Religious Party Holidays Are The Wildest, Holiest Celebrations Around

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With Carnival here and Mardi Gras right around the corner you might be wondering how a religious holiday could be so fun.

Turns out, Carnival isn't the only wild religious celebration out there. Unlike some of the more sober observances, these religious "party" holidays encourage the uninhibited revelry that spiritual experience can induce.

Which religious holidays do you have the most fun celebrating? Here are some of our favorites, arranged by their 2014 dates:

  • 1
    February 4: Basant Panchami
    AP
    Do you like kite-flying? Then check out Basant Panchami, a Hindu holiday that celebrates the goddess Saraswati’s birthday. Saraswati is the goddess of music and knowledge, and her holiday is as much a celebration of education as a spring festival. Some children learn to write their first words on this day before making their ways outdoors to fly kites. The color yellow also plays a prominent role, and celebrants wear yellow clothing, eat yellow sweets and exchange yellow flowers.
  • 2
    March 4: Mardi Gras
    John David Mercer/AP
    Sometimes the line between street party and religious holiday blurs or disappears altogether. With roots in Christianity, Carnival season marks the period leading up to Lent, culminating on Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday. In the month of Lent, observers will abstain from various indulgences, making Carnival the last chance for revelry until after Easter. People celebrate Carnival in many ways around the world, often with parades, beads, masks and music.
  • 3
    March 15: Purim
    Menahem Kahana/Getty Images
    Don't forget your noisemaker for this one. The Jewish holiday, Purim, commemorates the biblical story of Esther, who stood up to the evil Haman and thus saved the Jewish people. A line in the Talmud reportedly says that, on Purim, Jews should get so intoxicated they "don't know the difference between Blessed is Mordechai and Cursed is Haman." People observe Purim with alcohol, music, costumes and the lively reading of the megillah, during which listeners make as much noise as possible every time they hear Haman's name in order to blot out his memory.
  • 4
    March 17: Hola Mohalla
    AP Photo/Ranjit Singh
    Fighting is only fun when it's for play, as in the case of Hola Mohalla, a Sikh festival and Indian national holiday that literally translates to "mock fight." On this day, celebrants practice military exercises and lead processions from gurdwara to gurdwara to the sound of drums. Music and poetry competitions also take place during Hola Mohalla, as well as an extended kirtan.
  • 5
    March 17: Holi
    Poras Chaudhary/Getty Images
    This is the answer to your crazy, messy, colorful fantasy: Holi, the Hindu festival of colors celebrated on the last full moon of the lunar month Phalguna. The holiday commemorates the miraculous story of Prahlada, a young follower of the Hindu god Vishnu who survived when his demon father tried to burn him to death. Celebrants observe the holiday with bonfires and prayers, and by throwing colored powder and water at one another.
  • 6
    March 21: Nowruz
    Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images
    The best parties are the ones that go on for days and days. Observed by Zoroastrians, Baha'is (as Naw-Rúz) and throughout the Persian world, Nowruz marks the Iranian New Year with a 13-day celebration for spring. Nowruz translates to "new day" and is celebrated with gifts, feasting and friends and family coming together.
  • 7
    May 1: Beltane
    Matt Cardy/Getty Images
    Festive and sexy all at once, Beltane is a Celtic spring fertility festival celebrated by some pagans and Wiccans. During Beltane it is believed the veil between the world and the afterworld is thin, which makes it prime time for magic and communion with the supernatural. Celebrations for this holiday often involve courting rituals, purifying fires and, most famously, dances around the maypole.
  • 8
    July 27: Chand Raat
    Izzah Zainab/500px
    If you had just been through a month of fasting, you would want to have a party, too. Chand Raat is the eve before the Muslim holy festival of Eid el-Fitr, which marks the end of the month long fasting period of Ramadan. Translated as "night of the moon," Chand Raat is a community holiday that brings people together for an evening of food, crafts and henna painting.
  • 9
    July - August: Obon Festival
    Buddhika Weerasinghe.Getty Images
    It's not a party until you're dancing through the streets to the sound of drums. Obon is a three-day Buddhist festival celebrated at different times during the summer in which observers pay tribute to and honor their deceased relatives. In addition to cleaning the graves of their ancestors, celebrants light lanterns and perform the traditional Bon-Odori, or Obon Dance. Dancing is in fact a large component of the festival, with performers clad in kimonos dancing to the beat of taiko drums.
  • 10
    October 16: Simchat Torah
    Leonid Neizberg/500PX
    Here is a perfect example of faith-induced revelry. Simchat Torah, which means "rejoicing in the Torah," is the festive Jewish celebration that marks the completion and beginning of the annual cycle of weekly Torah readings. During the festivities, celebrants dance with Torah scrolls in hakafot (literally, "circles") in the synagogue and on the streets outside. Celebrants also enjoy festive meals and recite blessings.
  • 11
    October 23: Diwali
    Arif Ali/AFP/Getty Images
    Just when the days begin to shorten in autumn, Diwali comes around to light a fire in the middle of the darkness. Also called the festival of lights, Diwali is celebrated by Hindus, Jains and Sikhs around the world. The festival of Diwali symbolizes the victory of light over dark, good over evil and knowledge over darkness. For some, the day marks the Hindu legend of Rama and Sita's return to Rama's kingdom after years in exile. Celebrants observe Diwali by lighting oil lamps, bursting firecrackers, cleaning and decorating their homes, distributing sweet delicacies and gathering with friends and family.

Click through the slideshow to see a pictorial religious calendar for 2014 with photographs of celebrations of the world's numerous beautiful and sacred holidays:

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