These folklore festivals in Europe take place all year long. Some honor ancient traditions, while others a more tongue-in-cheek modern take on folklore and fairy tales. Here are a few of the most interesting to put on your bucket list.
Folklore Festivals in Europe You Don’t Want to Miss
Elf Fantasy Fair
Put on your elf ears and fairy wings to celebrate everything magical. The Elf Fantasy Fair, or ‘Elfia’ Festival, is a magical fantasy event that takes place in the Netherlands every year. As Europe’s largest fantasy fest, it attractions over 20,000 visitors each year. Most wear fantastical fairy or elf costumes, but there are also plenty of goth, sci-fi, and manga themes to be found here. Whether you opt for funny costumes or something from pop culture, you won’t be out of place – anything goes. This festival is particularly special because it’s held at a real, life castle – the gorgeous Castle Arcen. Guests of honor over the years have included everyone from Terry Pratchett to Robert Jorden, thrilling fantasy fans!
Whitby Goth Weekend
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It may not be based on fairy folklore, but the Whitby Goth Weekend is heavily steeped in fantasy. Whitby is the moody setting of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, drawing vampire fans from around the world to view its atmospheric abbey ruins on a cliff overlooking the sea. And of course, the North York Moors are only a stone’s throw away, the sight of much legend and folklore. For the goth festival, fans dress in anything black and enjoy live music at the town’s Spa Pavilion over the course of a weekend.
Three Wishes Fairy Festival
Now let’s get back to the wee folk for the Three Wishes Faery Festival, held each summer in the lush Cornwall countryside. Free spirits from far and wide attend the magical workshops, handcrafted artworks, and live music. You can also expect belly dancing and story-telling, along with elaborate fairy and elf costumes. The forest here is said to have healing powers, so keep your eyes and ears open and you may learn some of Mother Nature’s secrets.
Up Helly Aa
If you’re a fan of Norse folklore and Viking history, then the Up Helly Aa will be right up your alley. This fire festival takes place in the town of Lerwick in Shetland each January, with 24 hours of craziness taking place. Locals dress up as Vikings and drag a hand-crafted galley through town, which is then burnt to the ground after all that hard work. This kicks off a 24-hour party, with the leader of the festival dressing up as a character from the Norse tales of old.
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Many European countries celebrate the midsummer date of June 24. In Romania, this celebration is called the Sanziene or Dragaica. According to local legends, the Sanzienele were beautiful women living deep in the woods. They come out of their hiding places on the evening of June 23rd, dancing, singing, and floating in the air. On this morning, people would gather bouquets to make wreaths, which were traditionally placed on the roof to honor the good fairies and ensure good luck. Fairs take place throughout Romania on this day, but perhaps the best-known festival is the Girls’ Fair on Gaina Mountain. It’s marked with dancing, singing, and flowers.