Learn a bit about festivals around the world to help yourself in your exams

Compiled by Diane Anderson

There are different kinds of festivals all over the world. Why don’t you choose one and try to write a few paragraphs about it? After all, it may provide useful practice for your mid-term exams

Compiled by Diane Anderson |

Latest Articles

Scottish rugby player Cameron Henderson credits his development to life in Hong Kong

Every country in the world holds festivals, so they are a popular choice for test questions, either written or oral. So it’s always a good idea to have some “festival ammunition” up your sleeve just in case the topic arises. Choose a festival and then make sure you choose the right words to discuss it. Here’s how to talk about festivals and some of the terminology you might need:

Type of festival

What kind of festival are you going to talk about? Is it a traditional one like Christmas or a newer one like Burning Man. There are many different kinds of festivals; some may include competitions, such as dragon boat racing, as part of the celebrations. Some festivals are just about art, or food, or music, while others have a deeper meaning. So, find out if there is a story behind the festival you have chosen and be ready to tell it in a few words.

Customs and traditions

Festivals that have been around for hundreds of years have their own customs. For instance at Mid-Autumn, we exchange mooncakes; at Christmas, children hang up stockings to be filled with gifts by Santa Claus. Check out the customs around your festival and make sure you know the vocabulary you will need to talk about it. Make sure you know the correct words; don’t just guess, or you could lose points when you describe, say, Santa’s elves as dwarfs.


During festivals people put up decorations, and they have specific names. It would be incorrect to call a

Mid-Autumn lantern a “light”, so make sure you know what the decorations are called. For example, streamers are long, narrow, brightly coloured paper that are usually strung across the ceiling, or the red berries you see at Christmas come from the holly plant.

Fab fact

Small flags or colourful pieces of cloth hung on a rope or string are called bunting

Food and drink

Even if a festival is not just about food, there is usually a special dish that goes with it. At Christmas, you might have turkey and ham, and Hanukkah – a Jewish festival – means it’s time to have some doughnuts. You can use words like sweet, savoury, spicy, and crunchy to describe the dishes. Look up more words relating to food to boost your vocabulary.

Fab fact

Piquant (peek-unt) is a great word to describe a flavourful, spicy dish

Is there a parade?

If the festival you choose includes a parade, there is so much more you can talk about. Do people dance, like during Mardis Gras? Are there floats – the large vehicles that are decorated to look like all sorts of things? What costumes do people wear? Are they flamboyant (flam-boy-unt)? Is the music lively or sombre (som-ber). Are there cheerleaders shaking pom-poms, or drum majorettes twirling batons?

How do you feel about festivals?

Excited? Yep, we know.

Edited by M. J. Premaratne