March Carnivals & Festivals

National Grape Harvest Festival-Mendoza-Argentina-March

argentina

Although its origins are religious in nature, stretching back to the 17th century, the National Grape Harvest Festival (Fiesta Nacional de la Vendimia) officially started in 1936 when engineer Frank Romero Day, the then Minister of Industry and Public Works in Mendoza, signed a decree that the grape harvest would become a social event as part of the national agenda. Nowadays, it’s Argentina’s biggest wine party, bringing together everyone from the field workers to the wine vineyard owners and the rest of the wine-loving world. Well, 40 percent of the rest of the world actually comes; the rest are domestic visitors. The Mendoza province in the Cuyo region of Argentina is responsible for 70 percent of the country’s wine production, most notably for its Malbec, along with Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay varietals. Grapes are so stained in the culture that Mendoza is part of the worldwide network of nine Great Capitals of Wine.

The festival itself runs throughout the country as all 18 departments in the Mendoza province hold their own grape harvest festivities comprised of folk shows, Creole crafts and traditional foods. They typically take place on select dates and locations in December, January and February leading up to the Central Act in early March. For example, on the last Sunday before the festival, the Blessings of the Fruits take place, which includes giving thanks to the gods for the fruit harvest. Its origins recall a biblical tradition of expressions of gratitude toward God for the harvest and an invocation of the Carrodilla Virgin by the Archbishop of Mendoza, the patron saint of the vineyards, blessing the fruit before it is turned into wine.

The festival itself runs throughout the country as all 18 departments in the Mendoza province hold their own grape harvest festivities comprised of folk shows, Creole crafts and traditional foods. They typically take place on select dates and locations in December, January and February leading up to the Central Act in early March. For example, on the last Sunday before the festival, the Blessings of the Fruits take place, which includes giving thanks to the gods for the fruit harvest. Its origins recall a biblical tradition of expressions of gratitude toward God for the harvest and an invocation of the Carrodilla Virgin by the Archbishop of Mendoza, the patron saint of the vineyards, blessing the fruit before it is turned into wine.

A few days later, on Wednesday, there’s a Vintage Festival at the airport (there’s actually a Malbec vineyard nearby), complete with performances from Mendoza’s Philharmonic Orchestra and a collection of the Malbec grapes by the governor, the National Harvest Queen and other celebrated personnel. And after the last fireworks display on Saturday, three more nights of  partying take place with rock and pop shows—each of them capped off with fireworks. One other thing. If you are in Mendoza for any length of time, you may also encounter unofficial, offshoot celebrations, each with their own particular flavor, such as the Gay National Harvest Queen, the Crush of Grapes Night, the Electro-Dance Harvest Night, among others.

 

Calle Ocho Festival-March 13, 2016

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One of the best ways to celebrate spring in Miami, Florida, is with Carnaval. The city may not need the excuse to party, but Latino Miami doesn’t hold back doesn’t hold back with its 10-day fiesta: Carnaval Miami , which culminates in Calle Ocho -a 23-block street festival in Little Havana.

Load up on feel-good music from salsa to merengue, get a belly full of delicious treats, and walk all the calories off in a grand spring fling. You can be responsible when you get back home.

Miami Carnaval and Calle Ocho

The Calle Ocho festival is one element of Carnaval Miami. Carnaval on the Mile, the weekend before, is a two-day art festival on the Miracle Mile in Coral Gables. Attendees walk the mile , enjoying the work of more than 120 artists , hearing music from three states, and tasting food and drink creations from local restaurants. The entire combination of events—Carnaval on the Mile and Calle Ocho—help raise funds for the Kiwanis Club of Little Havana to accomplish service programs in the community.

Calle Ocho Festival Events

It may drive the organizer in your crew crazy, but at Calle Ocho, all you have to worry about is walking 23 city blocks, listening to great music and eating amazing food. Certainly, the beverages count, as well, but you can see how simple it all is. That’s how life should be.

Additional events during the entire festival of Carnaval Miami and Calle Ocho include a Miss Carnaval Miami pageant, a Carnaval Miami run, cooking contest, domino tournament, golf classic and soccer games. The events generally take place during the two weekends (and week in between them), however the pageant and run are often before the major festivities begin.

calle 8 food

Little Havana is the best-known neighborhood for Cubans in exile, but it’s also home to Hondurans, Nicaraguans, and other immigrants from Central America and the Caribbean. The neighborhood’s main street is SW 8th Street, or Calle Ocho in Spanish. It’s a one-way street packed with coffee shops, cafes, bakeries, beauty salons, mercados and art galleries.

