Milky Merrymaking: 5 Festivals Around the World That Are Dedicated to Milk
Whether you are an ice cream lover or a health-conscious fan of a2 protein milk, the dairy-derived products you consume have had a massive impact on the world. Indeed, many cultures celebrate dairy in unique and fascinating ways. Of all this milky merrymaking, the following festivals are perhaps the most interesting.
Let’s kick off with the largest celebration of dairy – World Milk Day. Held on June 1st each year, this event spans North and South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, and the South Pacific. It truly is a global event, triggering talks, shows, exhibitions, and events centering around sustainability and environmental protection.
This celebration of all things dairy takes place in the far north of Italy in the Trentino province. The festival aims to introduce people to the backstory of milk and the environment and conditions that go into getting it from farm to table. During the three-day event, visitors are invited to taste ice cream, engage in fun activities, and learn about everything from haymaking to traditional Italian architecture.
Each summer in Switzerland, farmers take their cattle up onto the higher slopes of the mountains to munch on the fresh grass and herbs that thrive during the warmer months of the year. The cows and their herders generally get to enjoy three months of this lushness before the time comes to head back down and avoid the big freeze.
This is where the cow parades come in. Swiss people recognize cows as the bringers of milk, cheese, chocolate – all the finer things in life. So, they dress the creatures in flowered crowns and honor them as they return from the mountains. The exact time of the cow parades will differ depending on climatic conditions, but it’s usually sometime in September or October. Similar cattle-driving parades – known as almabtriebs – are held in Austria each year.
Pongal is a general harvest festival. However, cows and dairy are central to the event. Indeed, the word “Pongal” means “to boil and overflow” and comes from the traditional dish prepared for the festival – a blend of rice, raw sugar, and milk.
Pongal is celebrated in January, around the winter solstice, and cows are given plenty of special treats. During the Mattu Pongal phase of the festival, participants will bathe the cows, polish and paint their horns, and place bright flower garlands around their necks. They also get treated to venn pongal, jaggery (raw sugar), honey, banana, and an assortment of fruits, making the festival a brilliant time for all cows lucky enough to be involved.
This festival created a bit of a kerfuffle in 2023. It was put forward by India’s Animal Welfare Board as an alternative to Valentine’s Day. The idea is both adorable and in line with Hindu beliefs about the sacred nature of cows. However, it was met with mockery, both in India and abroad.
Sadly, the proposal was rolled back, and Cow Hug Day never happened. However, it revealed to the world just how much some Hindu adherents despise Valentine’s Day. There are even anti-Valentine’s Day squads who make it their mission to stamp out the holiday. Cow Hug Day was a gentle way of pushing that mission forward.
Dairy has had a major effect on the development of human society. Nowhere is this fact more evident than in the celebrations held each year in honor of milk and the cows that produce it. Which of these events will you add to your travel itinerary?