May 22 – 26, 2015
The Cheung Chau Bun festival may be one of the most original festivals in the world. Every year the people of this small island, about 45 minutes by ferry from Hong Kong get busy making papier-mâché effigies of deities, preparing costumes, baking buns and building a bamboo tower. The preparation is for an annual festival – started in the late Qing dynasty (1644-1911) – to ward off evil spirits besieging the island.
Festivities include a Bun Scrambling Competition where competitors race up a tower of buns and Taoist ceremonies. A highlight is a colourful parade where young children dressed as traditional idols and modern celebrities balance on poles.
Aomori Nebuta Matsuri
August 2 – 7, 2015
The glow of 20 or more massive traditional floating lanterns ornamented with human figures light up Aomori each August. Gleeful dancers chant, “Rasse, rasse, rasse ra!” as the floats wend their way through the streets of the city, all in costume. In fact, anyone in the traditional costume can join in and move as the hayashi music plays, and it is highly recommended to experience the festival from this insider’s point of view. Don’t forget to take a look at Nebuta Koya, the sheds where the elaborate floats are built. For a more in-depth look, browse Wa Rasse as well, an arts and culture centre dedicated to the yearly festival.Bristol, United Kingdom
Bristol Balloon Fiesta
August 6 – 9, 2015
This mass gathering of international balloonist and over 100 balloons makes this one of the UK’s most celebrated festivals. This dusk and dawn, four-day event takes place in the beautiful Ashton Court Estate, with the highlight being the Night Glow, when hot-air balloons are illuminated in time with music. Many take advantage of the campsite and spend their weekend at the festival and fair grounds. Half a million visitors typically attend, pulled by the beautiful sight of the massive, floating wonders. Helicopter trips and balloon rides are offered for those who want the best view, but they are booked out quickly, so do plan in advance.
September 23 – 25, 2015
Thimpu, the capital of Bhutan (and the largest city in the Buddhist country), is home to one of the largest tsechus, a three-day celebration of song, dance and social gatherings that brilliantly displays the culture of the land-locked nation. Dancers in elaborate costumes and masks perform stories based on moral vignettes or religious tales. Presented at monasteries, these tales are said to confer good luck upon onlookers. There are also colourful performing clowns or atsaras, who help prevent illness from befalling the celebrants and skits to raise awareness. For the mainly agrarian Bhutanese, the festival is a welcome respite from rural farm life. A more authentic, less touristy tsechu experience can be found at tha Paro Tsechu.
Thimphu was made the nation’s capital over 50 years ago, though small settlements have been around for several centuries. Religious and cultural sights dominate the tourist landscape, such as the 15th-century Changangkha Lhakhang, which boasts gorgeous views over the entire Thimpu valley. The National Folk Heritage Museum is also worth an afternoon; or head to the National Institute of Traditional Medicine to be treated by the ancient medicinal traditions of the region.Berlin, Germany
Festival of Lights
With its 10th anniversary celebrated in 2014, this relatively young festival is nonetheless a must-see for those interested in less boisterous celebrations, or for more cost-conscious travelers. For one to two weeks, famed city sights such as the Brandenburg Gate, Fernsehturm, Berlin Cathedral or Berlin Victory Column are decorated and illuminated with vibrant lights and video projections with their tones changing over time. Light and classical music displays are projected and broadcast at the monuments, lending a pleasing contrast where history meets modern art.Rajasthan, India
Pushkar Camel fair
November, 18 – 25, 2015
Pushkar Camel fair is an event in Rajasthan cherished with life oozing activities such as cultural and musical events, thrilling camel safari tours and a stay in the traditional camps making you feel like a local. Pushkar fair is an experience of a lifetime.
The fair embarks in Kartik Shukal Ekadasi and falls in the month of October – November. This five day long fair is celebrated till five long days till the Kartik Purnima and holds the sole aim of trading cattle including camels, horses, cows, goats, sheep etc. Once the trading of cattle gets completed, they are then bred and decked up with beautiful clothes and dazzling ornaments for public displays.
Every year Pushkar Fair is celebrated with great vigor by the locals of Rajasthan. The images of silver bells making heart pleasing jingles and animals walking over sparkling sand dunes are usual yet fascinating at this stunning cultural retreat.