Thursday, 21 June 2018

Three Festivals Worth Catching A Flight For.*

Festival season is in full swing, but I have a confession: I've never been to one. I don't know why, as sitting in a field drinking and listening to music is pretty much my idea of a good time, but perhaps it's the price tags that put me off - I can do that for free! However, there are some festivals that you'd be hard-pressed to replicate in your back garden, and I've picked three that are definitely worth travelling for!

Thaipoosam Cavadee - Mauritius.

I can't be the only person who's constantly thinking about a dream holiday to Mauritius! Located in the Indian Ocean, about 1200 miles off the coast of Africa, I could really do with a week or two exploring there! There seems to be so much to do and see. Whether you're after hikes along the rocky trails, getting to grips with the watersports on offer, or just lazing on the beach, I'm pretty sure this gorgeous island has you covered.

Mauritius may be fairly small, but it is a real melting pot of cultures. This is reflected in their national holidays, which are a blend of Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist and Christian festivals. Personally, I'd love to visit Mauritius during the Thaipoosam Cavadee festival, celebrated by the Tamil population. The story behind this festival goes as such: Idumban, a reformed bandit and a disciple of Agattiyar, was asked to fetch two mountain peaks and attach them to a cavadee (a pole used to carry loads). Lord Muruga had disguised himself as a young boy and was hidden in one of the peaks, making it much heavier. Idumban discovered him and started a fight, leading Lord Muruga to stab him with his spear. Agattiyar and his followers prayed for Idumban to be resurrected, and his wish was granted. Now, those who carry their own cavadee to temple are said to have their own wishes granted.

Ten days before the festival, there is a flag-hoisting ceremony at the temple, signalling a period of fasting, abstinence and prayer for devotees. During this time, they also build their cavadee structures - arcs of wood, bamboo, metal or plastic forming the shape of the sacred mountains. These are covered with bright, colourful flowers and feathers. On the day of the festival, devotees walk barefoot to a river or the sea to cleanse, and there are prayers and chanting as they purify themselves for the ceremony. Lots of devotees will have their tongues and cheeks pierced by small spears (representing Lord Muruga's spear), while the men can also have their back and chest pierced too. When they reach the temple, the piercings are removed and offerings are made.

I would love to see this procession in real life, as it looks like a hugely colourful and spectacular event. Alongside music and food, there's apparently also fire-walking and sword-climbing, which sounds dangerous but very impressive!

Crop Over Festival, Barbados.

I've been lucky enough to visit Barbados in the past, and honestly, my heart has belonged to the Caribbean ever since. It is the most incredible island with the most beautiful scenery, friendliest locals, and a really exciting atmosphere. I would love to go back, and in particular, I'd love to be a part of the Crop Over Festival!

The festival is based on the colonial past of Barbados, with roots all the way back to the 1780s, and celebrated the end of the sugar cane season on the island. It's the most popular festival on the island and is a riot of colour, music, and fun! It lasts six weeks and there is so much going on: from crowning the King and Queen of the Festival, to street stalls selling local art and food, to the live music, and the Calypso competitions, where people compete for titles such as Party Monarch, Sweet Soca Monarch, and Pic-O-De-Crop Monarch.

Crop Over ends with Grand Kadooment Day, a parade where masquerade bands and revellers dance on floats or on foot along the streets in gorgeous bejewelled costumes. The parade makes its way along to Spring Garden where the party continues with lots of food, drink and music, and perhaps a dip into the ocean for a swim! I've watched quite a few videos of Kadooment Day and it looks unreal. Everyone looks like they are having the most fun, and from my (very limited) experience of Barbados, I can tell you they really know how to throw a party! One day I will make it back there for Crop Over (and hopefully spot Rihanna in the process!).

Yi Peng Lantern Festival - Chaing Mai, Thailand.

The Thai Light Festival is celebrated in Thailand (obviously) on the full moon of the Lanna lunar calendar's  12th month (usually November). The major part of the festival is called Loy Krathong and consists of a tradition where those celebrating construct lotus-shaped baskets with candles in, and release them onto rivers. This symbolises a willingness to let go of anger, negativity and misfortunes, while the candles are a way of paying homage to Buddha. 

In Chaing Mai, another tradition takes place on the same day as Loy Krathong - the Yi Peng Lantern Festival. There is a real celebration, with traditional dancing, music, fireworks and a parade, and local homes and temples decorate their doorways with intricate lanterns. As this is a Buddhist event, there is an opportunity to join in with group meditation, before the release of thousands of lanterns with candles inside, lighting up the night sky. Combined with the glowing river from the Loy Krathong celebrations, this looks utterly breathtaking.

I love the whole concept of this, as it represents a movement away from darkness and into the light of the new year. It feels like it would be such a positive and inspiring festival that would make you feel so motivated and uplifted. Plus, from a purely superficial perspective, it looks jaw-droppingly cool. Definitely on my bucket list!

N.B. - While there are environmental issues associated with releasing lanterns, the majority of those used at this festival are made from rice paper and bamboo - please don't release lanterns that have metal frames!

These three festivals are a bit different to those you see in the UK, aren't they? But they make the most perfect excuse for a luxurious holiday to a far-flung place! Travelling gives you such a great opportunity to experience different cultures and learn what and how they celebrate. Destination2 have you covered if you're looking for the perfect long-haul location. Just make sure you're ready to party!

Have you experienced any festivals, either here or abroad?
*This is a sponsored post.

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