Sundays, especially those of us who are more religious in nature. That said, it's often a challenge to get away from life's rat race. A national version of Nyepi Day in the United States will offer solitude and reflection, as well as the opportunity to reduce our screen-time hours, even if only for one day per year.

Bolludagur, Iceland

Icelandic harbor
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Each year, residents of Iceland celebrate Bolludagur, or "Bun Day," on the last Monday before Lent. Originally a Scandinavian holiday, Bolludagur was adopted by Icelanders in the late 19th century. It's one of three holidays that make up Carnival in Iceland. During Bolludagur, children decorate short sticks or paddles with colorful paper and use them to playfully spank their parents. The children's goal is to get their parents to purchase a bolla (a type of sweet pastry) for them.

For each successful whack, a child receives a decadent cream puff. Some bollas are filled with jam and cream and topped with chocolate or powdered sugar. This pre–Lent indulgence is a unique take on the Carnival traditions found in Brazil, Spain, and New Orleans.

Dia de los Muertos, Mexico

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It's likely you've heard of Mexico's famous Dia de los Muertos, or "Day of the Dead." On two days every year, Mexicans choose to celebrate the lives of those they have lost instead of focusing on their grief. Specifically, Mexicans believe that the souls of all children who have died reunite with their families every November 1. Meanwhile, the souls of deceased adults are believed to arrive on November 2.

During this colorful celebration, Day of the Dead altars are beautifully decorated and candles lit. Special treats are set on the altars. The celebratory traditions date back more than 3,000 years to the time of the Aztecs. After families gather for pan de muerto (bread of the dead), they head to their local cemeteries to eat and enjoy the offered treats with each other.