As many parts of the world gear up to celebrate Easter we take a look at some of the festivals going on around the world at the moment. You’re in for quite a ride as there are some wet, wild and downright bizarre things happening out there!
7. Songkran – Thailand, South-East Asia
Let’s begin with the ‘wet’ element with the annual festival of Songkran, the traditional Buddhist New Year festival. Throughout the country, although especially in the capital, Bangkok, people are toting water guns ready to give passers by a good soaking. The festival goes on for two days each April on fixed dates and as the weather is around 33C at the moment, a good drenching is probably quite welcome. It is strange to be a visitor in the country during Songkran as the locals look at you twice, uncertain whether to squirt to you or not. Why not join them and get stuck into the fantastic party atmosphere!
6. Los Picaos – San Vicente de la Sonsierra, Spain, Southern Europe
OK, the Los Picaos festival held annually in San Vicente de la Sonsierra in Spain is definitely a contender for the ‘wild’ honors, if not then certainly the bizarre! The town in La Rioja celebrates Maundy Thursday and Good Friday with Los Picaos and a rather unusual display of penitence. This rural outpost is the last remaining place in Spain where this festival, originating from the Middle Ages, is still practiced, after all other were banned in the 18th century. The brothers wear white habits with holes over their backs, cotton hoods with eye slits and they carry flax whips, which they use to hit themselves over and over. The brother’s backs are covered with wax, which contains sharp glass fragments, making each strike more lethal and producing more blood! This is the only remaining festival of its kind in Spain and would certainly make a great story down the pub!
5. Hanuman Jayanti – Mumbai, India, South Asia
The annual festival of Hanuman Jayanti features loud, colorful processions on the streets of Mumbai in India. The birthday of the Hindu monkey god is celebrated by followers who wear masks and tails and carry large idols of Sri Hanuman on the day of Hanuman Jayanti. The Hanuman Temple and all the others devoted to the monkey god really burst into life. The idol of Sri Hanuman is worshipped, devotees fast, read texts and pray. Sri Hanuman is regarded as the ideal selfless worker, because of his dedication in serving Lord Rama and he is thought to be the living embodiment of the true Karma Yogi.
4. Berengaria International Music Festival – Limassol, Cyprus, Southern Europe
If chamber and solo music are your thing, then check out the annual Berengaria International Music Festival held at the Rialto Theatre in Limassol. International artists come together with the aim of introducing new audiences to the pleasures of classical music with fifteen countries playing a diverse range of music.
3. Holy Cross Crucifixion: Lenten Rites – San Fernando, Philippines, South-East Asia
Each Easter the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Christ are relived in San Fernando in the Philippines during Holy Week to an almost fanatical degree. Good Friday sees a reenactment of the Vin Crucis by the locals dressed in Roman centurion costumes. People then trek 4km to “Golgotha”. The penitents inflict self-flagellations by using glass-spiked leather thongs across their bare backs. Definitely another contender in the bizarre category!
2. Natchez Pilgrimage – Natchez, USA, North America
In the town of Natchez on the south-west border of Mississippi is an event being held this week to mark the age of King Cotton, when the rich plantation owners built themselves Greek revival mansions and the houses are opened for a few days to the public. A Mississippi tradition began in 1932 when the Natchez Pilgrimages recreate Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With The Wind. Guided tours of 32 country houses are conducted each day with the guides donning period costume of hoopskirts.
1. St Lazar’s Day – Bulgaria, Eastern Europe
Each year eight days before Easter, St Lazar’s Day is celebrated when the young, beautiful and eligible women of Bulgaria perform ritual songs and dances. Also called Lazaruvane, meaning “coming out” in Bulgarian, the dancers go from house to house, to perform a short dance and song to each family and to express good wishes for health, prosperity and fertility. The Lazarki dancers wear costumes; in Pirin they wear an elaborately embroidered chemise and an apron with multi-colored handkerchiefs and in Sofia the Lazarki wear a flower headdress.
By Julie Bowman