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Festivals are portholes into a society's culture, offering fascinating glimpses into ancient traditions. Be they religious, cultural, musical or something else, travellers know that festivals are great opportunities to absorb and experience another culture.
This article offers an overview of some of the most famous festivals in the world.
The Gerewol Festival is annual festival, usually held in September among the Wodaabe people of Niger. Young men dressed in their best and most beautiful clothings perform and dance and sing. The main reason actually is quite simple: attentions of marriageable young women. And the ideal men according to traditions are tall and have white eyes and teeth, hence the rolling of the eyes which is popular during this festival. It takes place each year in September when the nomadic Wodaabe people gather at the southern edge of the Sahara and festivities last for about a full week. The end of September marks the end of the rainy season in this part of the country. The most famous place where the Gerewol Festival is held is in In-Gall in northwest Niger, where a large festival, market and series of clan meetings take place for the Wodaabe people. But there are many more comparable festivals wherever the Woodabe people might be at that time. Although the festivals have been held for hundreds of years, they are now much more of a tourist attraction than ever and some even have fixed dates, set by the government. The government sometimes even decides who can perform or not!
Traditional culture is very visible through colourful annual Zambian traditional ceremonies. Events, such as the Ku'omboka, offer a fantastic insight into the Zambian culture. Ku'omboka means to "move to dry land", and it celebrates the annual move of the Lozi king from his summer palace in Lealui to his winter one in Limulonga. The festival often collides with Easter, though not always- sometimes the festival is even postponed to suit the country's leaders (such as the president and other tribal kings) schedules. In fact, the king often moves earlier when the palace is flooded, and simply returns in order to carry out the ceremony!
The lake of stars is an annual, huge (at least by African standards) festival lasting three days in central Malawi, close to a popular tourist centre, Nkhata Bay. The actual festival takes place in Chintheche, a small town about 1.5 hours south of Nkhata Bay. The dates aren't set, and change slightly each year. Usually though the festival is held during early September. The festival attracts both big, international names, as well as local artists. It is advisable to book accommodation well in advance.
Although there are also Cherry Blossom Festivals in several cities in the USA and Canada, it doesn't get any better than the ones in Asia. Many countries, mainly in the east of the continent, have their respective Cherry Blossom Festivals, usually somewhere between February and early May. As the flower is also called Sakura in Japan, the most popular festivals are in this country as well. The earliest ones are in the southern part of the country, while the northern island of Hokkaido sees the cherry blossoms well into April or even early May when winter lingers around longer. They are widely cultivated in Asia and beyond and are highly regarded for their beauty. The flowers are very delicate and last only a matter of weeks before they are blown from or fall from their trees, and cover the ground like a thin but persistent layer of snow. Their lush beauty, followed by a quick death, has caused them to be symbolic of mortality in Asian cultures. Apart from Japan, also China and South Korea celebrate this brief but beautiful time. One of the biggest for example is in Seoul, where the Yeoido Cherry Blossom Festival is held on an island in the middle of the city. More than 2.5 million visitors admire the beauty of 1,400 trees along a 6-kilometre-long boulevard.
Chinese New Year, also known as Spring Festival and Lunar New Year, is the most important festival celebrated by the ethnic Chinese around the world. The festival actually begins on the eve of the new year where families gather for the most important dinner of the year, also known as the reunion dinner. Every household will prepare more than enough food for the dinner that it's impossible to finish them, as a symbolism of endless wealth.
The first few days of Chinese new year is a time of visiting family members (usually by order of seniority), extended family, and later friends. Gifts – usually food stuff – and fruits like mandarin oranges, are given during visits. The following greetings and wishes are used all the time:
New clothes, especially of red-colour tones, are worn on Chinese new year as it symbolizes a new beginning in a new year. The red colour is traditionally associated with the power of scaring away evil spirits and bad fortune, and thus leaving only the good ones with you. This is why many things in the Chinese culture are in red colour. Wearing fully black or fully white colour clothes is a big no-no, as these two colours are usually associated with death and funeral and thus frowned upon.
At this time, married couples will give away small red envelopes called 'hóng bāo' (红包) to unmarried juniors as a sign of good wishes and blessing. Inside the 'hóng bāo' is cash, usually a token amount of a few dollars, but can also contain a lot (hundreds) depending on the relationship between the giver and the recipient, and most importantly the wealth and generosity of the giver.
