Nearly one in eight gym memberships start in January, which happens to be the slowest month for alcohol sales and maybe the most prolific month for new abstinence campaigns like Veganuary and Dry January. If you resolved to get healthier in 2020, we commend you and encourage you in your efforts. For everyone else, let’s get fucked up, and here are several events where you can do just that.
Brazouka Beach Festival
Porto Seguro, Brazil
December 31 to January 6
Most Brazilian cities wrap Carnival on Ash Wednesday, but that’s when Porto Seguro is just getting started, so why should New Year’s Eve be any different? The beach town that helped popularize the “Lambada” hosts a weeklong dance party that starts on New Year’s Eve. Those who miss the NYE white party can still shoot for the New Year’s Day boat bash, while the rest of the week is dedicated to DJs and dancing on the beach. Brazilian dance styles are naturally the flavor of the week, and dozens of teachers are on hand to instruct you on the proper moves. Photo credit: Rafael Vianna Croffi/Flickr.
African Capital of Culture
January 1 to 31
As tourism continues to rise on the African continent, so do programs aimed at drawing tourists to the Motherland. One such program, the African Capital of Culture, debuts this month, and the inaugural culture capital is Marrakech. With the High Atlas Mountains as its backdrop, the inland city will host various activities that highlight its cultural importance to art, architecture, design and even fashion. In fact, French designer Yves Saint-Laurent spent considerable time at his villa in Marrakech, and he is celebrated with the Yves Saint Laurent Museum. Likewise, those who want to visit in explorer style should consider a colorful new design from the Dioriviera Cruise 2020 capsule. Photo credit: Juan Ignacio Tapia.
Cartagena Music Festival
January 4 to 12
An Italian pianist, an Austrian string quartet, a Dutch orchestra, a British tenor… Okay, this music festival is a bit more upscale and old school, but it’s a cultural experience that naturally includes lots of Colombian artists in a tropical paradise. Cartagena is a colonial city on the Caribbean Sea with a walled old town packed with restaurants, hotels and bars, including the famed Cafe del Mar on the fortress walls. The weather is exceptional in January with warm days, cool nights and significantly less humidity.
Harbin International Snow & Ice Sculpture Festival
January 5 to February 20
Based in northeast China with cold winter winds blowing in from Siberia, the world’s biggest snow and ice festival attracts millions of visitors and features the world’s largest ice sculptures. Think lit-up, life-sized sculptures of Bangkok’s Temple of the Emerald Buddha, Moscow’s Red Square, Istanbul’s Blue Mosque and other international landmarks, turning the park into a Disney-like winter wonderland. Started in 1963, the festival includes a wide range of activities like alpine skiing and an ice lantern exhibit; just don’t be the moron who tries to lick one of the sculptures. Main photo by Brian Jeffery Beggerly/Flickr.
January 11 to 12
Amsterdam-based DGTL stretches across the globe with electronic music events in Europe, South America and the Middle East, yet this month’s party in Bengaluru will mark its first event in Asia. The city better known as Bangalore will host the two-night event at the LaLit Ashok hotel with artists like Sven Väth, HVOB, Dax J, Oshana, Molly, Tijana T and Cats on Crack. The festival, which will also feature large art installations, is among the more progressive events when it comes to sustainability. Photo credit: Kirsten van Santen courtesy of DGTL.
Tamarindo, Costa Rica
January 15 to 19
BPM typically stands for “beats per minute,” but this festival is the exception. Started in 2008 in Playa del Carmen, the festival catered to the hospitality industry following the New Year’s Eve surge; hence, this BPM stands for “Bartenders, Promoters, Musicians.” BPM soon started hosting one-off events around the world with stops in Mykonos, Beirut, Dubai, Ibiza, Tel Aviv and Barcelona, among others. This month, BPM makes its debut on Costa Rica’s Gold Coast, which the organizers described as “its new winter home.” This suggests a new annual residency at the west coast surf town famed for sandy beaches, lush tropical rainforest and reddish-yellow sunsets breaking across its rich blue waters. The inaugural Tamarindo lineup includes more than 120 music artists like Deep Dish, Louie Vega and Felix da Housecat. Interestingly, BPM follows directly on the heels of the Ocaso Underground Music Festival (January 9 to 13) in the same town, so come early if you want an extended party with DJs like Maceo Plex, Äme, Doc Martin, Magdalena, Shiba San and Artbat.
January 15 to February 15
Thorrablot (or Þorrablót) is a midwinter festival celebrating the Icelandic gods of yesteryear through food and drink, and as an ancient tradition, the locals break out the old school grub. How bad can it be? Much worse than you think. Let’s start with hákarl, a dish made from shark that has been left to rot until it has a blue cheese-like aroma. Apparently nothing on the planet makes your breath smell worse. Blóðmör is another delicacy made from congealed sheep’s blood mixed with spices and wrapped in a ram’s stomach lining (think Scottish haggis), while svið is boiled sheep’s head beloved for the meat inside the eye socket. Other Thorrablot options can include seal flippers, cured ram testicles, sheep liver sausage and whale blubber, and Icelanders wash it down with a caraway and potato spirit called Black Death. I guess Veganuary doesn’t sound so bad right about now. Those who come for the puffin pot pie can stay for the Dark Music Days festival, which runs from January 25 to February 1. Photo credit: Ed Ogle/Flickr.
Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux
Toronto to San Francisco
January 17 to 24
Union des Grands Crus (UGC) launched in 1973 to promote Bordeaux wines, and it hosts tasting events in cities around the world each year to promote the latest vintage. The North American tour promoting the 2017 harvest kicks off January 17 in Toronto and then heads to Montreal, New York, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Seattle, Los Angeles and concludes January 24 in San Francisco. What can you expect? For a set price, attendees can sample wines from several dozen different châteaux and appellations, including Pomerol, Saint-Émilion and Médoc. The vintage tour then heads to Europe in February with stops in Amsterdam, Paris and Brussels.
Monte Carlo Rally
Monte Carlo, Monaco
January 20 to 26
The 88th running of the Monte Carlo Rally (or Ralley Monte-Carlo) is a multi-day race through the French Riviera that dates back to 1911. The cars officially start racing on January 23 and spend most of their time in France, but the 200+ mile race starts and finishes in Monte Carlo. Maybe you don’t really care about car racing, but do most people at the Kentucky Derby really care about horse racing? No, it’s all about hats and mint juleps in Louisville, and it’s about parties and adrenaline in the French Riviera. Nestled between the Alps and the Mediterranean Sea, Monte Carlo is one of Europe’s most extravagant destinations with a casino that appears in Never Say Never Again and GoldenEye from the James Bond canon. Likewise, the world’s No. 1 restaurant is less than 30 minutes away in Menton, France.
The Northern Lights Festival
January 23 to February 2
Nordlysfestivalen, as the locals call it, is a long-running music festival started in the ’80s that brings together some of the world’s best performers in jazz, opera, ballet and classical music. Watching an orchestra set might not be on your bucket list, but the northern city of Tromsø is in the auroral zone inside the Arctic Circle, so an aurora borealis might just accompany that Antonio Vivaldi score. Likewise, the polar night ends in mid-January, so the music festival coincides with the sun’s return, which itself is an annual celebration. The festival features more traditional genres, but Tromsø is actually famous for its thriving electronic music scene with a record label, festival and music acts like Röyksopp and Biosphere.
Rainbow Serpent Festival
January 24 to 27
Lexton, Australia: population 265. That number swells several times over when the Rainbow Serpent Festival comes to town at the height of summer (in the southern hemisphere, at least) with a mix of art, education, electronic music and indigenous culture. Dozens of international music artists perform across multiple stages for what looks like a bunch of stoners at an off-season Halloween party, but Rainbow Serpent is about more than DJ sets and colorful costumes. The art lineup includes live painting, installations, VJs and the Evolve Gallery with works by Ben Lopez, Hera Wing, Miss Darq and others, while the festival village features guest speakers, workshops, temples, gardens, massage and cinema. Best of all, the festival highlights Australia’s indigenous culture with music, art, dance, cookouts and smoke ceremonies at the Aboriginal Camp. Photo credit: Francesco Vicenzi/Flickr.
Tết, which is short for Tết Nguyên Đán, falls on the first night of the new moon in the first month of the lunar calendar. In other words, it marks the Lunar New Year. Historians often associate the holiday with the 1968 Tết Offensive, which marked a turning point in the Vietnam War. The northern troops used the holiday to launch a series of attacks, which surprised the American troops who expected the Vietnamese on both sides of the conflict to be celebrating. The lead up to Tết tends to be a bit crazier with people getting ready for the celebration (and kids setting off firecrackers in the street), but the holiday itself focuses on a fresh start and reuniting with friends and family.
One Love Festival
Tauranga, New Zealand
January 25 to 26
Later this year, New Zealanders will vote on a non-binding referendum to legalize recreational cannabis, and if you already knew this, you’re likely familiar with the annual One Love Festival on the North Island. The two-day reggae concert features the likes of Sean Paul, Shaggy, Common Kings, Collie Buddz and others, and attendees can bring single-use vape pens if you presumably say it’s tobacco. One Love will also make its debut in Australia this year with a one-day event (featuring most of the headliners) in Gold Coast on February 1. Photo credit: One Love Festival.
Up Helly Aa
The Total Abstinence Society started Up Helly Aa nearly 150 years ago to give young Scots something to do besides drink whisky, but it’s evolved into something that resembles a Game of Thrones beer bash. The fest website diplomatically says, “Up Helly Aa is many things to many people,” while the Independent describes it as a Viking fire festival where grown men in “Middle Earth helmets, sheepskin capes and squelching boots” belt out “an unsettling version of Elvis Presley’s ‘Burning Love.'” The event apparently marks the passing of the midwinter’s darkest days, which sounds like a metaphor for grown men passing the darkest days of puberty. Nevertheless, the party can be a surreal blast if you go with the right attitude and don’t mistake it for an alt-right march. Photo credit: Vicky Brock/Flickr.
David Jenison (email@example.com) is Editor-in-Chief at PRØHBTD.