Cultural activities are any activities that have unique significance to a culture and constitute engaging in the culture.
These activities are consider to be highly important because they help to pass-on, continue, and strengthen cultural values, beliefs, and practices.
Examples of cultural activities include participating in cultural dances, cooking traditional foods, learning about cultural attitudes, attending museum, and many, many more. We’ll explore these below.
Cultural Activities (With Examples)
1. Traditional Dancing
Traditional dancing refers to a form of dance that is specific to a particular culture, society, or region. These dances have been passed down through generations, embodying history, stories and traditions of the people who originated them. From the elegance of Ballet in France to the energetic beats of African dances, each dance is unique and reflective of its culture.
2. Storytelling Sessions
Storytelling sessions are an age-old practice where stories are narrated orally to an audience. Historically used as a method for educating, entertaining, and passing on moral lessons or cultural beliefs, these sessions can range from fables and folktales (e.g. The Hare and the Tortoise) to historical accounts or personal experiences and are significant to many cultures worldwide.
3. Pottery Making
Culture: Global, notably in Asian and Native American communities
Pottery making involves forming clay into objects of a desired shape and then heating them to high temperatures in a kiln to induce reactions that solidify the clay. This art form has been practiced by various civilizations for thousands of years, often used for utilitarian purposes but also as an artistic medium, with distinctive styles reflecting different cultural traditions and histories.
Culture: East Asia, notably Chinese, Japanese, and Korean cultures, and Arabic cultures
Calligraphy is a visual art related to writing that involves designing and executing lettering with a broad-tipped instrument, brush, or other writing instrument. Revered in East Asian and Arabic cultures, this art form embodies aesthetic beauty, personal expression, and frequently serves as a medium for poetry.
5. Theatre Performances
Culture: Global, notably Western cultures and Asian cultures (Indian, Chinese, Japanese)
Theatre performances are staged productions where actors perform a story in front of an audience, often on a stage. From Greek tragedies to Elizabethan dramas to Japanese Noh Theatre, these performances are not merely forms of entertainment, but they also provide a reflection of society, culture, and human experience.
6. Folk Music Concerts
Folk music concerts represent events where traditional, indigenous music is performed live. Such music, passed down through generations, often tells stories of a people, depicts their daily life or beliefs, and is a significant part of various cultures around the world, from Appalachian Mountain music to the musical traditions of African tribes.
Origami, a traditional Japanese art form, involves folding paper into decorative shapes and figures. Starting from simple figures like cranes and flowers, it can extend to complex representations, reflecting a sense of harmony, balance, and patience that is inherent in Japanese culture.
8. Henna Tattooing
Culture: Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia
Henna tattooing, or Mehndi, is a form of body art using a paste made from the powdered dry leaves of the henna plant. Mostly used in ceremonial events such as weddings, the intricate, lace-like designs symbolize joy, beauty, and spiritual awakening.
Culture: Global, notably in African, Native American, and East Asian cultures
Mask-making represents a tradition where masks, often symbolizing deities, spirits, or ancestors, are crafted from various materials. These masks are frequently used in rituals, ceremonies, or theatre, embodying the cultural beliefs and mythologies of the peoples creating them.
10. Culinary Classes (e.g., Sushi-making)
Culture: Specific to each culinary tradition, Sushi-making refers to Japan
Culinary classes are educational sessions where you learn to prepare specific recipes or dishes under professional guidance. For instance, sushi-making classes delve into the traditional Japanese art of preparing sushi, where you are taught how to select the right fish, cook the perfect rice, and roll sushi.
11. Tea Ceremonies
Culture: East Asia, notably in Chinese and Japanese cultures
Tea ceremonies are traditional rituals involving the preparation and presentation of tea. In China and Japan, these ceremonies are art forms encompassing philosophy and aesthetics, embodying values of peace, harmony, and tranquility.
12. Poetry Readings
Poetry readings involve the vocal presentations of poems, often conducted in a group setting. Intended to bring the authored text to life through vocal expression, these sessions showcase diverse poetic styles across the globe, making it a rich cultural experience. A key example of this is the beat poetry of the 1950s and 1960s in the United States, representing a unique American cultural form.
13. Film Festivals
Film festivals are organized events that showcase a selection of films, often in a specific genre, or from a certain country. Providing a platform for new talent, promoting cultural diversity, and encouraging critical dialogue about films and filmmaking, these events are globally significant cultural activities. Of course, France’s Cannes Film Festival comes foremost to mind.
14. Cultural Parades
Cultural parades are public processions celebrating a specific culture or a range of cultures, usually accompanied by music, dancing, and elaborate costumes or floats. For instance, the Mardi Gras Parade in New Orleans or the Notting Hill Carnival in London are famous for their vibrant colors, joyous dancing, and the multitude of people who come together to celebrate culture and community.
