Sep 12, 2012 — We never understood what a bucket list had to do with buckets. All we could think about were those five gallon containers at the hardware store that always have a big WARNING label on them and a cartoon of some kid about to climb inside.
That kid needs better toys.
Then one of our interns reminded us that the idiom “to kick the bucket” is a euphemism for dying. Like describing someone as “between jobs” when they spend all day in a bathrobe playing Red Dead Redemption in their parents’ basement.
At Party Earth, we prefer a more direct approach. That’s why we rounded up this list of some of the greatest global parties that we think everyone should experience before finally getting their tab called at the bar of life. You can call this list whatever you like (so long as you don’t call it a “vision board,” we gotta draw the line somewhere) but the key is to make it happen. Gather your friends, buy a ticket, get on the plane, and go!
Because “if only” might be the saddest pair of words in the universe.
1. Full Moon Party, Koh Phangan, Thailand
Like most great parties, Thailand’s illustrious Full Moon Party started quite by accident, when a few dozen crazy Japanese kids gathered at a beach-side disco back in 1985. Legend has it these wayward backpackers discovered an uncanny reserve of energy from the full moon that night; a vivacity they had never before experienced that carried them well into the next morning.
Sure, all that Lao Kao moonshine may have had something to do with it, but what matters is the FMP has grown into a massive celebration that occurs throughout the year on the night before (and sometimes after) every full moon.
Taking place on the beautiful sandy expanse of Haad Rin Beach on Koh Phangan Island, the event draws upwards of 30,000 revelers during the summer, who cram the bars and discos steps from the water as DJs send loud psychedelic trance, drum and bass, house, and dance music surfing across the crystalline sea.
Alcohol and drugs are plentiful, so visitors will want to be wary of shadier elements, but the scene is downright mad with dancers, fire-breathers, and pails of cheap cocktails, and the moon normally looks like a giant Hollywood spotlight beaming down on your very own sandy carpeted gala.
2. Oktoberfest, Munich, Germany
Back in 1810, Prince Ludwig was getting married and he wanted everybody to come out and take part in this grand event. Thus, Oktoberfest was born, quickly growing into a sixteen-day celebration of beer, beer, and more beer.
German royalty are rad.
Thought to be one of the largest fairs in the entire world, the event – running from late September to the first weekend in October – attracts upwards of five million people to the City Center, most of whom consume swimming pool-sized mugs of beer and eat so many sausages it’s a wonder pigs haven’t gone extinct yet.
Big tents are thrown up, men don traditional sennerhut hats and girls break out their surprisingly sexy dirndl dresses, while everything from traditional Balkan tunes to modern pop reverberate through the city.
There are actually strict rules as to what kind of beer can be served during Oktoberfest. Not only does it have to be brewed within the city limits, but it also must contain a minimum of 5.8% alcohol – something that, when paired with those infamous German steins, can lead to a lot of over-indulging.
The Germans even have a word for Oktoberfesters who routinely pass out on the streets after one too many cold ones: Bierleichen, or “Beer corpses.”
German comedy is rad.
3. The Running of the Bulls, Pamplona, Spain
Say what you will about bullfighting – personally, we think it would be a lot more interesting if the bulls had swords too – the annual running of the bulls is, if anything, an unforgettable event.
The bull run is part of the San Fermín festival, a week-long celebration of the patron Saint Fermín that kicks off on July 6th with a rocket (called the Chupinazo) being launched over a massive congregation in the Town Hall Plaza. So many people cram into this tiny plaza that several dozen attendees faint every year (either from claustrophobia or alcohol, we aren’t sure) and have to be passed like a sack of potatoes across the crowd.
From there, raucous revelers, marching bands, and processions of centuries-old giant puppets fill the streets, with thousands of people dancing and singing, and no shortage of lunatic Australians throwing themselves off of a 15-foot fountain in the square of Navarrería (a relatively new tradition in its own right).