Here, you’ll also find the Cuban Memorial Plaza, a collection of statues in the middle of a street median. The seven monuments commemorate the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion, Cuban independence fighter Antonio Maceo, anti-communist figure Tony Izquierdo, the Virgin Mary, and include a huge raised map of the island of Cuba.

It’s hard to see a city during a festival, because you don’t usually get quire the sense of place you do when everything’s just day-to-day normal for the community. Check out Little Havana either before or after the fiesta, and see how the spirit carries through every day.

Don’t just stay there, however. Miami is full of worthwhile things—from beaches to nightclubs to Art Deco architecture, as well as some amazing people watching. Add on some time to drive through the Florida Keys, and you’ll see how Miami strings Florida beach cultures together and then dials it up more than a few notches.

 

St. Patrick’s Day-17-20 March 2016

March 17th (St. Patrick’s Day) marks the day in circa 457 AD when Saint Patrick died and took his story to the grave. Since, the only known details of his life come from two handwritten letters sent by Patrick to himself, the rest propagated through myth. We know that Saint Patrick was born in England and was kidnapped from his home by Irish Raiders at the age of 16. After six years as a slave, God visited him in a dream and encouraged him to escape. With that divine vision, he broke free and returned to his English family in order to carry God’s mission back to Ireland . In addition to crediting Saint Patrick with the spreading of Christianity to the Irish pagans, ancient legend holds that he also drove all the snakes out of the entire nation. Old Irish folklore also tells us the Saint would use a three-leafed shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity—the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. It is then unmistakable how his Irish legacy remains so strong to this day.

Conceived of initially as a religious feast in the ninth century, St. Patrick’s Day took a thousand years to become an official holiday in 1901, with the first parade occurring in 1931. It wasn’t until 1995 that it became a government-sponsored, four-day festival. Talk about late blooming! But well prior to the St. Patrick’s legitimization, international celebrations have long been going strong, heartily supporting the export of Irish alcohol and green pride.

st pat cathedral dublin
Saint Patrick’s Cathedral – Dublin, Ireland

Truly the climax to the four-day carousing spree is the parade held on March 17th, where the million-strong, Guinness-fueled, green-clad revelers resemble a veritable army. The event is as much about participation as it is about spectacle. Few forego the tradition of adorning all green. At 11am, the festivities get underway at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral with the procession officially starting at noon and rolling until completion at the Black Church on Dorset Street. The most prized views are from the O’Connell Street Bridge — an attractive alternative to shelling out 60 Euros for the stadium seats.

ceili-mor

Traditional Irish dancing at the Céilí Mór dance party

Afterwards, the celebrators continue onward to Earlsfort Terrace for the Céilí Mór dance party. Traditional Irish dancing spills into the streets, and even the most bashful find themselves joining in for a jig. From there, the merriment rallies forward in the thousands of city pubs, only stumbling distance away.

 

Sydney Gay Pride Mardi Gras-March 5, 2016

sydney

Sydney Mardi Gras is a little like Vegas—what happens here, stays here. Still, keeping a party this great a secret isn’t easy, and every Australian summer, the city hosts the most anticipated lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) event in the world. From a rowdy parade and film festival to day-time dance parties and academic discussions, this celebration is perfect for anyone who likes to have a good time—gay or straight.

For those who’ve experienced the San Francisco Pride Parade, there’s really little comparison between these two. San Francisco may have the heart and bigger crowds, but Sydney knows how to throw a fabulous pageant with even more glitter and glamour. Plus, unlike most of the gay pride parades, this is a nighttime procession, so people come ready to party.

The parade starts in Hyde Park and winds its way down Oxford and Flinders streets by way of Taylor Square (a good spot for people-watching) before ending in Moore Park. Stake out a place on the street 2 or 3 hours early, and find a milk crate (or 6-inch heels) so you can get a good view. If you don’t like crowds, buy a ticket for the Glamstands, which gives you an elevated seat from where you can take in all the festivities. There are enough over-the-top floats, sexy dancing groups and skimpy costumes that you might mistake this for Rio during Carnival . This is a participatory event, and the audience is full of people decked out in their finest wacky wardrobes. You may think you’re a spectator, but the truth is people are looking at you as well, so come dressed for the part.

At some point you’ll follow the parade to the Fox Studios in Moore Park, where the all-night dancing is held. Given the friendly nature of the crowd, you can stop into any of the most popular bars—Oxford, Stonewall, Columbian—and ask about where there might be a private party. In the many primarily gay neighborhoods such as Darlinghurst, Surry Hills or King’s Cross, all you have to do is walk down the street and you’ll see someone’s front door open (most locals are proud to have so many out-of-towners visiting them). If you’ve still got energy, consider going to the official morning-after party at Luna Park.