15. Puppetry Shows
Culture: Global, notably in Asian and European cultures
Puppetry shows are performances where puppets are used to tell a story. Bunraku from Japan, Wayang from Indonesia, and Punch-and-Judy shows from England are some examples of distinct puppetry traditions which have entertained audiences and presented cultural narratives for centuries.
16. Batik Painting
Culture: Indonesia, Malaysia
Batik painting is an Indonesian traditional art form where patterns are drawn onto fabric using wax before it is dyed. This technique creates a distinctive image with cracked or veined textures. Batik is not just an art; it’s a symbol of national identity, most notably exemplified by Indonesia’s “Batik Day,” when everyone wears Batik to celebrate their cultural heritage.
17. Ikebana (Japanese Flower Arranging)
Ikebana, traditional Japanese flower arranging, is more than mere decoration. It’s a disciplined art form where nature and humanity are brought together. Arrangements are highly considered and each object’s shape, line, and form are carefully chosen, leading to a balanced, harmonious composition. An example of its cultural influence could be the Ikebana International organization, with more than 250 chapters and thousands of members globally, dedicated to promoting and appreciating this intricate Japanese art.
18. Drum Circles
Culture: Global, notably in African, Native American, and Latin cultures
Drum circles are gatherings of individuals who come together to create improvised rhythm music using drums and other percussion instruments. A reflection of community unity, these circles are often spiritual or healing in nature. They are prevalent in many cultures, with the Djembe drum circles of West Africa and the Taiko drumming groups in Japan being notable examples.
19. Traditional Weaving
Culture: Global, notably in Asian, African, and Indigenous cultures
Traditional weaving is the practice of interlacing two sets of threads at right angles to create cloth. It varies across cultures, with distinct patterns, techniques, and materials. Examples include the Navajo rugs in Native American culture, the Kente cloth of the Ashanti people in Ghana, and the Thai silk weaving in Thailand’s northeastern villages.
20. Sand Art
Culture: Global, notably in Indian, Tibetan, and Native American cultures
Sand art involves creating images, shapes, or designs using sand, on a flat surface or in a bottle. From sand mandalas by Tibetan monks as a form of meditation and spiritual offering to the Indian tradition of rangoli – geometric designs created during festivals – sand art speaks of cultural diversity in its many forms.
21. Indigenous Yarning Circles
Culture: Australian Indigenous communities
Indigenous yarning circles are a traditional part of Aboriginal culture in Australia. They provide a harmonious context for communication where everyone has an equal right to voice their opinion, fostering respect, empathy, and social bonding. This tradition is strongly upheld today in many Indigenous communities and has been utilized in educational and professional settings as a tool for inclusive discussion and learning.
22. Kite Flying Festivals
Culture: China, Japan, India, Pakistan
Kite flying festivals entail the tradition of flying kites, generally to celebrate seasonal changes, religious occasions, or local customs. Some notable examples include the Weifang International Kite Festival in China, renowned as the world’s kite capital, the Makar Sankranti festival in India, and the Basant festival in Pakistan, both marking the arrival of spring with kite flying competitions.
23. Cultural Fairs and Exhibitions
Cultural fairs and exhibitions are events showcasing and celebrating the history, traditions, and artistic achievements of a particular culture. The Smithsonian Folklife Festival in the U.S., Rio Carnaval in Brazil, and the World Expo, hosted by various nations, offer unique, immersive experiences where you can witness a spectrum of cultures in their full richness.
24. Traditional Games and Sports
Traditional games and sports refer to recreational activities rooted in cultural traditions and history. They range from the Scottish Highland Games, specifically caber tossing, the Inuit event of Knuckle Hop in the Arctic Winter Games, to the Japanese Sumo Wrestling and Sepak Takraw, a highly acrobatic ‘kick volleyball’ sport prevalent in Southeast Asia.
25. Religious Ceremonies
Culture: Global, Specific to each religion
Religious ceremonies comprise rituals, rites, or services held in accordance with the practices of a particular faith. These are fundamental in expressing and propagating religious beliefs and traditions. The Christian rite of Baptism, the Muslim prayer Salat, the Hindu wedding ceremony, and the Jewish Bar Mitzvah are examples, each representing profound spiritual meaning and cultural significance in its respective religion.
26. Historical Reenactments
Culture: Global, notably in European and North American cultures
Historical reenactments are live portrayals of historical periods or events, often performed with period costume and props. Examples are the reenactment of the Battle of Gettysburg in the United States, which commemorates the American Civil War, and the Jorvik Viking Festival in the United Kingdom, which brings to life the Viking Age.