The bull run itself takes place at 8am every morning for the next six days, with six bulls and six additional steers being unleashed down a small series of streets in the old town that lead to the city’s bull ring. Hundreds of brave souls participate in this half-mile melee, all the while goading, yelling, and running for their lives.
On average, three hundred people spend most of their day in the hospital after the run, so if you’re going to do it, wear comfortable shoes.
4. Up Helly Aa, Lerwick, Scotland
You’ve probably never heard of Up Helly Aa before now, but that has way more to do with where this Viking-inspired event takes place than the nature of its profound, fire-laden awesomeness.
Lerwick, after all, is the tiny main port and capital of the Shetland Islands, a subarctic archipelago more than 100 miles north of the Scottish mainland, and home to barely 7,000 hard-nosed Scots who enjoy an average annual temperature that’s perpetually stuck in the 40s.
Meant to commemorate the end of Yule (Scottish Christmas), the event involves a procession of 1,000 barrel-chested men, each adorned in classic Viking battle gear, marching through town in the early morning of the first Tuesday in January. That would be spectacle enough to warrant a visit, but the real show takes place that night, when these same men gather on a hill above town and set (you guessed it) 1,000 individual torches aflame.
Lerwickians turn off every light in town for the show, which only adds to the downright awe-inspiring display, as the men proceed back down through town before circling a mock Viking galley ship, which they promptly set ablaze in a symbolic send-off to the mythical Norse heaven of Valhalla.
5. Burning Man, Black Rock Desert, Nevada
Trying to describe Burning Man – a weeklong event that takes place in the remote Black Rock Desert – can be as difficult as describing a dream. Or a unique piece of beautiful music. Or how we thought that 9th grade haircut made us look so awesome.
It would be very easy to dismiss this annual gathering on its face, and more than a few curmudgeons look at it as just another pack of beatniks trying to prove patchouli oil doesn’t smell like a steaming bowl of Ranky Pops. But few in attendance could deny the festivities don’t play host to a downright marvel of incredible art and creative expression.
Capped nowadays at 50,000 attendees (and still routinely selling out), the event follows a different central theme each year, creating a mini-city across a seven-mile stretch of a dry lake bed that bursts with sculptures, interactive pieces, amazing mutant vehicles, and even such notables as giant, fire-breathing robots and block-long temporary temples.
The event ends with the ritual torching of a several story effigy – “The Man” – with flames erupting several hundred feet into the night sky. Everyone packs up and heads back home the next morning, probably to begin work on whatever amazing displays they plan to craft for next year.
6. Carnival, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Everyone has heard of Carnival, but any celebration where 80% of a country’s annual beer consumption gets taken down in one week deserves to be on this list.
Officially beginning forty-six days before Easter, the festivities actually have their roots in the Catholic practice of abstaining from meat during Lent – carnival comes from the word carnelevare, which directly translates as “remove meat” – but these days, it’s safe to say most visitors are more interested in all the bare skin on display.
The biggest parades go up during the last six days of the festival, and though they occur all over the country, the largest by far is in the capital city of Rio, which draws upwards of five million people to the streets as massive floats carry costume-laden samba dancers shaking their stunning Latin money makers before an uproarious crowd.
Raging pretty much 24/7 for those six days, practically all of Brazil shuts down, with hundreds of bands and street parties going at it full tilt. Samba schools actually practice all year just to perform at Carnival, and after seeing the show, few people could deny that practice makes perfect.
7. Holi Festival, New Delhi, India
A celebration of good triumphing over evil, the Holi Festival is one of those events where if you aren’t ridiculously dirty by the end of it, you’re doing it wrong.
It’s a massive celebration held throughout India – as well as Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Nepal – on the day following March’s first full moon, with huge bonfires set aflame to burn away evil spirits and revelers completely drenching one another in water and bright powders.
Also called the Festival of Colors, the entire practice is rooted in the belief that the grand Lord Vishnu was quite the prankster, and spent a good deal of his free time dousing unsuspecting villagers with color and knocking them into mud puddles. Kinda like our third grade nemesis…minus the whole “creating the entire universe” thing.
