Last updated: 11:00 PM ET, Wed December 16 2015

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  • Worldwide Scott | December 16, 2015 11:00 PM ET

    The 4 Funnest Winter Festivals in Europe

    The 4 Funnest Winter Festivals in Europe

    PHOTO: Christmas Market. (photo by Worldwide Scott)

    Of all the cold-season celebrations Europa has to offer, some stand out from the pack, whether commemorating the holidays, the lead-up to Lent or the end of the frigid period itself.

    Due to the fact that Europe sits so far north on the globe, dark and cold smack the continent pretty hard come wintertime.  Naturally, the only response is to throw a party. Yes indeed, while winter tends to be a quieter time for festive events in most places around the world, in Europe the continent froths over with fiestas and frolicking all through the dark and frosty months.

    The following are four of the biggest and best fests where you will have the time of your life. 

    1. Christmas Markets

    Like a snow globe shaken and brought to life, Christmas markets spring up in scenic city squares all over Europe each year around the middle of November. Wooden chalets selling warm mulled wine, gingerbread, roasted nuts, and all manner of Christmas crafts make going out in the cold — and warming right back up — a welcoming activity.

    Germany and Austria brought this tradition to the continent, but now Christmas markets can be found everywhere from France, Belgium, and Switzerland to the Czech Republic, Italy and the United Kingdom. While many Christmas markets are without a doubt a major tourist draw, still others are simply a place where locals can catch up with friends and neighbors during a hectic time of year over a hot drink. 

    2. Carnival

    Photo via Flickr/Giorgio Minguzzi

    The lead-up to Lent is a time to let loose all over the world, and Europe throws the best Carnival parties this side of New Orleans and Rio De Janeiro. Carnival celebrations in Europe range from the masked flamboyance of Venice to raucous street parties in places like Cologne and Basel. 

    One of the most unique events is the Binche Carnival in Belgium, where hundreds of men take to the streets to the sound of drumbeats wearing colorful suits and masks adorned with moustaches. After gathering in the town square, they then hurl oranges at the crowd. Regardless of the location, Carnival will keep you warm with enough drink and revelry that you will be ready for a forty-day rest.

    3. Hogmanay

    Photo via Flickr/Robbie Shade

    While nearly every place of note in Europe will throw you some fireworks and parties on New Year's Eve, no one does it quite like the Scots. The most important holiday on the calendar in Scotland, some say even more important than Christmas, Scotland has embraced New Year’s like no other and you are more than welcome to get in on the fun. 

    Hogmanay parties here often last for a couple days — with the biggest being in Edinburgh — starting with torchlight processions on December 30th leading to concerts, parades and the famous first-footing tradition (being the first to cross the threshold of a friend's home) taking place on New Year's Eve and the early hours of January 1st. 

    And “Auld Lang Syne,” that song we all sing on New Year's at the stroke of midnight? Well, naturally, it was written by a Scotsman.

    4. Las Fallas

    Photo via Flickr/stvcr

    In the waning days of winter each year, the Spanish town of Valencia's skies light up with fireworks and flames, as residents and visitors alike take to the streets to celebrate Las Fallas. The origins of Las Fallas lie with craftsmen who would burn their candelabras near the end of winter, because they no longer needed them to work at night.

    Somehow, this sacrifice evolved into the burning of massive satirical effigies of local celebrities, politicians or athletes constructed by groups of citizens. The festival starts on March 12th with the displaying of the "fallas" around Valencia, but comes to a head on March 19th each year when the Fallas are burned in grand and one-of-a-kind fashion.

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Worldwide Scott The Adventures of Worldwide Scott

Worldwide Scott Born in the U.S.A like Springsteen but trying to see the world like Pitbull, Worldwide Scott is the voice behind the hard-hitting travel site of the same name. Employing a groundbreaking strategy of visiting destinations, coming home, and then writing things about them on the internet, Worldwide Scott only tackles the tough questions that other writers wouldn't dare touch: Is travelling fun? Are there pretty places in the world? Do people in other countries wear clothes? Does Europe really exist? And if so, what's the beer like there? Stick around, he's going places.
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