Festivals keep alive the spirit of a culture, community and nationhood and are meant to celebrate the unique bonds of sharing, caring and mutual existence. Festivals not only provide us with a beautiful insight into the history and heritage upholding of the various cultures but also the distinctive ways in which each of us can create and cherish memories.
Below is a list of some of the most captivating and unique festivals, each a heaven for photographers and those seeking adventure and a break from the lull of the conventional life.
1. Winter Light Festival, Japan:
Dubbed the finest Winter Illuminations in Japan, the festival runs annually from mid November to mid March, in the popular Nabana No Sato botanical garden that is decorated with over 7 million LED lights.
The Nabana No Sato, located in Kuwana City is a flower focused park sprawled acres creating an immense oasis of harmony between abundant nature and rich facilities.
One of the main attractions of the festival is the famous 100m tunnel of light. I am definitely putting this on my bucket list. I hope the pictures below will provide you with a good reason to drop everything and go explore the place.
2. Pingxi Lantern Festival, Taiwan:
This Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival is definitely a feast to the eyes. During the Taiwan Lantern Festival, thousands of sky lanterns light over Pingxi District, Taiwan. In the village, initially fireworks were burst to ward of evil and disease and sky lanterns released to signal that the village was safe.
Starting in 1990, the festival today is one of the most colorful in the world and attracts thousands of tourists from across the world. The belief is that the lanterns carry messages and prayers to the god for harmony, peace and good luck. The main lanterns are over 10 metres tall while the smaller ones show images of historical figures, birds, or images from that year’s theme.
The thousands of lanterns turn the sky a fascinating red and illumine the mountain town into an expanse of unimaginable beauty.
The festival this year is from 27th February to 15th March. If the pictures don’t tempt you to book your tickets already I wonder what will.
3. Monkey buffet festival, Thailand:
In this annual festival of Thailand, thousands of monkeys feast upon 4000 kilograms of food at the ‘Monkey Buffet Festival. From fruits, vegetables, drinks and even candy have the treat of their lives.
Initially created to boost tourism in 1989, the festival today attracts tourists from wide and far who carry along food in tons for the monkey royalties. Onlookers gathered to see the monkey’s chow down, however are advised to keep distance to avoid getting attacked or their things stolen.
Every monkey has its day!
4. Dia de los muertos (Day of the Dead) – Mexico:
One of its kind, the dead of the dead is a two-day festival celebrated on 1-2 November every year. It is believed that the spirit of the dead visit their families on October 31 and leave on November 2.
This festival is a very colorful and exuberant one wherein death is not mourned but celebrated and rather mocked. “Death is skinny/weak and she can’t carry me.” is one of the most common refrain resounding on the streets, decorated with sugar skulls and skeletons, marigolds, candles and incense.
Most importantly a photo of the departed is placed on the altar and special food prepared in honour of the dead. The name of the departed is inscribed on the skulls and the parade of revelers sings and dances as they move to the cemetery.
5. Running of The Bulls – Pamplona, Spain:
The origins of this extremely dangerous but unique festival dates back to the festival of San Fermin in the 13th century and evolved with the popularization of bullfighting siestas. Today, the running of the Bulls takes place 8am from 7-14th July every year. The practice involves running in front of a small but fierce group of bulls, typically 6 on a sectioned town streets.
A great number of pastores or bull shepherds oversee the entire bull run by placing themselves behind the bulls, their main task being stopping people from inciting the bulls from behind and to help the stranded bulls to continue running.
The main purpose behind the race initially came from the need to transport the bulls to the bullring where they were to be killed in the evening or feature in the afternoon bullfight of the same day in Pamplona.
6. Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta – New Mexico, USA:
The event is the largest hot air balloon festival in the world and spans over the first full week of October. Pilots, crews, and spectators from all over the world come to attend the festival and witness the sky being taken over by a plethora of colors. It’s no wonder this visual feast is said to be the world’s most photographed event.
In the evenings, balloon glow and other such events are held where balloon enthusiasts fill the launch field with lit balloons of every color, shape and size and walk among them with leisure.
7. Harbin Ice and Snow Festival – Harbin, China:
Officially, the festival starts on January 5 and lasts one month and is the world’s largest ice festival. The exhibits however open earlier and stay longer, weather permitting.
Harbin’s location in northeast China accounts for its arctic climate which provides abundant natural ice and snow. Subsequently, the ‘Ice City’ of Harbin is recognized as the cradle of ice and snow art in China and is famous for its exquisite and artistic ice and snow sculptures.
A number of other exciting attractions include ice lantern art fair, winter swimming watching, ice hotels, dog sledging, etc. At night guests can stroll past these beautiful giant ice sculptures illuminated in a winter village.
Similar to the Harbin snow festival is the Sapporo snow festival of Japan held annually in the month of February.
8. Fuji Shibazakura festival, Japan:
The extent of the beauty of this festival cannot be determined unless seen by one’s own eyes. The vast blossoming pink fields with Mount Fuji in the background are the signature features of the festival. Visitors gather to admire 800,000 stalks of flowers of 5 different colors.
Shibazakura or pink moss blossoms in vivid pink, magenta or white colors and represents the transience of beauty. This festival with the symbolic Mount Fuji offers an authentic Japanses experience.
Equally popular in terms of beauty and tourist attraction is the cherry blossom festival, which is the national flower of Japan and a great symbol of hope and renewal.
9. Holi, India:
Also known as the festival of colors, Holi is celebrated across the length and breadth of India with equal ardor. Holi celebrations start with a Holika bonfire on the night before Holi where people gather, sing and dance.
In the past few years, this carnival of colors is attracting tourists in large numbers.
Similar to Holi is the Songkran Water Festival of Thailand where people splash / pour water at one another as part of the cleansing ritual to welcome the new year.
Then there is the Boryeong Mud Festival of South Korea and La Tomatina festival of Spain which is also known as the ‘World’s Biggest Food Fight’ where more than one hundred metric tons of over-ripe tomatoes are thrown in the streets.
(mud festival of south korea)
(la tomatina of spain)
By- Aakanksha Kumari