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Updated by Joanna James on May 02, 2024
Headline for Top 5 Biggest Religious Festivals in the World - Five of the Globe's Grandest Spiritual Festivals
Joanna James Joanna James
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Top 5 Biggest Religious Festivals in the World - Five of the Globe's Grandest Spiritual Festivals

When it comes to the biggest cultural festivals in the world, there are more than a few contenders in the globe where religious ceremonies dominate community life every year. Here are 5 of the grandest spiritual events in the global calendar.


Songkran in Thailand

Also known as the Thai New Year, the Songkran Festival is both a Buddhist holiday and a cultural celebration at once. Held on the 13th and 14th of April each year, the auspicious day is considered a national holiday for all Thais. Marking the journey of Aries to Pieces, Songkran is held in accordance with the Buddhist solar calendar, which measures the movements of planets. The two-day celebration is perhaps best-known for its street-wide water fights when residents splash one another with buckets of water or spraying water guns to mark the occasion. Special sweetmeats and food are prepared for the Songkran Festival, which also includes several religious rites that all Thais perform in their neighbourhood temple.


Semana Santa in Spain

Also known as Holy Week, the Semana Santa is a sacred religious event that's marked with great pomp and pageantry in nearly every city in Spain. Some of the best places to experience the seven-day long festival include Seville, Málaga, and Granada. The festival brings all the residents of each town to the town square, dressed in their finery to take part in a procession of penance to atone for various sins committed during the year that has concluded. Mimicking the Passion of the Christ, the processions are also attended by children and volunteers who wear penitential robes for the occasion. Dubbed the largest Catholic Festival in the World, Semana Santa is held on the last seven days of Lent.


Obon Festival in Japan

Called the "Festival of the Dead" by locals, the Obon Festival in Japan is another Buddhist festival that's held to honour the spirits of deceased loved ones. With filial piety being a cornerstone in Japanese culture, it should come as no surprise that this three-day festival is attended by hundreds of devotees who set lanterns afloat on rivers and other bodies of water. This is a symbolic act meant to resemble sending blessing to their ancestors. The final day of the Obon Festival, however, includes bonfires and traditional dance recitals called Bon-Odori in honour of the dead.


Holi in India and Nepal

This festival of colour is marked on the day after March's full moon day. Wearing white, hundreds of revellers hit the streets of Indian cities or celebrate privately in Holi parties at home by splashing one another with colourful dyes. The religious rituals associated with Holi in both Nepal and India include praying in front of a bonfire for light to triumph over darkness and evil. Although it is a Hindu holiday, the Events and Festivals Blog and others list Holi among the festivals of different religions that are celebrated across India and Nepal irrespective of Faith.


Día de los Muertos in Mexico

Also called the "Day of the Dead," Día de Los Muertos is Mexico's own catholic version of the Obon Festival. Held close to Halloween during the last three days of October each year, the rituals associated with Día de Los Muertos include reciting calaveras, altar decoration, parades, and even live musical performances.

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