Festivals and events worth checking out – Part 1
Cultures across the world express themselves through festivals and events of various kinds, and as a traveller these are the kinds of fascinating experiences I seek. I happen to have a long bucket list of these, which is why I’m going to publish it in parts. Here goes the list #1.
La Tomatina, Bunol
Every year, on the last Wednesday of August, the small Spanish town of Bunol turns crimson as thousands of people assemble to thrown tomatoes at each other. La Tomatina is the name. Remember Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara? Hrithik and his friends were busy “painting it red”. All you need to do is get to Bunol, a Valencian town 19 miles off the Mediterranean. A train ride from the Bailen metro station will cost you around 5 Euros. On an average of 150,000 tomatoes are squashed and thrown as projectiles by 40 to 50 thousand participants, making it the world’s biggest food fight. After an hour of tomato fighting, and simultaneous drinking of Sangria, you can head over to Paseo San Luis for a peaceful walk or soak in the natural beauty of Cueva Turche. A Spanish vacation is best planned in August!
Full moon party, Haad Rin Beach, Koh Phangan
Green palm trees and white sand beaches await the party animal in you. One of world’s biggest beach bashes, the Full Moon Party at Haad Rin Beach boasts of the best DJs from the world over and fire performers. Take a ferry ride to join the fun and frolic on a full moon night to watch this nightlife hub buzz with infestious energy. You can enjoy jumping the fire ropes, and try out water slides illuminated with fire. This one is for hardcore party revelers who can go at it till dawn.
Dia De Los Muertos in the Mexican island of Janitzio
Each October end, Mexicans gather on the streets in skull masks, parading, signing and dancing, to celebrate Dia De Los Muertos. Have the best experience of this pre-Hispanic festival in Janitzio , an island in Lake Patzcuaro. Participate in the duck hunting ritual and get a taste of local delicacies like the Pato Enchilado. Traditional dances like Los Vejitos cheer you up, while people offering toys and gifts to the graves in the cemetery lets you in on the solemnity of the festival. At night, accompany the fishermen to the lake on their beautifully candle lit canoes and watch them perform the butterfly net dance. Sounds like a very interesting Mexican trip doesn’t it?
Guzzle Sport in Munich
The Germans sure do know how to host a party that extends to a festival. Oktoberfest, a fortnight-long annual beer festival has on offer, everything that you ever wished for: millions of gallons of beer, munchies, music, and entertainment. The natives are dressed in traditional German clothing and stay in tents designed to accommodate the different types of people coming to the festival. With a 200-year-long legacy, the Oktoberfest is a throwback to German culture, in all its grandeur and fun. The highlight includes costume shows and a rifleman parade, the entry of restaurateurs and breweries, and headlining international musicians. If you’re looking for a way to describe the fest, may we suggest ‘Wunderbar’? (Wonderful in German)
5 day Glastonbury in England
5 days of music, dance, circus and other performing arts with more than a hundred thousand people. The artists who entertain you are Adele, Coldplay and the likes. Can it get any better? Founded by former dairy farmer Michael Eavis, the Galstonbury Music Festival is the largest greenfield music festival under open sky. Come with your friends at Pilton, Somerset in England and watch some of the biggest stars perform in this jamboree. Moreover, be a part of a wonderful effort as part of your money is donated to charitable organizations like Green Peace and The Stroke Association.
New Year at Times Square, New York City
You haven’t really enjoyed a New Year party, unless you’ve been to the Times Square in NYC during one. A time ball, called the Times Square Ball, starts descending from the top of One Times Square right at 11:59, and completes its journey of 43 metres in those exciting 60 seconds. Believe it or not, more than a million people congregate at the Times Square to see this “ball drop.” Revel all night and have the time of your life in the Midtown Manhattan neighbourhood.
San Fermin in Pampalona
The Spanish city of Pamplona is the most talked about city in Europe from the 6th to the 14th of July every year. The 8 day long festival of San Fermin turns into a traveler’s delight, with a mutlitude of events taking place simultaneously. Parades, traditional rural sports, music & dance, bull fighting, fireworks – you can experience it all. But the biggest event is of course the El Encierro, or the bull run. While it is not suggested that you participate in this event, you can certainly see this up-close and feel your heart beat like an alarm clock, as hundreds of Pamplonians get chased by a group of angry bulls through a 825 metre stretch. Far more exciting than watching it on the tele.
Costume And Charade, New Orleans
The home of Jazz and Soul, New Orleans is a city bustling with a fusion of cultures from literally all over the world. The city will move you in more ways that you can imagine. So why not blend in completely with the festivities of the city. Yes, Mardi Gras. Traditionally a Christian feast marking the Epiphany before Lent, the fest has grown, today, into a concoction of art, music and food. The festival runs for over 2-3 weeks, from the end of January until Ash Wednesday. On the final week, the real festivities begin, with parades, balls and parties in clubs. You might also notice “krewes” coming with floats and costumes in a said order, during the parades, year after year. The members of the floats throw colourful chains and doubloons into the crowds as souvenirs of the fest.
St. Patrick’s Day, Dublin
The Irish have a charisma about them. Their accent, culture and lifestyle all irk the curiosity and awe in the people that interact with them. One can just imagine the zest of their festivals. St. Patrick’s day is a festival largely celebrated around various nations across the globe. But, the celebrations in Ireland are the ones that stand out in everyone’s eyes. The pubs in Ireland, even during the day, bustle with life and music. One can also prop up a green attire with the clover and walk in a parade. Don’t forget to blend in with the Guinness. In totality, as the Irish say it, St. Patricks day is absolutely Grand.
The Lantern Festival, Hong Kong
It has become a global trend to light paper lanterns during a wedding or a public gathering to signify joy, love and harmony. But the roots of the festival beckon us to pack our bags and globe-trot. The Lantern festival of China marks the end of the Chinese New year celebrations. Falling close to February 14th, the festival of the spring lantern is celebrated as the official Valentine’s day in Hong Kong and Taipei. The streets and halls are decked with lovely and intricate paper lanterns. For children, the lanterns are made with riddles on them to solve as they go by. Don’t miss the delicious tang yuan. Lights, good food, and lovely ambience. Take our advice, your S.O. will love it.
Durga Puja in Kolkata
If you want to know what celebration of heritage and culture is all about, visit Kolkata during the auspicious Durga Puja Festival. This week long festival celebrated with unmatched enthusiasm in Kolkata, is all about worshipping Goddess Durga. Colorful temporary structures known as pandals are constructed all around the city, while the goddess is evoked by beating traditional drums. Every resident, from the rich to the poor, is dressed in their best attire, walking through the city visiting pandals, while the best food is on offer on stalls set up in every nook and corner. You will not want to miss this divine experience.
Do you have any favorites you’d like to share. Let me know in the comment section below. I’ll try to add them in the next article in the series.
Shuchi is the author of two romantic comedies – ‘Done With Men’, and ‘I’m Big. So What!?’. She freelances as a writer, editor and blogger, and runs a writing firm called the Pixie Dust Writing Studio. When she’s not writing, Shuchi likes to travel, read and bake awesome cakes. Find out more at http://www.shuchikalra.com. You can also tweet to her @shuchikalra.