If there’s one way to really get under the skin of a culture, it’s a local festival. Because you can visit all the sights and take all the tours you want, but it’s at these annual events that the country is at it’s most creative, colourful, traditional, and wild – and you do not want to miss that. So plan your 2015 travels around these special dates:
Ultra Music Festival, USA: Sunshine, beautiful people, and dance music: it’s a match made in heaven, and when Miami is the matchmaker, you know you’re onto a good thing. This year, the lineup includes Avicii, David Guetta, Skrillex, Kiesza, Tiësto, Eric Prydz, Steve Aoki, and a whole lot more. Ultra is possibly the most famous EDM festival in North America, and for good reason. Miami is a hell of a city to throw a huge party in, and the festival takes place at the end of March, so you still have time to book flights! .
Rocket Festival: Laos and Thailand: The Boun Bang Fai Rocket festival takes place over 2 days at the beginning of May in Laos and North-Eastern Thailand. Communities come together to build, decorate, and stuff rockets full of gunpowder, then fire them into the sky with the goal of being the highest. The festival has taken place since ancient times, and was originally performed by all those working on the land to request rain from the ‘Phaya Thaen’ or the ‘Rain God’ to pray for plentiful rice production for that year. Those with sensitive hearing – stand well back!
Semana Santa, Guatemala: Easter week in Antigua is a feverish commemoration of the Passion, the Crucifixion and the Resurrection like you’ve never seen it before. Statues of Jesus are paraded through streets layered with flowers, pines and fruits in various designs – some up to a kilometre long. The entire city smells of incence and buildings and monuments are covered in black crepe, all leading up to the climax: a re-enactment of the sentencing and crucifixion of Christ, complete with Roman centurions and Pilate. Worshippers work themselves into a passion, so try not to get in the way!
Diwali, India: Every year in either October or November (depending on the lunar calendar)this five-day ‘Festival of Lights’, sees homes all over India lit up with softly glowing lamps and candles to ward off the darkness of evil. In keeping with the theme of ‘new beginnings’, homes are renovated, spring-cleaned, and decorated, people buy new clothes, pray to the goddess of wealth and prosperity, and set off firecrackers before indulging in a family feast and exchanging gifts. If you can get yourself invited to participate with a local family, don’t miss this one.
Dia de los Muertos, Mexico: While Halloween in North America has descended into a night of drinking and silly costumes, Dia de Los Muertos remains an incredible, authentic, and respectful festival honouring the dead and continuing traditions which have existed since pre-Colombian times. The rituals, which happen on the first two days of November, include offerings and music at tombs and graveyards, traditional food like Pan de Muerto and Calabaza en Tacha, a sweet pumpkin dessert, and an abundance of cempasuchil flowers decorating homes, shops and graves.