Live dance performances, art exhibits, vendors and more will fill the streets of Embassy Row this May to celebrate DC’s International Cultural Awareness Month. Over the course of three weekends, Passport DC’s Around the World Embassy Tour—along with the EU Open House and Fiesta Asia—will host more than 50 embassies and their programs, welcoming thousands of guests to immerse themselves in international cultures without ever having to leave the city.
“We want Americans to go and experience not just the culture of Europe, but the culture of the world to broaden people’s mindsets and understand how different countries participate, exist and think,” said Travis Smith, cultural affairs officer at the European Union Delegation.
Upcoming events include the Flower Mart (May 5-6); Around the World Embassy Tour (May 6), the EU Open House (May 13) and Fiesta Asia (May 20).
The tradition of cultural programming in May goes back to 2006, with the kickoff of Fiesta Asia’s street fair to celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. The following year, various EU member countries hosted their first open house event, and a year after that, Cultural Tourism DC began programming for non-EU embassies. Since then, participation among embassies and cultural centers in the Washington DC metro area has evolved into this month-long celebration.
The event returned to DC last year after a two-year covid hiatus, with 27 embassies representing the EU and 31 embassies representing the Around the World Embassy Tour, and the number is expected to grow this year.
EventsDC, which recently acquired PassportDC from Cultural Tourism DC, hosted a Feb. 16 breakfast for more than 150 cultural attachés and embassy representatives to discuss plans and changes to this year’s Around the World Embassy Tour, including EventsDC’s new president and CEO, Angie Gates. Gates explained that embassies will be able to participate in this year’s event with no associated fees for the first time.
This year’s festivities kick off May 5 with the National Cathedral’s annual Flower Mart, followed by the Around the World Embassy Tour on May 6 from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Guests will have the opportunity to immerse themselves in different cultures from dozens of embassies, from learning indigenous dance to trying cuisines from around the world.
“I love that we can draw from each other for inspiration and creativity in so many ways—art, cuisine, fashion, dance, music and so much more,” Gates told The Washington Diplomat. “The Around the World Embassy Tour is their chance to share the very best of their home countries with more than 20,000 visitors who enjoy the Passport DC festivities each year.”
The following weekend, embassies and cultural centers of the European Union will open their doors to the public. The date for the event is carefully chosen each year to take place on the Saturday after May 9, which is when the EU was established in 1950.
“The open house event was started by the European Union delegation 17 years ago, as a goal of celebrating Europe Day, which falls on May 9, with the American public,” said Smith. “Europe Day not only encompasses one government, but it encompasses 27 other governments as well. We at the European Union Delegation organize the entire event. This is everything from logistics, negotiating with the city, getting various permits, advertising, creating promotional items. Underneath this, all embassies of the European Union have total autonomy on how they want to participate.”
The European Union Delegation will be hosting an interactive technology exhibit this year as part of its theme of innovation, while the Italian Embassy—in collaboration with the Italian Cultural Institute—will host an exhibition by photographer Massimo Listri that illustrates Italian interior design.
“The open house is a fundamental way of collaborating and understanding cultural mindsets. We hope to build diplomatic relationships and understanding,” said the institute’s director, Elettra La Duca.
Following the day’s activities, the EU—along with DC United—will co-host “European Heritage Night at the Pitch,” where the community is invited to continue the conversation at Audi Field for a soccer match at a discounted price.
International Cultural Awareness Month will close out with Fiesta Asia on May 20, which will include performances, exhibits, vendors and a parade along Pennsylvania Avenue NW between Third and Sixth streets from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
PassportDC and the EU Open House aim to attract tourists to DC to learn more about cultural and diplomatic affairs, allowing access to unique embassy events that are only available to the public for a limited time.
Gates hopes that embassies choose to participate in the Around the World Embassy Tour to draw inspiration and creativity from each other and offer the very best of their home countries to more than 20,000 visitors that attend annually.
Embassies wanting to participate in PassportDC should fill out this form by April 21, or contact Jan Du Plain and Natalia Zambrano Munoz. For more information about the EU Open House and learn about the participating embassies, click here. And for more information about participating in Fiesta Asia, click here.
EU Open House 2022. Photos by Chris Kleponis/ EU Delegation.