There is no better way to get to know a place than to experience how the locals celebrate within it. Cultural festivals are celebrations of the values most central to a destination’s society. They bring cities to life, focusing the locals’ efforts on one central goal – having a good time.
As a visitor, travelling to a city during one of these events can be a crash course in the local life, community and culture. It gives you a real insight into the lives and customs of a city’s people, as well as their history. As a side benefit, it can also be tonnes of fun!
So if you’re ready to experience the connecting powers of festival joy first-hand, we thought you might appreciate the heads-up on three great festivals to get you started.
There’s something about the end of October/November that calls for a celebration, it would seem. In the USA, it’s Halloween. In Mexico, its De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) and depending on the calendar, you might even catch Oktoberfest in Germany around this time. But our pick for your unique end of October celebration has got to be Samhain in Ireland.
Like Mexico’s De Los Muertos, Samhain has a close connection to celebrations of the dead. Celtic mythology suggests that during Samhain, the gates to an ‘otherworldly’ plain are open, allowing the dead and ‘other’ supernatural creatures to pass through.
The story is spooky but the realisation of this tale into reality is truly a sight to behold. The festival offers a variety of themed experiences (ghost walks, street theatre) with particularly impressive fire displays. If you like the idea of Halloween but get turned off by the big business of it all, Samhain is a great alternative for a more cultural spooky holiday. 2019 perhaps?
The Lantern Festival, Taiwan
If you’re not up for scary, how about something truly beautiful? Every year around mid- February Taiwan hosts a spectacular display of art and light as hundreds of paper lanterns are released into the air (yes – just like that scene in Tangled).
As the festival often coincides with Asian Lunar New Year, each lantern released represents a hope or wish for the year to come.
This year’s festival was augmented by the introduction of a festival app, designed to help festival-goers get the full experience and see a number of different aspects of the event. This was extremely helpful as there are a number of locations to catch the festival – each with its own unique experience to be had.
That said, the undisputed heart of the festival can be found in Ping Xi, rural district of Taiwan. Being a bit further from Taiwan’s capital, Taipei, the light pollution here is less and the display is simply mesmerising, like a sky-full of fireflies dancing above you. It will be one of those moments you treasure forever – and will no doubt be a spectacular beginning to your next lunar new year.
La Tomatina, Spain
If you’re not afraid of a little mess (well, a lot actually), then your perfect festival destination might just be La Tomatina. Every year the city of Valencia celebrates life with the ancient and very sombre tradition of throwing food at people.
You’ve undoubtedly seen the pictures of wildly grinning people covered head to toe in red tomato juice, but the images don’t even begin to express the high-octane, feverish joy this unique festival creates.
The festival’s origins might be disputed, but the most prevalent story goes that way back in 1945, some young people were attending the Giants and Big-Heads figures parade (probably an interesting experience in its own right…) and decided to cause some trouble, knocking the ‘head’ off of one of the parade participants. The person, now sans ‘big head’ grew angry and lashed out and in the fracas, a vegetable stand was knocked over, spraying them and the crowd with food. For some reason, the next year people wanted to repeat the experience, and from there it became a phenomenon (sorry Giants and big-headed figures).
In the past, the festival attracted more than 50,000 participants but in the last few years a 20,000-person cap was placed to limit the chaos and create a more enjoyable experience for all – so if you want to go you must book your spot early.
If you’re thinking of making your next getaway a real celebration (whatever it is you’re celebrating), we’d be delighted to help you create something that perfectly suits you and your family. You can give us a call on (02) 6041 5577, visit the office at 601 Dean Street, Albury or book an appointment with one of our expert travel agents via the form below.
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