27. Tribal Chants and Songs
Culture: Indigenous cultures globally, notably in Pacific Islands, Native America, and Africa
Tribal Chants and Songs are oral transmissions of history, traditions, and sacred rituals within indigenous cultures. Hawaiian Mele chants, Native American powwow songs, and Maori Haka war dances, encompassing both songs and chants, are potent tools in preserving cultural identity and ancestral knowledge.
28. Cultural Workshops
Cultural workshops refer to gatherings where participants learn about a specific aspect of a culture. An example could be a workshop on Flamenco dancing in Spain, where participants learn the dance steps, rhythms, and history of this traditional Spanish art form.
29. Traditional Medicine Workshops
Culture: Various, notably in China, India, and Indigenous cultures
Traditional medicine workshops are courses where participants learn about healing practices native to various cultures. One could attend a workshop on Ayurveda in India, learning about its holistic approach to health, or learn about TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) practices such as acupuncture and herbal medicine in China.
30. Ethnic Fashion Shows
Ethnic fashion shows are events where traditional clothing and fashion styles from various cultures are showcased. Lagos Fashion Week in Nigeria features African designers promoting Africa’s rich fashion tradition, while Japan’s Kimono Fashion Show exhibits the elegance and diversity of kimono styles, going beyond the mainstream, to highlight its cultural depth.
31. Call and Response Singing
Culture: African cultures, African-American communities
Call and response singing involves a lead singer offering a distinct phrase, and a group replying with a specific answer, creating a pattern of musical dialogue. A testament to African oral traditions, this method has significantly influenced music genres like gospel, blues, and jazz in African-American communities, such as the classic gospel song “Oh Happy Day.”
32. Mural Painting
Culture: Global, notably Mexican and North American communities
Mural painting is the art of painting directly on walls, ceilings, or other large permanent surfaces, often telling a story or making a point. Diego Rivera, a renowned Mexican muralist, used his art to address the social and political lives of the Mexican people. The Belfast murals in Northern Ireland depict their community’s political and religious divisions.
33. Traditional Jewelry Making
Culture: Global, notably in India, Africa, Native American communities
Traditional jewelry making involves crafting jewelry pieces that reflect the cultural aesthetics and symbolism of a community. Be it the intricate gold jewelry of India, the colorful, beadwork of Kenyan tribes, or the turquoise-infused pieces of the Navajo tribe – each tells their unique cultural story.
34. Cultural Photography Exhibitions
Cultural photography exhibitions showcase photographs capturing the essence of different cultures. The World Press Photo Exhibition, globally touring over 100 cities each year, displays powerful cultural narratives and perspectives. Similarly, I recall traveling to Hoi An in Vietnam and seeing beautiful photo galleries of villagers wearing their traditional outfits, passing-on their culture through photos.
35. Sacred Rituals and Dances
Culture: Global, notably in Indigenous, Asian, African cultures
Sacred rituals and dances are ceremonies rooted in religious or spiritual beliefs, and are often integral to cultural identity. Examples range from the Balinese Kecak dance, the Hopi Snake Dance in Native American tradition, to the African Zulu Reed Dance. Each rituals or dance, with its unique rhythms, movements, and symbolism, constitutes a signature of its respective culture.
36. Ancestral Worship Ceremonies
Culture: African, Asian cultures, notably China, Japan, Vietnam
Ancestral worship ceremonies involve rites to honor ancestors’ spirits, frequently held in high regard within the society’s cultural and religious framework. For instance, in China, Qingming Festival, also known as Tomb-Sweeping Day, witnesses families tending ancestral graves, while in Japan, the Obon Festival welcomes ancestral spirits back to the world of the living.
37. Traditional Martial Arts Demonstrations
Culture: East Asia, particularly China, Japan, and Korea
Traditional martial arts demonstrations are displays of specific combat practices native to different cultures, often embodying a blend of physical prowess and spiritual development. From the Chinese Kung Fu, the Japanese Karate, to the Korean Taekwondo, such demonstrations are a testimony to these cultures’ ancient wisdom and discipline.
38. Cultural Storytelling through Shadow Puppetry
Culture: East Asia, notably in Indonesia, China, Thailand
Cultural storytelling through shadow puppetry involves the use of cut-out figures that are held between a source of light and a translucent screen. Narratives shared through this medium are unique cultural gems. Noteworthy examples include the Wayang Kulit of Indonesia and the Nang Yai of Thailand, both UNESCO cultural heritage traditions.
