Travelling to Asia has never been easier, with a string of cheap flights landing you right in the heart of the action, and a string of adventure tours getting you into the thick of the action. The region offers a distinctive cultural experience, with underlying tropes and traditions taking on new life and interpretations within each nation’s unique historic and contemporary contexts. From celebrating Chinese New Year in Singapore to Hindu Thaipusam in Malaysia, the following is our pick of 10 must-see cultural festivals in Asia roughly organized chronologically.
The main question you need to ask yourself is: which one’s are for you?
- Garma Festival of Traditional Cultures in Australia
The Garma Festival of Traditional Culture is an annual festival that is held in north-east Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory, Australia. It is a celebration of the cultural inheritance of the Yolngu people and cultural inheritance, the aim is at sharing knowledge and culture. The festival site is at Gulkula that is approximately 40 kilometers from Nhul.
Did you know…? The Garma Festival is held in Gulkula, a stringybark forest where the Yolngu ancestor Ganbulabula introduced the yiḏaki (didjeridu or didgeridoo) to the Gumatj people. While the didgeridoo is now a popular instrument throughout Australia, the yiḏaki is specific to the Yolngu people who now use the synonym mandapul to refer to the instrument, out of respect for a deceased Manggalili-clan man whose name sounds similar to yiḏaki.
The Garma Festival of Traditional Culture is held every August and usually spans four days.
- Holi in India
Holi is one of the major festival of India and is the most vibrant of all. The joys of Holi knows no bound. The festival is celebrated across the four corners of India or rather across the globe. The festival is filled with so much fun and frolic that the very mention of the word ‘Holi’ draws smile and enthusiasm amongst the people. Holi also celebrates the arrival of Spring, a season of joy and hope.
Did you know…? The tradition of consuming bhang during Holi celebrations is particularly common in Northern India and standard practice across India. While an integral part of tradition and custom in India, bhang is an intoxicating drink made from the female cannabis plant.
Dates are projected to be 6 March in 2015 and 23 March in 2016.
- Taiwan Lantern Festival
The Taiwan Lantern Festival (Chinese: 臺灣燈會; pinyin: Táiwān dēnghuì) is an annual event hosted by the Tourism Bureau of the Ministry of Transportation and Communications in Taiwan to celebrate the Lantern Festival. There are many activities all over Taiwan during Taiwan Lantern Festival. During the Taiwan Lantern Festival, thousands of sky lanterns light over Pingxi District (平溪) in Taiwan. In Yanshui District, the firecrackers ceremony of Wumiao Temple is also one of the important activities. While the event is celebrated with lantern making, lantern riddle games and displays of glittering decorative lanterns, the most magical, romantic and striking event happens when the lanterns are adorned with the wishes and dreams of each owner and then released simultaneously along with thousands of others.
Did you know…? This magical experience influenced the imagery in Disney’s Tangled and formed the basis of the storyline, where the Lost Princess Rapunzel’s birthday would be honored each year with the release of thousands of sky lanterns.
Held on the first full-moon night of the lunar year, which usually falls in February or March. In 2015, the Taiwan Lantern Festival will be held between the 5th and 15th of March.
- Rainforest World Music Festival in Borneo/Malaysia
The Rainforest World Music Festival is a unique festival that brings together renowned world musicians from all continents and indigenous musicians from the interiors of the mythical island of Borneo. The festival site is set up with a variety of food and drink stalls, an arts and crafts area as well as a counter for festival memorabilia, Sarawak souvenirs and CDs by the performing artists, thus contributing to a fun filled, wholesome festival experience for all. It is World Music festival extraodinaire set against the magnificient backdrop of the legendary Mt.Santubong. The Rainforest World Music Festival, a not-to-be-missed occasion, guarantees a smashing time in the heart of the Borneo Jungle.
Dates are announced on the website each year and are typically in June or July (20 June in 2014).
- Harbin International Ice & Snow Sculpture Festival in China
The Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival is an annual festival that takes place in Harbin, Heilongjiang, China, and is one of the largest festival of its kind. It consists of four theme parks: Sun Island International Snow Sculpture Art Expo, Harbin Ice and Snow World, Songhua River Ice and Snow Harbin Valley, and the Zhaolin Park Ice Lantern Fair.
Did you know..? The first ice lanterns were a winter-time tradition in northeast China, hand-made by local peasants and fishermen by pouring water into a bucket, letting it freeze outside then gently pulling out the resulting bucket-shaped ice from its container. Then, they would chisel a hole in the top, creating a hollow vessel in which a candle was then placed, creating a windproof lantern to use while out on the lake.
The festival is officially held from 5 January to 5 February, but exhibits may open earlier and stay open longer. The winter travel season begins in mid-November, but exhibits first start forming in mid-December
- Chinese New Year in Singapore
Chinese New Year is observed by Chinese communities scattered all over the world and has a history going back thousands of years. Symbols of Chinese New Year include plum blossoms, which stand for courage and hope, and the water narcissus, which is thought to be a “flower of good fortune.“ “Good Luck,“ written in Chinese characters on red, diamond-shaped paper, and “lucky oranges“ are also often seen around the house this time of year. Clearly, the most notable symbols of Chinese New Year, however, are the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac. Anyone born during the year of a particular animal is believed to be born with certain personality traits of that animal.
Did you know..? Traditionally in China, red envelopes or packets called hongbao in Madarin, lai sze in Cantonese, ang pow in Hokkien and fung bao in Hakka are passed out during the celebrations, usually from married couples to unmarried people. The packets will usually contain money, given in even numbers and in ‘lucky’ denominations such as eight or six.
The event usually falls in January or February.
- Boryeong Mud Festival In South Korea
The Boryeong Mud Festival is an annual festival which takes place during the summer in Boryeong. Mud is taken from the mineral-rich Boryeong mud flats every year to use for the ‘Mud Experience Land’ program, along with the many mud-related events, including mud wrestling, mud king contest, mud massage and acupuncture programs, mud sliding, mud skiing, colored mud body painting, swimming in a large pool of mud, a mud spa, and a photo competition, all ending in a spectacular mud fireworks display and dance parties. Visitors can also take part in the adventurous marine-type silt extreme training experience.
Did you know..? Held in the Daecheon beach area in west South Korea, this cultural festival has grown to an excess of 2.2 million visitors since its inception in 1998.
The event usually starts mid-July with the final weekend often the most exciting. Dates for 2014 are 18th to 27th of July.
It’s look so fun right ? okey, save the date, save your money from shopping and invite your friends to feel incredible moment in Asia with their amazing festivals!