Celtic Festivals, Events & Highland Games

Celts having fun!

If there’s one thing that unites the Celtic nations, it’s the love of a good festival or national celebration.
From the saints days – including huge celebrations like St Patrick’s Day in Dublin - to events showcasing traditional music, dance, arts and sport, there’s always something happening in the Celtic world. 

Celtic Festivals

Festivals encompass music, dance, poetry, prose, food, arts & crafts and traditional Celtic games and sports. They range in size from event with thousands of performers and hundreds of thousands of visitors, to local village ceilidhs with a few dozen participants.

We can barely scratch the surface of the Celtic festival world here so we’ll pick out a few events to give a flavour of its breadth and depth, in the ‘home’ nations themselves and also in the countries of the global Celtic diaspora.

We’ll mention some of the most important festivals with a specifically Celtic flavour in each area and then leave you to discover the rest through our more comprehensive listing by location.

Ancient Celtic Traditions

So much happening around the Celtic world

Brittany - Bretagne

With dozens of festivals of all sizes throughout the year, showcasing their cultural, musical, literary, maritime and culinary heritage, it’s clear that Bretons love a good celebration.

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Cornwall - Kernow

Events in Cornwall tend to be on a smaller scale than in some other Celtic nations and they are often peculiar to a specific town or village.

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Ireland - Éire

What can you say about St Patrick’s Day that hasn’t been said already? While all Celtic nations proudly honour their patron saints, nothing quite matches the intensity of Ireland’s celebrations each 17th March.

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Isle of Man - Ellan Vannin

There are a range of food, music and agricultural festivals in the Isle of Man, as well as some traditional events such as Hop-tu-Naa, a Celic festival celebrating the original New Year's Eve (Oie Houney). It is thought to be the oldest unbroken tradition in the Isle of Man.

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Scotland - Alba

It sometimes feels like St Andrew’s Day (30th November) is a bit overshadowed by some other famous Scottish celebrations – particularly Hogmanay and Burns Night. But there are still plenty of events, not only in the town that bears the saint’s name but also across the country.

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Wales - Cymru

The festival of Wales’ patron saint, St David is celebrated on 1st March across the nation, in large cities like Cardiff and Swansea and in the towns and villages in both north and south.

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America

As the home to more than 50 million people of Irish, Scottish, Welsh and Cornish descent, there is a thriving Celtic festival and events scene in the USA. From festivals covering all things Celtic, including music, dance, poetry and food to celebrations focusing on Irish culture, Scottish Highland Games events and Cornish heritage.

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Canada

With 4.7m people of Scottish descent in Canada, the Celtic festival scene is dominated by Highland Games. They are held in almost every province from June to August, including the BC Highland Games and Scottish Festival (British Columbia), the Manitoba Highland Gathering, the 150-year-old Antigonish Highland Games (Nova Scotia), the Glenagarry Highland Games (Ontario) and the century-old Calgary Highland Games (Alberta). And that’s just a small selection!

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Australia

Australia boasts an eclectic selection of Celtic festivals and events.

Perhaps the most unique is Kernewek Lowender, otherwise known as the Copper Coast Cornish Festival. This week-long festival held every other year in May on South Australia’s Yorke Peninsula is very likely the world’s largest Cornish festival outside Cornwall with 45,000 visitors. The festival Explores the region’s mining heritage and also features Cornish language lessons, history seminars, poetry and prose, brass bands, street markets, music, maypole dancing, a furry dance and a gathering of the bards.

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Milwaukee Irish Fest

Celtic Festival of the month

Milwaukee Irish Fest is North America’s largest celebration of Irish music and culture. The four-day festival, which occurs every third weekend in August, showcases more than 100 entertainment acts on 16-stages. 

More than a festival, Milwaukee Irish Fest, through it's parent organization CelticMKE, is passionately committed to igniting a love of Irish culture in all people. 

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Milwaukee Irish Fest - August 15-18, 2019 www.irishfest.com

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