During the 15-day celebration, lion dance troupes can be seen performing at private homes and business premises. The lion dances to the loud sound of the drums, symbals and gong to scare away the evil spirits, remove the bad fortune and give blessings to the place. Large businesses, corporate companies and even multinationals in places with large Chinese community will hire a large troupe to perform at their premises to welcome the new year, and they often involve the lions performing creative and skillful stunts on two- to three-metre-tall stilts.
In places outside mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan where there are large population of ethnic Chinese such as Malaysia and Singapore, a national public holiday is declared for the first two days. In Brunei and Indonesia, the first day is a public holiday.
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The festival of Holi is quite popular in the Indian sub-continent and is traditionally celebrated on the day after the full moon in the month of Phalguna(early March), according to Hindu calender. Holi is a thanksgiving festival, where people offer prayer to God for good harvest and fertility of the land. However it has a legend attached to it according to which an arrogant king resents his son Prahlada from worshipping Lord Vishnu. He attempts to kill his son but fails each time, finally he asks his sister Holika, who is said to be immune to burning, sits with Prahlada in fire. However Prahlada emerges alive and Holika is burnt to death. Holi commemorates this event from the Hindu mythology, and huge bonfires are burnt on the eve of Holi as its symbolic representation. This festival is also associated with the immortal love story of Krishna and Radha, and hence celebrations are spread over a period of 2 weeks in Vrindavan and Mathura - the two cities associated with Krishna.
Holi is a festival of freedom from social norms and caste inhibitions are shed for a day as people indulge in fun and merry-making. Colors and 'gulal' are showered on the people dressed up for the occasion and the whole community seems to merge into one big family under the guise of colors, without any distinction whatsoever. Children with face smeared with colors run around with 'pichkaris' (big syringes to splash colored water) and play amongst themselves. People exchange good wishes, sweets and gifts. Holi is also marked by vibrant processions which are accompanied by folk songs, dances and drum beating. Parties are also organized where snacks and the traditional milk-based drink “Thandai” is served which is often intoxicated with “Bhang”.
Of late, lots of foreigners have started taking interest in this festival and they even enjoy the colors and the intoxicating drink. It is advised to cover your hair with a cap and eyes with sunglasses to avoid the colors splashing the eyes and damaging the hair.
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The Nadaam Festival is held every year from 11 to 13 July (National Holiday) in the capital of Mongolia: Ulan Bator. The National Sports Stadium is the place to be for 3 days long when military parades and sports competitions are held here, with wrestling, arching and horse racing being the most important sports. It is believed that the Nadaam Festival has been a tradition for hundreds of years and nowadays foreigners can enjoy watching traditions in the stadium in Ulan Bator. The festival begins with a massive parade and also features classical Mongolian dancing. In traditional times the festival would have been celebrated when the grass was greenest. In some parts of the country that are more conservative this tradition still holds true and there are quite a few other cities and smaller villages where as a traveller you can witness the numerous festivities of the Nadaam Festival as well. It might even be better than the massiveness of Ulan Bator, which has become more and more touristy over the last years.
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The Pushkarfestival is one of the biggest camel fairs in the world, held in Pushkar, Rajasthan in India. Thousands of people during this day go to the banks of the Pushkar Lake where the fair takes place and where livestock livestock, including camels, cows, sheep and goats, is sold. A camel race marks the start off the festival, and music, songs and exhibitions are held throughout the day. Although the dates of Pushkar Fair depend upon the movement of the moon, traditionally it mostly falls in November.
It falls on the day of Poornima (full moon night) in the month of Karthika. On this day, according to legend, the Hindu god Brahma sprung up the lake, so thousands of Hindu devotees take dip in the Pushkar lake, washing away the sins. The water of the lake is believed to have healing properties.
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Songkran (Thai สงกรานต์), is Thailand's celebration of the Thai new year. It is celebrated every year between 13 and 15 April. This time is the hottest time of the year with temperatures frequently hitting 40 degrees Celsius.
It used to be calculated based on astrology but now the dates are the same every year. It's a national holiday and if Songkran coincides with weekends, people take extra days afterwards. If it's during the week, most of the business dy out as people generally take the whole week of. It used to be the beginning of the actual year, but nowadays like many other places the 1st of January is the beginning of the year as well.
