Oktoberfest Once Had No Beer! 10 Surprising Holiday Facts

Published on June 22, 2024

Credit: Pablo Heimplatz

Cultural practices and festivals serve as a window into the diverse fabric of human traditions across the globe. From the colorful Carnival in Venice to the solemn reverence of Mexico’s Day of the Dead, each celebration tells a unique story rooted in history, religion, and society .

Let’s take on a journey around the world in just one reading to discover the magic behind these 10 spirited festivals, each offering a glimpse into the valuable heritage and diverse cultures that enrich our world. Witness the vibrancy of human expression as you learn about tradition and history.


Day of the Dead, Mexico

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This two-day Mexican holiday honors both life and death at the same time. On these days, the departed ones are not mourned but celebrated through the offerings their families craft. Together with the offerings, families put up altars decorated with marigold flowers of vibrant colors along with pictures of their deceased relatives and their favorite meals.

These offerings are believed to beckon the souls to return and take part in the celebration.

Tokens like the marigold flowers, which are the ones that lead the way of the souls, and the smiling Calaveras, which laugh at death itself, are used to paint the country in all kinds of colors.


Carnival of Venice, Italy

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Deeply rooted in religion, the Carnival of Venice has evolved in more than one way since it began back in the 1100s. Originally, the Carnival aimed at getting rid of the rich food and drink before Lent, and partying was just a natural consequence of it.

Nowadays, Carnevale is the biggest celebration in the country and it goes on for two whole weeks. During that time, over three million people visit the city to wear masks and join the celebration that includes all kinds of events , both open-to-public and private ones.


Oktoberfest, Germany

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Originating in 1812, Oktoberfest first honored the marriage of the Bavarian King Louis I to Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen. During this time, the holiday consisted of a five-day celebration that ended with a horse race held in an area called Theresienwiese.

Food and beer weren’t part of the festival until the late 20th century.

Oktoberfest today, always held in Munich, combines traditional Bavarian cuisine, colorful parades, and dozens of tents serving beer brewed within the city limits and served on huge mugs called maß (or mass).


Holi, India

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This holiday dates back to the 17th century. Nowadays, it aims to celebrate the arrival of Spring, symbolizing a fresh start where people leave the past behind.

The celebration begins with the first full moon of the Hindu calendar, and it involves giant bonfires, singing, and dancing throughout the night.

On the second day, the country gets quite literally painted over during Holi. People from all walks of life gather to celebrate and throw gulal color powders all around.


Hanami, Japan

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Hanami is deeply rooted in Japan’s history and it can be traced back to the Nara period in the 700s. This timeless tradition captivates the Japanese essence through the unique beauty of sakura, that is, the cherry blossoms.

Today, Hanami honors one of the most important concepts in the culture, that of ‘mono no aware’, which means the profound awareness of the impermanence of things .

Meaning "flower watching", the Hanami annual celebration involves people gathering around cherry blossom trees and having a drink with family and friends to enjoy the view.


Mardi Gras, United States

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Mardi Gras, the vibrant carnival celebrated in Louisiana, traces its roots back to medieval Europe. Originating as a Christian tradition marking the onset of Lent, it evolved into a jubilant holiday characterized by elaborate parades, masquerade balls, and indulgent feasts .

Today, Mardi Gras encompasses a great variety of festivities, from extravagant street processions to intricate costume competitions, dancing, music, and parties.


Yi Peng Lantern Festival, Thailand

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Chiang Mai, in Thailand, is home to one of the most enchanting events. Yi Peng is a three-day traditional event that pays homage and shows respect to Buddha. One curious thing about this event is that the date is kept secret until shortly before its celebration.

On the first day of the Festival of Light, families prepare the materials involved in the festive activities. On the second day, families gather at a temple to make offerings to monks. On the third day, families release different types of paper lanterns that light up the night sky, making it a truly mesmerizing moment.


Diwali, India

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This is one of India's most significant festivals, and it is a period to celebrate the triumph of good over evil, knowledge over ignorance, and light over darkness. For this reason, Diwali is also called the Festival of Light, and it is celebrated by millions of people across India. It is characterized by prayers, family reunions, and, of course, fireworks .

The dates for the celebration change every year since they are based on the Hindu lunar calendar, before the arrival of a new moon between the Hindu months of Ashwin and Kartika. According to the Gregorian calendar, it is typically held between October and November.


La Tomatina, Spain

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This is probably one of the weirdest celebrations in the world, as it is a food festival which includes a food fight. And even if it doesn’t have any religious or deep meaning, it is one of the most popular ones in the country.

Held in Buñol, Spain, on the last Wednesday of August each year, this celebration brings together thousands of people from all across the world who want to win the World’s Biggest Food Fight. How? By throwing overripe tomatoes at each other . After one hour, the fight ends, and the town is painted the most vibrant red.

The celebration concludes by cleaning the city using fire trucks to spray water down the streets.