The most modern Holi action can be found in the capital city of New Delhi, specifically around the neighborhood of Paharganj, which plays host to the ever-growing Holi Cow music festival and which draws thousands of music-lovers and dozens of DJs and bands – earning it the nickname “The Woodstock of India.”
Even if you can’t make Holi Cow, the spectacle throughout the country is one you won’t soon forget. And neither will your dry cleaner.
8. EXIT Festival, Novi Sad, Serbia
Music festivals are a dime a dozen, but EXIT, insofar as we know (and, admittedly, that isn’t much), is the only one held in a 300+ year-old fortress.
The event takes place in the massive Petrovaradin Fortress set along the banks of the Danube River, and consistently draws big name bands and DJs, having previously hosted acts as varied as Snoop Dogg and the Wu-Tang Clan to the White Stripes and David Guetta – sometimes all at the same time!
It can do this thanks to the sheer size of Petrovaradin, which has space for some 50,000 visitors within its walls and another several thousand along its perimeter.
The temporary main stage at the fortress’ center (capacity of 35,000!) is the place to be for the major live acts, while the smaller (“only” 25,000-capacity) second stage is focused more on DJ-driven dancing, with revelers rocking out in the drained moat that rims the perimeter walls.
Those with harder tastes can hit yet another stage for live metal and punk, while four additional stages (GOOD LORD!) feature rock, alternative pop, electronica, cutting-edge new genres, and much more.
Luckily the event, which starts on the second Thursday of July, runs pretty much all day and night during its four-day run, so you’ll have plenty of time to experience all that’s on offer before you exit, stage left.
9. Florida vs. Georgia Rivalry, Jacksonville, Florida
There are tailgate parties, and then there’s THE tailgate party, and that ardently capitalized distinction undoubtedly goes to an annual gathering of Florida and Georgia football fans.
The University of Florida Gators and the University of Georgia Bulldogs have battled it out on the field almost every year since 1915, and their rivalry has long been the stuff of legend; a contentious feud that draws unbelievable crowds to Jacksonville when the teams meet up to play at EverBank Field.
Prior to the game – normally held on the last Saturday in October – it can seem like half the country floods the nearby Jacksonville Landing plaza along the St. Johns River, with everyone whooping it up to such a degree that most people refer to the gathering as “The World’s Largest Cocktail Party.”
City officials are less-than-pleased with the nickname for fear that it promotes heavy drinking. We’re pretty sure it has more to do with the feud itself, but given the Everest-sized mountain of beer cans left in the parking lot once the game starts, they might be on to something.
Yet for diehard sports-lovers, seeing one of these games is an irrefutable must. And with young fans from both sides guzzling and dancing their hearts out for hours before kick-off, the festivities are like icing on a giant Bulldog and Gator cake.
An alcohol-soaked, we-might-not-even-make-it-to-the-stadium cake.
10. Russefeiring, Oslo, Norway
American students have prom; one little night to ardently celebrate the fact that high school is coming to a close. Norwegian students have Russefeiring, three solid weeks of drunken madness…to celebrate the fact that high school is coming to a close.
Oh, and the legal drinking age in Norway is 18.
Beginning on April 26, the celebration finds 18- and 19-year-olds from all over the country donning colored overalls (the varied hues are based on their intended area of study) and red “russ” caps before climbing aboard a seemingly endless supply of party buses and congregating en-masse till the middle of May.
Festivities take place all over the country, but the biggest single gathering is in Oslo's Tryvann Park, where upwards of 10,000 raucous youngsters do exactly what you would expect 10,000 raucous youngsters to do: dance, drink, and have no shortage of public sex.
Participants can also earn several different knots for their caps during this period of utter Norwegian madness, some of which represent fairly tame activities – e.g. spending a night in a tree – some of which are downright odd – like running through a supermarket while barking and biting people’s legs – and some of which you probably don’t want to tell the parents about…
…The knot for having sex with 17 different people in 17 days comes to mind.