The world is populated by a myriad of weird and wonderful festivals taking place throughout the year. These can be held for religious purposes or simply for celebratory ones. Here we will introduce you to just a few of them:
Diwali, India – October/November
Image source: Diwali, India
Diwali takes place on a day between mid-October and mid-November. The ‘festival of lights’ celebrates the victory of good over evil, knowledge over ignorance, and light over darkness. However, for Hindus, Sikhs and Jains, Diwali holds other meanings. People’s homes, as well as public places, are decorated with clay lamps or diyas; fireworks, religious rituals and the exchanging of gifts all form part of the festival. Find out more: India.
Semana Santa, Guatemala – April
Image source: Semana Santa, Guatemala
Throughout Guatemala, spectacular celebrations honour the Christian calendar’s ‘Holy Week’ or Easter, starting on Ash Wednesday and ending on Good Friday. Semana Santa features colourful parades, extraordinary floats, incense burning, and exquisitely-intricate costumes. The island of Antigua exhibits one of the most flamboyant Catholic processions, which bring to life the sufferings of Jesus Christ; its streets are decorated with beautifully woven, flowery carpets, powder pigments, and elaborately carved vegetable produce. Find out more: Guatemala.
Holi, Rajasthan, India – March
Image source: Holi, Rajasthan, India
Hindus celebrate a religious spring festival named Holi, which can last up to 16 days. On the eve of the festival, also known as Holika Dahan (burning of little Holi), bonfires are lit in memory of young Prahlad’s miraculous escape from the Demoness Holika, who tried to throw him into the fire. Instead, it was Holika who was burnt, whilst the steadfast devotee of God Vishnu, Prahlad, was able to escape unharmed. Hindus enjoy throwing water and multi-coloured powders at each other in the streets. Find out more: India.
Songkran Festival – April
Image source: Songkran Festival, Thailand
Thai people celebrate the arrival of spring and the vernal equinox with the Songkran festival; this time of year is also celebrated in Cambodia, Laos, and Burma under different names and on marginally different dates. In Thailand, Songkran runs from the 13th to the 15th of April. These dates also coincide with the traditional Thai New Year, when holidays are taken. The best-known New Year celebrations take place in the northern city of Chang Mai; lasting up to six days, the festivities include throwing water at each other and at passers-by. Additionally, Songkran marks the end of the dry season in Thailand, and the beginning of the hottest time of the year. Find out more: Thailand.
Obon Festival, Japan – August
Image source: Festival of Lanterns, Obon, Japan
For three consecutive days in August, the Obon Festival takes place across Japan. Obon is a Buddhist festival commemorating people’s ancestors; it is celebrated by lighting a giant bonfire in the Kyoto hills, as well as through Bon Odori dances. Obon is also known as the “festival of lanterns”, as one of its traditions consists of placing floating paper lanterns on the river illustrating the souls of the departed returning in peace to their graves. Find out more: Japan.
Tsechus, Bhutan – all year round, varies depending on location
Image source: Tsechus, Bhutan
Tsechu celebrations take place yearly across Bhutan: from small and isolated villages, to the country’s largest dzongs (monasteries). The Bhutanese travel from across the country to take part in them, whilst visitors from around the world are also attracted to these vibrant and extraordinary festivities, which include a thrilling and captivating mix of sound, colour and atmosphere. Find out more: Bhutan.
Perahera Festival, Kandy, Sri Lanka – August
Image source: Perahera Festival, Kandy, Sri Lanka
Every August the Escala Perahera Festival takes place in Kandy; it is the most renowned of Sri Lanka’s many exotic celebrations. One of the Buddha’s teeth, Kandy’s’s most sacred relic, is usually enshrined in the Dalada Maligawa temple; yet, during Perahera it is paraded around the streets for everyone to see. Its ten days of intense spectacle and celebrations include elephants, drummers, dancers, acrobats, whip-crackers, torch bearers, and a procession formed of thousands of pilgrims. Find out more: Sri Lanka.
Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival, Burma – September/October
Image source: Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival, Burma
The Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda festival is one of the largest Buddhist celebrations in Burma, taking place in and around the stilted villages of the Inle Lake. The celebrations last 20 or more days, during which four out of five revered Buddha images are paraded around the lake in an intricately gilded barge, pulled by traditional long boats manned by hundreds of rowers. Phaung Daw Oo starts on the first day of the waxing moon, and finishes on the third day after the full moon of Thadingyut, which coincides with the months of September and October in the Western calendar. Find out more: Burma.
Fêtes des Masques, Ivory Coast – April/May
Image source: Festivals in Africa
In November, Ivory Coast’s most renowned yearly festival features colourful dancing competitions between villages. Fêtes des Masques pays homage to the spirits of the forest, personified by the dancing villagers wearing exceptionally handcrafted animal costumes and masks, many of which have been handed down from one generation to another. Find out more: Fetes des Masques.
Lake of Stars, Malawi – September
Image source: Lake of Stars
Held yearly during the last week of September, on the shores of the beautiful Lake Malawi, the Lake of Stars festival is one of Africa’s most prestigious and internationally renowned cultural events. The Lake of Stars celebrations include live musical performances, film screenings, TED-style talks, art exhibits, and many more interesting happenings. Find out more: Lake of Stars Festival 2018.