Inti Raymi

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Inti Raymi, which means "Festival of the Sun" in Quechua, is one of the most significant celebrations in Cusco, Peru. It is held on June 24 and it has been declared Cultural Heritage.

The celebration started in 1430 as a way to pay homage to Inca Pachacútec, who rebuilt Machu Picchu.

Inti Raymi today includes all kinds of Quechua songs, traditional dances, colorful characters, and Incan clothes and customs.

The celebration concludes with the appearance of the Inca , who is transported over a golden platform by orejones (the people carrying the platform), as women sing to the Sun and the Inca.


10 Ancient Plant Species That Are Still Around Today

Published on June 22, 2024

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Compared to the age of our planet , we humans aren’t too different from toddlers, still figuring out how things work on Earth. But some plant species have been around for far longer than us, yet they continue to defy time and evolutionary pressures , offering us a unique window into a world long lost.

Put on your gardening boots and join us for a look at 10 of the most remarkable botanical survivors.


Ginkgo Biloba

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Considered a "living fossil", ginkgo biloba goes back over 270 million years and has changed very little since the age of dinosaurs . Easily identifiable for their distinctive fan-shaped leaves, ginkgo trees are revered for their medicinal properties, particularly in traditional Chinese medicine. The last living species of its botanical order, this tree is exceptionally hardy, with some specimens considered to be older than 2,500 years.


Wollemi Pine

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Popularly known as a "dinosaur tree," the Wollemi Pine ( Wollemia nobilis ) was thought to be extinct until its rediscovery in 1994 in a remote Australian forest. Belonging to a family that dates back over 200 million years, this ancient conifer is a botanical marvel. Interestingly, despite its common name, Wollemia__nobilis is not a true pine, nor a member of the pine family.



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Horsetails ( Equisetum ) have thrived for over 300 million years, making them one of the oldest surviving plant lineages . These primitive plants are the only living genus of its family, and are characterized by their jointed stems and spore-producing cones. During the late Paleozoic Era, these plants dominated the understory of forests and fossils are often found in coal deposits of that period.



Credit: Clyde Gravenberch

Ferns are among the oldest vascular plants on Earth, with fossils dating back around 360 million years. They don’t produce seeds or flowers, and reproduce entirely via spores. Despite their ancient origins, ferns continue to flourish worldwide and are highly adaptable, living in a wide variety of habitats, from lush forests to dry rock. Many species are highly dependent on a symbiotic relationship with mycorrhizal fungi, underscoring the evolutionary importance of this interspecies interaction.



Credit: David Clode

Cycads are another botanical class that has remained relatively unchanged for over 200 million years . These palm-like plants were once abundant during the Mesozoic era and are now prized for their ornamental value in gardens and landscapes. Interestingly, cycads rely on extremely specialized pollinators - usually a specific species of beetle - and are dioecious, meaning that individual plants can either be male or female.


Welwitschia mirabilis

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One of the strangest plants in this list , the Welwitschia mirabilis is a living relic of a bygone era, with a lineage stretching back over 90 million years. Its appearance is so alien that, if you stumbled upon it by chance, you might easily confuse a very healthy individual with a dying one. Endemic to the Namib Desert, this peculiar plant is very well adapted to survive extreme arid conditions, and some can live well over 2,000 years! Curiously, since the plant does not form tree rings or any similar structures, the only way to determine its age is by radiocarbon dating.



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Liverworts, simple plants resembling mosses, have persisted for over 470 million years , making them one of the oldest known plant groups. These small, ancient organisms are often overlooked, but play crucial roles in ecosystems, from providing habitat to influencing nutrient cycling. They are found all over the world, and are adapted to almost every available habitat, from warm humid forests to the Arctic tundra.


Dawn Redwood

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Once thought to be extinct, the discovery of living specimens in China in the 1940s astonished botanists. Dawn Redwoods ( Metasequoia glyptostroboides ) belong to a genus that dates back over 100 million years, and it is the last surviving representative of it. Although the species is classified as critically endangered in the wild, there are many specimens planted in botanical collections worldwide, and the trees are highly valued for their fast growth and stunning autumn foliage.


Araucaria Trees

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Araucaria trees, such as the iconic Monkey Puzzle tree, trace their ancestry back over 200 million years. These ancient conifers have adapted to diverse environments, from tropical rainforests to temperate regions, showcasing remarkable resilience . Although predominantly found in the Southern Hemisphere nowadays, during the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods, they were widespread across the globe.



Credit: Aldo Hernandez

Mosses have been around for over 470 million years, making them some of the oldest plants on Earth. Like all non-vascular plants, they lack most parts we ordinarily associate with plants, like flowers, leaves, or even roots. But despite their simple structure and diminutive size, mosses are key players in ecosystems, aiding in soil retention, moisture regulation, and carbon sequestration. If you are ever lost in a mossy forest, note that they tend to thrive on the north side of trees and rocks (in the Northern Hemisphere) due to receiving less direct sunlight. In the Southern Hemisphere, the opposite holds true.

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