Image credit: CC BY 2.0 (othree, 2014)

As the season turns and winter kicks into full swing, at least in the Northern Hemisphere, travellers will no doubt be warmed by celebrations around the world that capture the real essence of local holidays.

If celebrations and revelry are what you need, rejoice for there is more to the white season than carolling and decorating Christmas trees. From the boisterous ambience that takes over the streets for days to a riot of bright colours that is so visually appealing to the luring smell of delectable seasonal specialties, these lively parades will easily spin more incredible holiday tales.

Krampus

Krampus masks have been handcrafted by artisans for centuries. Image credit: CC BY 2.0 (Krista, 2012)

Krampus and Perchten Procession in Graz, Austria
If the idea of a classic festive build-up leads you into hibernation at this time of the year, then the best antidote is popping by Graz in Austria on 29th November, 2015. While the city generally conjures up enchanting winter vistas, with snow-carpeted scenery and quaint markets galore, well, the centuries-old unusual parade Krampus and Perchten might change your mind for a while.

With more than 400 costumed ‘evil demons’ donning grotesque handcrafted masks and plenty of Saint Nicholas figures wandering round the streets and mixing with the crowds, you may be reminded to reflect on your behaviour for the year. The half-goat, half-demon figure is known for ‘punishing’ bad people around Christmastime, so be sure to stick around his jolly counterpart, who has a habit of rewarding the young or well-behaved with sweets and gifts.

Pase del Nino

Pase del Niño teems with street performers dressed in unique costumes. Image credit: CC BY-SA 2.0 (Matt Lingard, 2012)

Pase del Niño in Cuenca, Ecuador
It’s not exactly winter in Ecuador late in the year, but we anticipated that not everyone wants that sort of precipitation and, hey, we are talking year-end after all.

Come Christmas Eve, Ecuador’s Cuenca morphs into a town-wide celebration where some 50,000 locals will participate in one of the most colourful and lively processions in South America. The festivity also includes some 200,000 people witnessing the celebration from the sidewalks, rooftops and balconies — an image that will stick with holiday revellers a lifetime.

Expect to admire an array of parades that meld both religious and indigenous traditions in a peculiar yet exciting celebration that venerates the infant Jesus. While the parade itself takes about eight hours and includes street performers, stilt-walkers, dancers, bands playing live music, firework shows and vendors selling crafts and snacks, the entire Pase del Niño celebration is a three-month-long activity, beginning the first Sunday after Advent and continuing until the carnival in February.

Three Kings Parade

Locals march on the streets, bearing gifts and sweets, dressed up in imaginative costumes. Image credit: CC BY 2.0 (Paul Asman and Jill Lenoble, 2011)

The Three Kings Parade in Madrid, Spain
As the most anticipated event in Spain, the Three Kings Parade or La Cabalgata de los Reyes Magos is a truly distinctive tradition, marked by a vibrant float parade zigzagging through the capital city and accompanying festive performances. While it is generally celebrated all around the country on 5th January, the one in Madrid is unique due to its size and energy, drawing Spaniards from all corners of the country to participate in this winter frenzy and see the three wise men, Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar march on the streets, bearing gifts and sweets, accompanied by a theatrical light show and myriad locals dressed up in imaginative costumes.

Newport Beach Boat Parade

During the parade, about 100 vessels proudly show off their unique festive attire. Image credit: CC BY-SA 2.0 (fortherock, 2009)

Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade in California, US
From 16th to 20th December, 2015, the 107th edition of Newport Beach Christmas Parade kicks off in style with a slew of about 100 luxury yachts of all sizes, kayaks, canoes and other boats proudly showing off their unique festive attire, turning the harbour into a dazzling spectacle of lights. Accompanied by carollers and live music, the boats will be languidly floating around the richly decorated harbour to flaunt their displays to viewers relaxing in restaurants and yacht clubs.

Chichibu Night Festival in Chichibu City, Japan
One of the most attended and beloved winter celebrations in Japan, the Chichibu Night Festival or Chichibu Yomatsuri is an over 300-year-old tradition of parading intricately-carved floats lit with numerous lanterns, during which teams of participants pull and hoist the floats and mikoshi (portable shrine). It is held annually on 3rd December, with an event the preceding night called Yoiyama. Apart from a collection of performances, lengthy firework displays and fascinating floats or yatai, you will be impressed by the variety of culinary delights prepared at the nearby pop-up stalls.