Let’s pretend Asia needs more reasons to be attractive… what would make you take the great plunge?
Every year, Asian countries hold equally spectacular and popular festivals that mark cultural life all year long. From India and South Korea to Thailand and Singapore, we will explore 10 of those thrilling events. And there’s little doubt the magic will operate!
Chinese New Year in Singapore
Chinese New Year starts on the first day of the new moon, following the traditional lunisolar calendar, and keeps going on for 15 culturally vibrant days. Traditionally, families gather to exchange gifts and to eat delectable food, starting the year on the right foot. It’s also the fabulous time when dragon parades, fireworks, colourful lanterns and costumes, dance and music shows meet to immerse the city into a unique atmosphere. Evil spirits, spend your road!
If Lunar New Year – the second appellation of this famous event – leads to widespread celebrations in Asian nations, and among Chinese diaspora all around the world, Singapore’s three-day party is one of the greatest. It has that special multi-cultural taste which makes it like no other.
What? Amazing lights, parades & art performances
Where? Asian metropoles such as Penang, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore
When? Between the end of January and the beginning of February depending on when the new moon phase starts
Wow! Locals are used to exchanging red “lucky” envelopes usually containing money
Pingxi Lantern Festival in Taiwan
If many similar festivals are held all over Asia, both locals and foreigners come running from miles around to watch Pingxi mountains lanterns’ ascent to the stars. Taiwan districts managed to establish themselves as the homeland for releasing those lanterns which enclose many hopes. In Yangshui district, a stunning firework emanates from the Wumiao Temple, expelling illness and evil.
What? Magical paper stars taking off in the dark sky
Where? Pingxi and Yangshui districts in Taiwan
When? First full moon of lunisolar calendar, in February or March
Wow! Those lanterns were originally a signal that the town was safe
Holi Festival in India
Though western countries intended to develop Holi-inspired events (an obvious example being color runs), they keep envying the excitement brought about by the Indian festival. That date holds a certain significance for the entire Hindu community. And it’s also the excuse to repaint the whole town.
Beyond the 5 cultural and religious events celebrated (including spring equinox and the honour given to pure and universal love), the purpose of Holi is to maintain the memory of demon Holika’s death, and to apologize for it. The night before Holi, great fires are lit. “Don’t worry, it’s Holi” is the message conveyed the next day by the crowd that throws colored powder to celebrate joy and goodwill.
PS: it’s okay if you don’t get the whole story the first time
What? Hindu colourful celebration
Where? Northern India, particularly Jaipur
When? First full moon of lunisolar calendar, in February or March
Wow! Each pigment has its own signification, for example, orange represents optimism
Winter Light Festival in Japan
“What a beautiful starry sky!!” Make no mistake, what your amazed eyes are staring at is no exceptional sky, but Nabana No Sato botanical garden. Once a year, and for a few months, the place turns into a real LED lights cloud (there are almost 7 million of them) to celebrate winter.
What? Incredibly sparkling trees and flowers
Where? Nabana No Sato botanical garden, Japan
When? From mid-November to mid-March
Wow! LED batteries are solar-panel powered, so that they can charge all day long in an eco-friendly way
Songkran Water Festival in Thailand
Water fight fans, here we go. Here is the World’s largest battlefield!
Songkran takes some roots in Buddhism, encouraging some locals to pay tributes to monks and to visit their families. Yet most of the population only celebrates Thai New Year.
It coincides with the hottest period of the year, at crossroads between the dry and the wet season. Nothing that could be used as a weapon is ignored: buckets, kitchen instruments or even garden hoses. Water is not feared, as it washes past year’s troubles and enable a new start.
What? Giant water party, prepare to be soaking wet
Where? Chiang Mai, Sukothai, Bangkok in Thailand
Wow! There are also many shows that celebrate water, and Miss Songkran is elected
Waisak Festival in Indonesia
Waisak is a traditional holy festival that lasts for a day, honouring the principles of Buddhism, only the night-time ceremony will quench your spiritual thirst. Monks, candles, incense and divine shadows: you’re celebrating Buddha’s birthday. Buddhists from around the world the world flock to Borobudur temple, a UNESCO world heritage site. What a party!
What? Buddha’s big budget birthday
Where? Borobudur, Indonesia
Wow! Some Buddhists release hundreds of small animals, a practice that represents freedom
Dragon Boat Festival in China
Chu Yuan, a devoted but misunderstood poet left his ship and drowned in desperation, decades ago. Every year, in June, the Chinese eat rice dumplings, drink realgar wine and organize gigantic dragon boat races to celebrate his memory.
The latter are not only demonstrations of the rowers’ strength, but also stunning brightly decorated parades. Dragons boats range from 40 to 100 feet length and are “brought to life” at the opening ceremony when their eyes get painted.
What? Dragons’ Olympic Games
Where? China rivers
Wow! As a tradition, people throw sacrificial sticky rice wrapped in bamboo leaves (zongzi). One believes that at the time of the accident, the fish ate the sticky rice locals threw into the water instead of Chu Yuan’s body.
Rainforest World Music Festival in Malaysia
For three days, enter the wild mystical kingdom of Borneo’s jungle. Multiple traditional-art performances succeed one another until the evening when well-known musicians take the lead of the celebrations. Both indigenous and modern musicians will tickle your senses.
What? Concerts in the rainforest
Where? Borneo Island, Malaysia
When? June or July
Wow! The Festival has been winning the title of the best International Festivals by Songlines for six consecutive years.
Boryeong Mud Festival in South Korea
A festival that reminds us of the one of Songkran, but this time mud is replacing water. Attracting more and more visitors every year for the past 20 years, this party features every kind of mud-related activity along with light, dance and music shows.
Here it is common to see people mud sliding, mud sculpting, mud fighting, mud photographing…. Anything related to mud.
What? Giant mud bath
Where? Daecheon beach, South Korea
When? 2 weeks from mid-July
Wow! The festival was originally designed to promote Boryeong mud cosmetics
Sanur Kite Festival in Bali
Kite aficionados made of Sanur Festival their natural meeting place, every year. The contest features hundreds of beautiful flying structures built with a wonderful sense of imagination and ingenuity.
What? Millions of kites invading the sky
Where? Sanur Island, Bali
When? July and August
Wow! According to Bali inhabitants, “laying-layang” (playing with a kite) is one of the Gods’ favourite sports. This festival is originally a form of prayer to enhance the ground’s fertility and hope for a great harvest.