As the largest and most populous continent in the world occupying almost a third of our planet’s earth area, it’s no wonder that festivals in Asia cover virtually anything you can imagine, from religion and folklore to food and music via the quirky and the downright bizarre. There’s probably no better way to get under the skin of a particular Asian country or destination than by attending a local festival.
On such an incredibly diverse continent where so many different religions, ethnicities and cultures have to co-exist peacefully, festivals in Asia are the glue that binds human relationships and keep people connected to their roots and values while opening up minds to other worldviews.
Plenty of festivals in Asia have religious or mythical origins, from the many Hindu festivals such as Diwali India and Thaipusam in Malaysia, or popular Buddhist festivals such as Loy Krathong and Yi Peng in Thailand, to Muslim Eid al-Fitr in all Muslim-populated countries, and animist-inspired festivals of indigenous peoples like the Hornbill Festival in Nagaland, India. But also the more worldly festivals are becoming increasingly popular in Asia, whether they are art and literary events such as the Rainforest Fringe Festival in Borneo and the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival in Bali, or music and food happenings like Singapore’s Ultra Music Festival and the Cheung Chau Bun Festival in Hong Kong. But often a country’s most important event is their culture’s New Year, from Nowruz in many Central Asian countries and Tsagaan Sar in Mongolia, to Chinese New Year amongst all ethnic Chinese across Asia and the fun-filled water battles of Songkran in Thailand. Others are simply nature’s gift such as the Cherry Blossom Season Japan, or honour fertility like Kanamara Matsuri or Japan Penis Festival. And for some serious winter fun go to China for the Harbin Ice Festival or Mongolia for its Khövsgöl Ice Festival.
Plenty of Asia’s festivals don’t have a fixed date and hence are celebrated at slightly different times each year. That’s because they are often based on lunar calendars like is the case with the Sky Lantern Festival Taiwan, or follow agricultural practices related to planting and harvest seasons such as the outrageous Bun Bang Fai or Rocket Festival Thailand. So don’t forget to do a little bit of research if you plan to incorporate a festival into your Asian travel plans.
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