February Carnivals & Festivals

RAPA NUI 29 January-13 February 2016

Tapati Easter Island

Easter Island (Rapa Nui) may be best known for the monolithic heads, or moai , that dot its landscape. However, Easter Island’s claim to fame each summer (that’s early February when you’re south of the equator) is a festival that is at once a test of masculine strength and feminine grace, a celebration of local culture and a welcoming of visitors.

Unlike many island festivals, Tapati Rapa Nui has been a festival for locals, by locals, rather than a tourist attraction. In 1969, just a few years after Easter Island gained some autonomy from Chile, Semana de Rapa Nui was born as a simple summer festival that featured singing, dancing and a small parade. Over the years it has evolved, including a name change, but Tapati Rapa Nui has always been about celebratingPolynesian pride. While tourists are welcome, and tend to pack the island this time of year, this is not a commercial luau or something you’d find at a hotel in Waikiki. Expect true authenticity in these festivities, and a deep appreciation and respect for the culture by the Rapa Nui people and all who attend.

And of course, no Polynesian celebration would be complete without the traditional dancing. Both young Rapa Nui and seasoned veterans compete for their team, swaying their hips in mesmerizing motions. Finally, the two young women competing for the crown take the stage for solo dances. The twang of ukulele and the tribal beat of drums echo throughout the stadium as they masterfully perform their elegant routines.

On the final night of the festival, the scores of the two teams are tallied, and the Queen of Tapati is crowned. The queen takes the stage for a victory dance. Drums pound, and her team sings, chants, and cheers her on, a coronation befitting a Polynesian queen.

 

 
RIO CARNIVAL 5-10 2016
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Carnival in Rio has earned its reputation as the world’s most famous dance party, when all matters serious come to a halt during the five days leading up to Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent. Attending Carnival is the ultimate rite of passage for global festival lovers. Go, and you’ll understand why the Cariocas (Rio’s enthusiastic locals) affectionately refer to it as “The Greatest Show on Earth.”
Rio Carnival Party like a pagan: Those old world pagans sure knew how to translate religion into party. In Catholic Europe beginning in the Middle Ages, all decadent food and drink had to be consumed prior to Lent to remove temptation during the 40-day period of fasting leading up to Easter (Carnival period begins on the Saturday before Lent and ends on Shrove Tuesday, also called Fat Tuesday). Historically, winter supplies were emptied in an all-out, gluttonous feast of the flesh to welcome the spring. As these traditions migrated to the Portuguese colony of Brazil, Rio Carnival transformed into something new. While the reformations and Inquisition attempted to sweep Europe of sin and tamed the wild feasts, the church could not contain what had developed in the Southern Hemisphere.

Getting Schooled in Samba: In Brazil, Catholic rituals collided with African tribal beats and Native American traditional dress to produce a hedonistic, sensual romp where creativity is expressed through dance, movement and music.Samba, the cultural heartbeat of Brazil, is a Bahia-born dance form that is fully on parade during Carnival.

 

CHINESE NEW YEAR 8 Feb 2016
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The historical significance is rooted in vibrant lore. Legend holds that in ancient times, the mythical animal Nian would attack villages each New Year’s Eve after waking from a year’s slumber. As the story goes, one year, Nian came upon a village where several buffalo boys were engaging in a whip-cracking competition. The monster was so frightened by the explosive sounds that he fled to another village, only to be met with another startling scenario: a line of bright red clothes hanging to dry. Fleeing in terror once again, he happened upon a third village where he peeked in the crack of a door. Inside, the image of a bright burning candle dizzied him into a frenzy.

The annual celebration of Chinese New Year has grown out of this tradition of superstition. For thousands of years since, the Chinese have hung crimson-colored lanterns to scare away the beast, giving the occasion its iconic color. Especially on the first day of the New Year, loud firecrackers, drums, and cymbals echo through the city, while fireworks and burning bamboo sticks keep the sky ablaze—all to keep the mythical Nian at bay.

The annual celebration of Chinese New Year has grown out of this tradition of superstition. For thousands of years since, the Chinese have hung crimson-colored lanterns to scare away the beast, giving the occasion its iconic color. Especially on the first day of the New Year, loud firecrackers, drums, and cymbals echo through the city, while fireworks and burning bamboo sticks keep the sky ablaze—all to keep the mythical Nian at bay.

Feasting with the family: Chinese New Year is a rejoicing of economic vitality and renewal. The country’s economy has been born out of a rich agricultural tradition, and the Spring festival marks the most auspicious time of year to set the intention for the upcoming planting and harvest. As such, it is also a time for family reunion, where all can come together and face the future with unity and optimism.

The time for family is New Year’s Eve, with traditional feasting on sweet soup with dumplings, fish balls, noodles, and fried cakes. If you have friends who are locals, don’t feel shy to ask them if you can join theirfamily dinner. You’ll see lots of little red envelopes passed from the elders to the young ones—gifts for the New Year. After dinner, many visit the fragrant flower markets at Victoria Park in Causeway Bay, or Fa Hui Park in Sham Shui Po in Kowloon. If you’re planning to give presents (a popular thing to do), the chrysanthemum signifies longevity, the peach blossom is associated with luck, and the kumquat trees embody prosperity.