 

BaliSpirit 2016-March 29-April 3rd

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There was a time when people went to music or cultural festivals, burned themselves out, and then needed weeks to recover from the madness. Like the growing Wanderlust festival, BaliSpirit is a relatively new phenomenon, a festival where you are built-up rather than burnt-out. With health and wellness presenters from around the world (and participants from more than 50 countries), be prepared for a beautiful experience that will engage all six of your senses as the lovely, lush Ubud has done for visitors for hundreds of years.

Isn’t it just a yoga festival?

You’re likely to find yoga teachers from more than a dozen countries and, yes, yoga is a foundational part of the BaliSpirit experience, with a variety of classes offered throughout the day and evening. Meghan Pappenheim, a Manhattan transplant well-known in Ubud for running a few different restaurants and creating the Yoga Barn, created the festival in 2008 as a means of connecting people to each other, to themselves, and to the vibrant and life-sustaining Balinese bliss. There are music and art classes, tours of local temples and spiritual sites, nutrition and health workshops, and a collection of family activities like Balinese dance for kids, circus tricks, and storytelling. The daytime activities occur in the Purnati Center for the Arts. At night, you’ll move to ARMA (Agung Rai Museum of Art) and be serenaded with everything from local gamelan orchestras to well-known world music stars and Balinese puppet shows. Expect everything from electronica to indigenous to Bhakti/Kirtan but all with a soft edge as the whole flavor of the festival has a yin energy.

Making Friends

Given how Elizabeth Gilbert put Ubud on the map with her bestseller Eat, Pray, Love, Bali Spirit is particularly popular as a girls’ getaway festival. The porous, laid back nature of the event and the area make it a perfect place to meander and to explore. Quite often, you’ll meet someone at the festival and they’ll invite you over to their nearby villa for an after concert glass of wine or tea and to admire the Balinese moon. For this reason, it’s also a great festival for people traveling alone, and it’s a good time of year to visit Bali because it’s not too crowded in March.

Meghan’s vision is based upon the Balinese Hindu concept of “Tri Hita Karana” or harmony with God, Community and Nature. The festival provides support to HIV and AIDS awareness, multicultural education, and environmental conservation in Bali. BaliSpirit is a poster child for a new generation of festivals for the rapidly growing holistic travel marketplace. It’s a festival makes you feel good both physically and emotionally, while also doing good socially and spiritually.

 

HOLI-India,Nepal & Sri Lanka March 23-2016

Holi-2015-Photo

If you happen to be in India, Nepal or Sri Lanka during the last lunar cycle of the winter, called Phalguna (usually in February or March), you just might get caught in a rainbow battlefield at the Holi festival of colors. Throngs of celebrants fling every imaginable type of brightly colored dye in the form of powder, liquid and water balloons at each other in an all ­out war. It’s a wildly immersive and participatory festival, as everyone gets involved, from young to old. Holi is celebrated all over the region from intimate celebrations at home to enormous street parties exploding with color. It’s very photogenic, but be warned: we lost a camera to a paint­ filled water balloon on the streets of Delhi.

“I’m acting really strange right now. Don’t mind me. This Holi celebration has taken over me, so blame Holi.”

Celebrating Legends at Holi

The most accepted of the many stories about Holi’s colorful beginnings is the Hindi legend of Radhu and Krishna found in a 7th-century Sanskrit manuscript. Krishna was believed to have been unhappy with the color of his dark skin compared to Radhu’s fair complexion, so his mother evened out the balance by having Krishna apply beautiful colors to Radhu’s face. This festival helps locals say goodbye to winter and welcome to spring, the season of love (and color). It’s celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs and happy travelers alike.

Never mind, it’s Holi

Many customs accompany Holi. On the eve of this celebration (known as Purnima Day, or full moon), wooden sticks and old furniture are piled into town centers and set ablaze. To appease the god Hutashani, locals offer ears of corn, new vegetables, coconuts, butter and flowers to the fire. In the morning, on the day called “Parva,”you’ll hear people screaming, “Bura no mano, Holi Hai!” (“Never mind, it’s Holi!”), which is a way of saying, “I’m acting really strange right now. Don’t mind me. This Holi celebration has taken over me, so blame Holi.”

This festival of colors serves as an equalizer in a system long ruled by castes, classes and social hierarchy. The face paint serves much like the masks of Carnival and everyone joins in the festivities together, though not all class divisions are necessarily forgotten. But social barriers are relaxed and it’s a happy celebration for all.

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