Seattle is increasingly a place where people from many different continents, nations, and cultures reside and contribute.
But how do you get to know the cultures of your fellow Puget Sound region dwellers if you don’t live or work around people from an array of backgrounds? How can you be introduced to their traditional foods, music, crafts, and customs?
For 25 years, the Seattle Center has answered these questions with Festa, an annual program of weekend events that brings together local folk to perform, dine, and learn more about each other. These mini-festivals are free and open to all. Participating are organizations and individuals with roots in cultures ranging from Asia to Africa, Europe to North America, and Latin America to the Middle East.
No need for reservations or tickets. Just show up to party and if you are so inclined, bring your dancing shoes and a hearty appetite.
Here is the Festa calendar for 2023:
March 19, 2023
French Fest: A Celebration of French-Speaking Cultures
Ooh la la! French language, culture, and joie de vivre from more than 30 countries are honored with francophone fashion, fine cuisine, wine tastings, and a wide array of musical performances to enjoy.
April 14-16, 2023
Seattle Cherry Blossom & Japanese Cultural Festival
To mark the close Pacific Rim friendship between Seattle and Japan, this event honors the renewal of life in springtime with beauteous cherry blossoms, booming Taiko drums, contemporary Japanese arts, and a traditional tea ceremony.
May 6, 2023
Hybrid Asian/Pacific Festival
In addition to its relationship with Japan, Seattle has meaningful ties with a multiplicity of other Asian cultures. The influence of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in our region is expressed at the Seattle Center through culturally influenced music and dance, along with a celebrity hum bow (dumpling) eating contest.
May 13, 2023
Spirit of Africa
This event aims to foster greater inclusivity, awareness, and appreciation for the many and varied traditions of music, movement, and storytelling throughout the African diaspora.
May 20, 2023
A Glimpse of China—Seattle Chinese Culture & Arts Festival
Ancient and contemporary Chinese styles of dance, painting, calligraphy, and martial arts are honored and demonstrated to help people learn and enjoy the customs of one of the world’s oldest, largest cultures.
June 3-4, 2023
Pagdiriwang Philippine Festival
A rich heritage of art, songs, spoken word, film, and martial arts practices are the focus of this gathering paying homage to Filipino culture.
June 10, 2023
Indigenous People Festival
The American Indian and Alaska Native tribes have exerted a profound influence on the Pacific Northwest. That influence—modern and time-honored—is demonstrated through a blending of traditional and contemporary native music, dance, drama, and visual arts.
June 24, 2023
Seattle Iranian Festival
The local Iranian community shares the beauty of venerable Persian traditions with poetry, traditional dance, and tea tastings, along with modern cultural offerings.
July 8, 2023
Polish Festival Seattle
Enjoy an event that illuminates Polish heritage and presence in our region through a lively array of food, exhibits, and workshops. There are also vodka tastings, and a beer garden with Polish brews on tap.
July 8, 2023
Festival Sundiata Presents Black Arts Fest
African-Americans have contributed so much in so many artforms to this nation. This entertainment-packed weekend features rousing soul and gospel music, dance and visual arts, and hip hop.
August 12-13, 2023
Seattle Arab Festival
More than 20 Arab nations, each with their own traditions, are represented at this festival. The program includes henna dying, live music, calligraphy, cooking demonstrations, and folk dancing.
August 20, 2023
The infectious sounds of Brazilian drumming and song are combined with visual arts, capoeira, and tasty epicurean delights, leading up to Brazilian Folklore Day on August 22.
August 26-27, 2023
Experience a tribute to an ancient and contemporary culture that uses spirituality as well as arts and culture to engage, entertain, and educate.
September 10, 2023
Live Aloha Hawaiian Cultural Festival
Not so far away, yet culturally so unique, Hawaii and other Pacific islands are celebrated with BBQ, poke, hands-on workshops, plus island music, dance, and a marketplace.
September 16-17, 2023
Sea Mar Fiestas Patrias
Join in commemorating Latin American independence with art and craft displays, dancing horses, mariachi bands, folk dancers, and tantalizing food specialities.
September 23-24, 2023
The Italian Festival
Abbondanza! Who doesn’t love Italian food and wine? They are served up here with music and other artistic displays from bella Italia.
October 1, 2023
People who hail from this appealing Balkan nation at the crossroads of Central and Southeast Europe share their customs and creativity through musical ensembles, colorful traditional dress, savories and sweets, and imported goods.
October 14-15, 2023
Integrating Eastern and Western influences, modern and traditional Turkish arts and textile displays, workshops, and cuisine take center stage at this festival.
October 28-29, 2023
Día De Muertos Festival Seattle
Mexico’s vibrant practice of honoring departed loved ones is steeped in ritual and religious tradition. On display at this gathering will be elaborate community altars, along with processions, festive music, and the art of making the “sugar skulls” given to children throughout Mexico during the holiday.
November 4, 2023
Seattle Hmong New Year
Join in on marking the end of the harvest season and the coming of the new year in homage to this deeply rooted Asian highland culture. Ornate clothing, traditional dances, visual arts, and ball-tossing competitions will be part of the festivities.
November 11, 2023
Diwali: Lights of India
Almost every culture has a festival of light to brighten up the wintertime darkness. At this observance, expect some of the Seattle area’s many East Asian residents to conduct art workshops, offer succulent foods, demonstrate henna tattooing, folk dancing and more.
For more details and podcasts about Festal, and to sign up for more news and updates, visit https://www.seattlecenter.com/events/featured-events/festal.
Misha Berson writes about the arts for crosscut.com and many other media outlets, teaches for the UW Osher program, and is the author of four books, including Something’s Coming, Something Good: West Side Story and the American Imagination (Applause/Hal Leonard).