In the past, people would throw water among themselves in nice way to bless each other but during recent times years, water fights have erupted in many tourist areas like in Chiang Mai which still remains one of the most popular places to be at this time. Still, anywhere in the country is a great place to be during Songkran and you will have a blast. In Chiang Mai, the entire city swells with people looking to drench eachother and get some relief of the April heat. The streets are lined with people and walking during these days is often faster than any other transport. Be sure to take an underwater camera body and a good dose of humor, as you will get wet and dirty.
Some people also go to wats (Buddhist monastery) to go praying and also to give food to monks.
Although Songkran might be most famous in Thailand, there are many other countries that have festivities during this time of year, which basically is devoted to the start of the sun's journey in northern directions. Countries where they celebrate this time include Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar and China (Yunnan) and several other (south and southeast) Asian people like Punjabi and Tamil have celebrations.
More about the History of Songkran.
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Thaipusam is a Hindu festival celebrated mainly by the Tamil community. The festival celebrates the birthday of the Hindu deity Lord Murugan (also known as Subramaniam). This event falls on the full moon in the Thai month of the Tamil calendar, which is between mid-January and mid-February.
During this time, Hindu devotees held prayers and seek divine intervention for fulfillment of their wishes. They also walk long distances carrying kavadi to reach the temple of the Lord. To be a kavadi bearer, one has to go through prayer and fasting to cleanse themselves. Kavadi bearers also have to perform rituals at the time of assuming the kavadi and at the time of offering it to Lord Murugan. There are many kinds of kavadi (burdens). It varies from as simple as carrying a pot of milk to mortification of skins by piercing the skin, cheeks, or/and tongue with vel skewers. Some extreme kavadi bearers also carry cage-like structure weighing more than 10 kilograms and is decorated with peacock feathers and pictures of Hindu deities.
Celebrations are held with grandeur in the southern states of India, Malaysia, Singapore and Sri Lanka. At Palani, a town around 100 kilometres from Madurai, the Thaipusam festivities are extensive, continuing for a period of 10 days. Outside India, Thaipusam is celebrated even more grand, especially in Malaysia. The largest celebration is held at Batu Caves, located just outside the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur. Over a million people, including many non-devotees, throng the temple at the caves during this celebration which lasts for several days. Devotees carrying kavadi have to walk up 272 steps of stairs to reach the Lord Murugan shrine which is located inside the famous limestone cave.
The Basler Fastnacht is one of the more memorable Carnival/Mardi Gras celebrations in the world. It has none of the timeless elegance of the Venice Carnival or the drunken and baudy cheer of the Cologne Carnival, instead it is rougher and the masks are more likely to give you nightmares. And unlike in the Carnival in Venice or Cologne there is a strict separation between participants and onlookers, only participants will wear masks and costumes. The Fastnacht is essentially pagan folk figures and practises for driving away the winter dressed with a tiny fig leaf of Christianity. The feast is held annually and lasts for about 3 days, exact dates vary according to the date of Easter. Basler Fastnacht is held about a week later than the Carnival in Venice and Cologne.
The Festival de Cannes, better known as the Filmfestival of Cannes, is one of the oldest and most prestigious filmfestivals anywhere in the world. The private festival is held annually (usually in May) at the Palais des Festivals et des Congrès, in the resort town of Cannes, in the south of France. The first festival started in 1930 and in 2012, the 65th edition will be a fact.
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Until 2013 every year on the 30th of April, Koninginnedag (Queensday) was celebrated in the Netherlands. As the Queen abdicated last year, she was replaced by her son King Willem Alexander. As a consequence Queensday has now become Koningsdag (Kings Day), and will be celebrated a few days earlier on 27 April. On Koningsdag the streets of almost every sizable town in the country come alive with activity. The centre of the action is in Amsterdam, but, if you prefer things a little less crowded, Utrecht is also a popular destination. Both cities have canals and it's just perfect to watch a boat parade with music while you are drinking a beer along the canal side terrace. There are also large outdoor concerts throughout the country, though the one in Amsterdam is the most popular. Several cities have night-markets which actually start the night prior to Koninginnedag and last for about 24 hours.