 

JAISALMER DESERT FESTIVAL-INDIA 20-22 February 2016

Jaisalmer-Desert-Festival

The Jaisalmer Desert Festival is an annual event organized by the Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation each February at the beautiful golden desert city of Jaisalmer in the state of Rajasthan, India. The massive golden citadel of Jaisalmer towers above the Thar Desert. Remote, romantic, and unspoiled, the walls enclose a hive of palaces, temples and fine merchant houses, all carved from glowing yellow sandstone. Bazaars overflow with the famous crafts of Rajasthan, and spectacular sunsets envelop the city with warm evening hues.

This three-day extravaganza was started as a marketing idea to attract local and overseas tourists interested in exploring the rich and colorful heritage of Rajasthan and its folk culture in a short period of time. It’s interesting to note that there is no religious aspect, a rarity for an Indian festival. Thousands of visitors from across the globe make the desert trek to enjoy the various events that take place during the festival such as the mustache contest, turban tying, Miss Moomal and Mr. Desert competitions. Nomads also trek across the desert to sell woven goods, silver jewelry and black-market items at the bazaar.

The festival begins with a ceremonial procession, locally known as Shobha Yatra where local Rajputs and other clans dress in their traditional attire. Men carrying swords atop horses, camels, and elephants are cheered on as they enter the Shahid Poonam Singh Stadium, one of the main venues of the desert festival.

It’s a sensory overload of all things Rajasthani, which is justifiably popular with tourists from across the globe. Against the backdrop of Jaisalmer fort, people can tickle their taste buds with delicious delicacies, dance along to music and cultural performances and be amused by camel rides and even a camel tug-of-war.

 

SAPPORO SNOW FESTIVAL 5-11 Feb 2016

Sapporo-Snow-Festival

The origins of the festival date back to 1950, when a half-dozen local high school students got together and built a half-dozen snow statues in Odori Park. This sort of activity is historically commonplace in the winter on the island of Hokkaido because of its typically heavy snowfalls. A few years later, in 1955, Japan’s Self-Defense Forces, viewing participation as a training exercise, came from a nearby base and built sculptures. Their participation continues to this day. However, in 1972, Sapporo hosted the Winter Olympics—its location as Japan’s northernmost island blesses its landscape with lots of snow and skiing opportunities. The Olympic games introduced Sapporo’s Snow Festival to the rest of the world. The festival now averages about 2 million visitors per year, most of them Japanese; a tiny 3 percent visits from the rest of the world, including Asia.

Sapporo Snow Festival – Why Go?

The staging of nearly 400 spectacular ice and snow sculptures is what draws visitors to the 12-block stretch of Odori Park, home to much of the action and the majority of sculpture activity. During the day, stroll and watch the artists at work, carving up everything from life-size renderings of animals and historical monuments, temples and buildings (Taj Mahal), to scenes of Japanese life, manga characters, internationally recognizable cartoon characters, religious icons (life-sized Ganesha, anyone?) and mazes you can walk through.

In the past, native son and baseball player Hideki Matsui found himself famously rendered in sculpture form after he left Japan for the New York Yankees. The participants who create these works of art come from Japan and around the world. At night, contemporary Japanese artists take the stage at Odori against the backdrop of an illuminated, magical landscape. In the past, renditions of historic and famous buildings such as the National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall have been given the icy treatment and lit up.

Throughout the streets and at all three sites, you won’t go hungry. You’ll find plenty of native eats to sample, from noodle dishes and ramen to fresh seafood such as oysters grilled and served on the half shell and soup curry, along with veggies such as potatoes and corn. If you are pining for a switch, there’s even an international food court at your disposal. Burn it all off just by walking in the cold, donning ice skates and doing a few laps at the rink or if you want something more adventurous, you can bushwalk on skis on a special course set up in the park.

 

QUEBEC WINTER CARNIVAL

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Some people spend most of winter trying to avoid the ice, snow and most of the things that make it, well, winter. Not so the attendees of the Quebec winter carnival who revel in the frigid surroundings to celebrate the joie de vivre of the Carnival season.

Let everyone else flock to Rio de Janeiro for Carnival and New Orleans for Mardi Gras and opt for a very different way to celebrate than those warmer-weather destinations do. When it comes down to it, Carnival is all about enjoyment, and you can do it in a coat and scarf just as easily as you can in a skimpy costume.

Quebec Winter Carnival History

Among other cultural highlights from their homeland, the habitants of the New France colony brought with them the tradition of getting all the partying out of their system—eating, drinking and being merry—before Lent. In 1894, Quebec City held its first large Carnival, but a consistent annual event was interrupted by two wars and an economic crisis before the first official edition of the Quebec Winter Carnival took place in 1955.

Since then, many popular events that take place during Carnival seem to be ageless, even if they weren’t part of the festival’s beginnings. Snow sculptures, winter sports, and traditional Quebec activities like dogsled and canoe races are beloved highlights of the largest winter carnival in the world.

Carnival Traditions

It’s best to learn more about the traditions and symbols that are a huge part of the winter event. First off, find a long, red plastic trumpet (akin to those noisy vuvuzelas that often inspire extreme emotions), employ some more red in your costume, and get an arrowhead sash—a belt worn by Bonhomme Carnaval (the mascot of Carnival season).

Speaking of Bonhomme, he’s the snowman you see in everything that mentions the festival—complete with his half-moon smile, red cap, and arrowhead sash. He’s the personification of the joie de vivre of the winter celebration, and is extremely popular with kids. When he shows up on the first day of Carnival, he’s given the key to the city and is in control until Lent.

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