39. Ethnic Instrument-Making Workshops
Culture: Global, notably in Africa, Asia, Native American communities
Ethnic instrument-making workshops offer a hands-on experience to learn the craft behind traditional musical instruments. From African Djembe drum-making workshops to Japanese Shakuhachi flute-making classes, or Native American flute crafting sessions, each bears the distinctive resonance of cultural heritage.
40. Traditional Embroidery and Textile Arts
Culture: Global, notably in South Asia, Middle East, and Latin American cultures
Traditional embroidery and textile arts cover the techniques to embellish fabrics with needle and thread, often creating intricate designs that reflect regional aesthetics. The Phulkari of Punjab in India, the Palestinian Tatreez embroidery, and the colorful textile arts of Peru are just a few examples that showcase this craft’s cultural diversity.
41. Local Craft Fairs
Local craft fairs are festive events where artisans display and sell their handicrafts. They are often full of cultural character such as the Christmas Markets held across various European cities, the Santa Fe Indian Market that showcases Native American art in the United States, or the Marrakesh souks in Morocco, each reflecting local creativity and tradition.
42. Cultural Heritage Walks and Tours
Cultural heritage walks and tours offer guided exploration of a location’s historical, architectural, or cultural sites. For instance, the Freedom Trail in Boston provides insights into U.S. history, while the numerous heritage walks across Kyoto reveal a profound essence of Japanese culture.
43. Traditional Beadwork Sessions
Culture: Global, notably in African, Native American, and Indigenous cultures worldwide
Traditional beadwork sessions involve crafting items using beads, often following cultural designs and techniques. The Zulu beadwork in South Africa, expressing social codes and relationships, or the intricate beadwork in Native American tribes like the Apache and Sioux, both attest to the cultural nuances this artform can communicate.
44. Ceremonial Feasts and Dinners
Ceremonial feasts and dinners are an integral part of many cultural traditions, typically celebrating a special occasion or ritual. The Passover Seder feast within Jewish tradition, the Thanksgiving dinner in the United States, or the communal Iftar meal breaking the day-long fast during Ramadan in Muslim cultures are instances of shared meals fostering cultural bonding.
45. Indigenous Art Exhibitions
Culture: Indigenous cultures globally
Indigenous art exhibitions display artwork created by native or indigenous peoples, reflecting their heritage and traditions. The Biennial of Indigenous Art in Canada showcases indigenous talent from the Americas, while the National Gallery of Australia hosts exhibits of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art, presenting rich cultural narratives.
46. Cultural Tattooing Sessions
Culture: Global, notably Polynesian, Japanese, and Native American cultures
Cultural tattooing sessions involve the application of traditional tattoos, often bearing profound cultural significance. The tribal tattoos of Polynesia, known as ‘Tatau,’ Japanese Irezumi tattoos, and the Native American Haida tribe’s tattoos, each carry distinct historical symbolism and links to cultural identity.
47. Traditional Wood Carving
Culture: Global, notably in African, Asian, and Native American cultures
Traditional wood carving involves shaping wood into artistic forms using various tools. African tribal masks, the ornate carvings of Indonesian furniture, the totems of Native American tribes, and the intricate designs of the Chinese Dongyang wood carving are stunning illustrations of this craft’s cultural interpretation.
48. Local Folklore Sessions
Local folklore sessions involve storytelling or performances that preserve and convey a community’s traditional beliefs, myths, and legends. This can range from the Norse Mythology storytelling evenings held in Scandinavia, to the Native American oral tradition of recounting tribal histories and legends, to the folklore storytelling in the Irish seanachai tradition.
See More: Folklore Examples
49. Cultural Astronomy Nights
Culture: Global, notably in Indigenous and ancient cultures
Cultural astronomy nights provide an understanding of how various cultures viewed the night sky and incorporated celestial observations into their mythologies, calendars, and rituals. The Mauna Kea stargazing program, Hawaii, illustrates Polynesian wayfinding, while Stonehenge in the UK hosts gatherings during the summer solstice to mirror the rituals of ancient Celts.
50. Traditional Riddle and Proverb Sessions
Traditional riddle and proverb sessions involve posing and solving riddles, or discussing the meaning and application of proverbs, often tied to cultural values or lessons. The Swahili culture in East Africa, for example, values riddles and proverbs as an educational tool, fostering critical thinking skills, while in Scotland, traditional ceilidhs often include riddles and stories as part of the celebration.
There are, of course, many more cultural activities that you’ll likely find in your town or city, demonstrating the very wide diversity of possible cultural activities you could engage in. However, the above list, I think, captures some of that diversity, and hopefully presents you with some ideas of how to participate in culture – be it your own, or one you’re invited to admire and celebrate.
Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]