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The Oktoberfest is held annualy in Munich, actually starting already in September! Although more cities have Oktoberfeste, this one is the best known and in fact is the largest fair in the world, with 6 million visitors a year. Finding a place to stay during these days can be very hard, and if you want to stay in Munich itself booking ahead (far ahead) is requiered. The festival takes place at the Theresienwiese since 1810, when it was held as a celibration for the marriage between Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen Over the years there have been 24 cancellations of the fest for many reasons in this period, including wars and diseases. Since 1950 the Oktoberfest as we know it today emerged. Most of the breweries set up an own tent at the festival. Over the last few year the one from the Hofbrauhaus has been the biggest, with a capacity of almost 10,000 for this tent alone. Besides drinking beer, there is (in good German tradition) enough to eat, and enough to do. A fairground is erected at the grounds to entertain the young and the old. The beer is poured in 1 litre mugs. The mugs carry the logo of the brewery who's beer you are drinking. If you like your mug so much that you want to take it home, be warned that stealing a mug can cost you a fine of €50. It's better to buy one, and keep the receipt for the occasion that the police wants to see the receipt.
Palio di Siena is one of the most intense, and short, horse races in the world. It is held twice a year in the angled Plazza del Campo at the center of Siena. The horses represent the different districts in the city and have to run around the Plazza once. The winning horse does not need its rider in order to win.
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The San Fermin Festival in Pamplona starts every year at 12.00 on the 6th of July, and last until midnight on the 14th. The biggest day of the festival is on the 7th of July, when the statue of San Fermin is carried through the streets of the city. The most famous event during the week in the Running of the Bulls, the Running takes place on the 7th of July, and from than every morning at 8:00am during the week. Six bulls and six steers are released from their corrals, and are guided to the Bullfighting ring over a 825 metres long course through the narrow streets, in a mere 3 minutes. Hundreds of people run in front, and along side of the bulls. The event is not without danger. Over the years 15 people have been killed and each year around 200 to 300 are injured. As a visitor it is possible to take part in the running. You need to be on the course at 7.30am, be over 18 years old, and you can't be under the influence of alcohol. It is also not allowed to run in the wrong direction. Needless to say, taking part is at your own risk.
The bulls that take part in the running, are kept in the Plaza de Toros, until the bullfights take place later in the evening, where they will eventually be killed. So if you are opposed to bullfighting in general, it's not an event to visit. You could however consider to take part in the Running of the Nudes, that takes place a couple of days before the San Fermin Festival.
Fore more information check the Bullrunning website.
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Sziget Festival is one of the biggest cultural events of Europe, attracting almost 400,000 people from over 40 countries each year to the heart of Budapest. The venue is Obuda island on the river Danube, creating a special atmosphere with the unique mixture of party, city and nature. Sziget is many festivals in one, a non-stop event with almost 60 program venues and around 250 programs daily, so whatever music you like, you will surely find it there. Sziget has 5 big open-air stages, many smaller live stages and several DJ venues 24h/7. The festival is not just about music, it offers several other cultural programs, like theatre, circus, or exhibitions. Sziget is a festival city in itself, offering almost unlimited camping possibilities, VIP camping, post, laundry, shops, bars, sports facilities, internet cafe and a lot more.
The first edition of Sziget was held in 1993, a big gathering in a sort of ‘Woodstock’ atmosphere, but it soon developed into something much larger as the apparent need for a large festival in Central Europe became evident. As the organization grew more and more professional, Sziget has grown into one of the biggest cultural events of Europe, with participants from over 40 countries. Big name artists to have performed at Sziget include Muse, Oasis, Iron Maiden, The Cure, Iggy Pop, Prodigy, Radiohead, R.E.M, Jamiroquai, Sex Pistols, Fat Boy Slim, The Offspring, The Chemical Brothers and many more.
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La Tomatina, is a festival that starts the week before the last Wednesday of August in the town of Buñol which is 38 kilometres outside of Valencia. There is no real meaning or history for the tomato fight, and there for it was banned under the rule of Franco for not having a religious origin. The week before people party and there is a famous paella cooking contest the night before the fight. On the last Wednesday of August the massive tomato fight begins with 20,000 to 50,000 tourist coming to participate in this epic battle in a town of only 9,000 people. The fight starts at around 10 o'clock in the morning, with the greasing of a long pole on which a ham is tight. After one person is able to release the ham, the mayhem can begin. Trucks with tomatoes will be hauled into the main square. Water canons firing water is the signal for the start of the fight. After the starting signal everybody's on their own for the next hour. It is mandatory to squeeze the tomato before throwing, as it otherwise would be to hard. After an hour, the water canons are fired again and the fight is over. Water trucks will clean the streets, but in a lot of cases not the people! They have to be lucky to get hosed down by residents, or find a bathing spot at the river.
