Each country has its own unique festivals celebrated for unique reasons. Families, friends, strangers, dance, music, colours and costumes- what is a festival without these? Keep reading to find out six of the most popular festivals around the world.
Wakakusa Yamayaki, Japan
If you’re visiting Japan in January and see a whole mountain on fire, don’t panic and call the fire brigade. It’s just the Japanese celebrating Wakakusa Yamayaki. It is an annual festival during which the grass on the hillside of Nara Mount Wakakusayama is set on fire. The origin of the festival isn’t clear. Some believe that burning the mountain side began hundreds
of years ago during the boundary conflicts amongst Nara’s temples. Others believe that the fire was lit to scare away the wild boars. When ablaze, it looks as if a volcano has erupted, spewing lava down the hillside. The festivities include competitions and lighting fireworks.
Rio Carnival, Brazil
Does the carnival in Rio need any introduction? Every inch of Brazil screams, “Party!” Samba, parades, floats, vivid colours, music, costumes that defy imagination and general cheer and goodwill. Each costume isn’t merely to dazzle and delight the spectators: they are part of a story. Visitors can even bring their own costumes to cheer for the performers. The carnival is called the “Greatest show on earth.” This is considered the world’s biggest carnival, with two million people on the streets every day. So the carnival isn’t a carnival without visitors, so grab your tickets for the next carnival, because they get sold out months
before the festival.
Known as the festival of colours, Holi celebrates the arrival of spring, the end of winter and the blossoming of love. The celebrations begin on the evening before Holi, with Holik Dahan, when people gather in front of the bonfire to perform religious rituals and ceremonies and pray that evil is destroyed. The next morning, people take to the streets and smear and
drench each other with coloured powder and water. Everyone- be it family, friends, strangers take part in the festivities. Water guns and water balloons are used too. Groups carrying drums and musical instruments gather in the streets to play music and dance.
The celebration of the New Year in Thailand is known as Songkran. It’s like Holi in India, except for here, people spray you with water. The celebration continues for three days, and you can’t step foot outside your home without being sprayed. Shop owners will sit outside their shops with huge containers of ice water, waiting to pounce and spray anyone who walks the streets. Others roam around the street on foot and even in tuk-tuks (rickshaw) to attack anyone walking around. The traditional festivities include visiting families and spraying a little scented water into the elders’ hands to pay your respects. So if you happen to visit Thailand during its festive season, don’t be surprised if someone sprays you with water.
The White Nights, Russia
The White Nights isn’t actually one isolated festival, but a series of events spread from April to August. It’s an annual summer festival in St. Petersburg celebrating its near- midnight sun phenomenon due to its location near the Arctic circle. The skies never reach complete darkness: it only reaches twilight. The festivities begin with a performance of the Stars of the White Night at Mariinsky Theatre. It’s a series of classical ballet, opera and music. Other festivities include Scarlet Sails celebration, carnivals and fireworks.
La Tomatina, Spain
If you’ve seen Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, then there’s no further elaboration needed for La Tomatina! The festival is celebrated in Buñol purely for entertainment- not to worship any god or to celebrate the end of any season. La Tomatina started out as an innocent street fight when people pelted each other with tomatoes. Then each year, the tradition was kept up by locals until it became one of the most popular festivals in the world. The fight with tomatoes usually lasts for a just a couple of hours, after which the fire brigade hoses down the entire streets and participants, to remove the now squashed tomato debris. Earlier, anyone could participate in the festival. But since 2013, only ticket holders could participate in La Tomatina. If you do decide to go, remember a few rules: not to throw anything but tomatoes, squash the tomatoes before pelting, do not throw directly at buildings, keep a safe distance from the trucks and to stop throwing after the second pistol shot. Go paint the town red!