Tomorrowland is an outdoor dancing event (festival) organized every year in the Flemish town of Boom since 2005. Famous DJ's that have been performing during the festival, held late July, are Fedde le Grande, Ferry Corsten, Armin van Buuren, DJ Tiësto, Carl Cox, Swedish House Maffia, Afrojack, Faithless and David Guetta. The festival is organized by ID&T, the same company behind the succes of the Dutch Mysteryland since 1993. There are different music styles with jump, groove, club and hardstyle being the most important ones. There are both campingfestivals as well as the main festival. If you stay on the camping grounds, you can also go to the campingfestival. Tomorrowland finishes with huge fireworks. The festival is gaining in popularity every year and starting with just one day in 2005, it extended into two days from 2007 and three days from 2011 onwards.
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The Venice Carnival, witnessed by thousands of tourists from all round the world, is one of the most beautiful Carnival Festivals in the world, held annually in Venice. The origins of the Carnival date back to the year 1296, when the Senate made the carnival official and declaring the day a public holiday. Masks are a central feature of the Venetian Carnival and the streets of the city is full of people with different varieties of colourful masks. Masks were used in the past so that no distinction could be made between the nobility and the common people and all could participate in the fun.
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The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is a nine day event held every October and is the largest hot-air balloon festival in the world. Over 700 balloonists participate and the event draws approximately 100,000 spectators. It is a truly spectacular sight to see the sky filled with hundreds of brightly colored balloons of different shapes and sizes. The Fiesta includes day and evening activities.
Burning Man Festival is an annual event dedicated to "community, art, self-expression, and self-reliance." Each year, thousands of participants join together for a week in the desert to create Black Rock City in the middle of the Black Rock Desert in northern Nevada. A week later, the festival disbands, leaving no trace. The festival gets its name from the burning of a large wooden effigy, which happens on the Saturday night.
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The Calgary Stampede, held in July every summer in Calgary, showcases the rich cowboy heritage of this modern western town. It calls itself the 'Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth'. The main goal is to preserve western heritage and values, and there are a number of argicultural events like rodeos and chuck wagon races. However, there is much more than only horses and western heritage. In the city, many bands play during the week and a half long festival, and there is a lot of partying and drinking. The Calgary Stampede itself though takes place at the Stampede Park, located southeast of downtown Calgary in the Beltline District. It's one Canada's biggest annual events, with well over 1 million visitors each year.
Although the Day of the Dead is also celebrated in many Latin American countries except Mexico (and also in parts of Europe, Asia and Africa), the Day of the Dead (Spanish: Día de los Muertos) is most intensily celebrated in Mexciowhere where it is equal to a National Holiday. The holiday focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died. The celebration takes place on November 1st and 2nd, in connection with the Catholic holidays of All Saints' Day (November 1) and All Souls' Day (November 2). Traditions connected with the holiday include building private altars honoring the deceased using sugar skulls, marigolds, and the favorite foods and beverages of the departed and visiting graves with these as gifts. Although it is about the Dead, it is also a celebration where eating and partying both are common as well.
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Mardi Gras basically is the celebration prior to the fasting season of Lent. Although it refers to the events of the Carnival celebrations, Mardi Gras itself typically culminates on the day before Ash Wednesday. Mardi Gras is French for Fat Tuesday), referring to the practice of the last night of eating richer, fatty foods before the ritual fasting of the Lenten season, which begins on Ash Wednesday. Popular festival events are wearing masks and costumes, dancing and parades. Mardi Gras is celebrated mainly in South and North America, and probably the best known is the Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Other famous ones include those in Rio de Janeiro, Barranquilla, Port of Spain, Quebec City and Mazatlán.
The Montreal International Jazz Festival is the largest jazz festival in the world, a title it earned in 2004 according to the Guinness World Record book.
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The first one was in 1980 and since then it kept on growing and growing until its current proportions. It is held in the summer season, usually at the beginning of July and every year features over 3,000 artists from several dozens of countries. There are a whopping 650+ concerts and welcomes no less than 2.5 million visitors, of which about a third are tourists, some of them planning their holiday around this incredible event. The festival takes place at 10 free outdoor stages and 10 indoor concert halls. As the free outdoor shows are scattered around the city, much of the city comes to a complete stop during those days, as frequently 100,000 people attend one of the free shows, and sometimes even twice that many!
New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, started in 1970, is an annual festival that celebrates every kind of music associated with New Orleans or Louisiana. This includes music like jazz, blues, R&B, gospel, cajun music, zydeco, Afro-Caribbean, folk, Latin, rock, rap, country music and bluegrass. The festival is held during the day from 11:00am to 7:00pm on the Fair Grounds Race Course, a horse racing track, on two consecutive weekends. These are the last weekend of April, from Friday through Sunday and the first Weekend in May, Thursday through Sunday.
North by Northeast is Canada’s #1 showcase for new independent music, where fans can catch great local and international performers about to break out as well as super-cool veteran acts at intimate venues. A film festival where music is the star, featuring music-related features, documentaries, and shorts. An industry conference for those just starting and those who have seen it all, featuring celebrity interviews as well as panels and information exchanges for artists and music-biz professionals. Catch it for three days in mid June.
The Quebec Winter Carnival, held in Quebec City since 1894 is the world's largest winter carnival and has given the natives and thousands of visitors a reason to celebrate and indulge in merry-making during cold and snowy winters. This annual event lasts for 17 days and is normally held between the end of January to mid-Febraury.
The carnival takes place in various locations of Old Quebec. The opening and closing ceremonies take place in the legendary Ice Palace in front of thousands of visitors and the mayor of Quebec. 'Bonhomme' , a large snowman sporting a red cap and black buttons, is the official symbol and ambassador of the festivities. Some of the attractions and activities popular at the carnival are the Arctic Spa Village, Snow slides, Giant Table Soccer games, Ice palace, Ice tower, snow rafting and skating, Bistro, Zipline, snow sculpture and canoe races.
Kiosks and other outlets in the city sell the traditional Bonhomme effigy tag for around $10 that gives access to many of the carnival events, however some activites may cost extra.
South by Southwest is a massive music, interactive media and film festival/conference. It attracts thousands of participates from all these industries every year. With over 1,400 performers in the music festival alone one can find any kind of music they like or even love. Then might even try something new. The festival was started in 1987 and has only become more famous. Part of the film and interactive media conference is a very prestigious film festival that many directors would love to win. So if your looking for a great time with some music fun and happen to be in the states in March South by Southwest is for you!
Summerfest, also known as the Big Gig and Beerfest, is a large music festival held every year on the lake front at Henry Maier Festival Park in Milwaukee. Live music is offered on 11 stages across the park ranging in size and interest. The festival features smaller and bigger bands and usually has a major superstar every night in the main concert venue. Over the 10-day period of the festival attracts between 800,000 to 1 million people! It runs from noon to midnight.
The Toronto International Film Festival is one of the world's top film festivals held annually in Toronto, drawing the biggest stars and films from around the world. It is the world's largest film festival open to the general public. The festival commences on the Thursday after Labour Day (which is on the first Monday in September in Canada). It lasts for eleven days, although closing night is celebrated on the tenth evening (the second Saturday).
Australia is well known for Outdoor festivals, particularly Outdoor Music Festivals In Australia
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Although Carnival (or Carnaval) is a festivity that is celebrated in vast (Catholic) areas in the world, the best is definately found in Brazil. Almost every city has its own Carnival, but the most famous one definately is in Rio de Janeiro. Carnival is the most famous holiday in Brazil and has become an event of huge proportions. Everything in the country comes to a complete stop for almost a week and festivities are go on day and night. The celebrations happen in almost every city and town and is a mixture of Christian, Pagan and Native Brazilian traditions. Carnival is an annual festival held forty-six days before Easter. It is held the 4 days before Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent. Roman Catholics and some other Christians used to abstaine from the consumption of meat and that is where the name "carnival," meaning "to remove or raise meat", originally comes from. Rhythm, participation, and costumes vary from one region of Brazil to another. In Rio and Sao Paulo, enormous parades are led by samba schools meant to be watched by the public, while smaller parades allow public participation and these can be found in other smaller cities. The northeastern cities of Salvador, Porto Seguro and Recife have organized groups parading through streets. Just be ready to dance and have a crazy time! The most extreme Carnival cities are Rio De Janeiro, Salvador da Bahia, Recife, Ouro Preto, Mariana and Diamantina. Remember that Carnival is different in every city and to really experience the festival it is best to go to different cities every year.
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