Pushkar Camel Festival, India Held in the desert region of Bikaner, India in mid-January, the Camel Festival celebrates the humble camel with folk dances, music, camel racing and rides. Definitely a festival with a difference worth seeing if you are in this part of India in January.
Chinese New Year Taking place in late January to early February. Chinese New Year is the biggest festival in China as well as in many Asian countries with a Chinese presence. The festival officially lasts just a few days but generally goes on for a month with much house cleaning and eating. Firecrackers to scare off evil spirits are the biggest signal to tourists that Chinese New Year is here.
Ati-Atihan Festival, Philippines Perhaps the Philippines’s most hectic festival, Ati-Atihan is a street parade with a difference celebrating Saint Niño with two weeks of festivities in the small town of Kalibo. The last three days of Ati-Atihan are the most fun where locals smother soot all over their faces, wear colorful costumes and dance wildly. The event appeals to both Catholics and non-Catholics.
Hong Kong Arts Festival In mid-February Hong Kong’s number one performing arts event features an amazing line up of orchestral concerts, opera, ballet, and dance, as well as modern jazz and some excellent drama.
Lantern Festival, China Not long after the biggest event of the Chinese New Year is this other major Chinese event, the Lantern Festival. Dating back to the Han dynasty to promote Buddhism lanterns of all types can be seen adorning shops, houses and hotels all over Asia along with folk dancing and huge fireworks displays.
Holi, India The Festival of Color is another of India’s popular festivals and one in which everyone - locals and tourists alike - can get in on. Holi involves the throwing of color on one another in the name of fun and everywhere in the country gets in on the act.
Shwedagon Pagoda Festival, Burma The most famous icon in Burma’s capital Yangon (Rangoon) is one of colorful processions during the popular Shwedagon Pagoda Festival.
Balinese New Year, Indonesia The ‘Day of Silence’ (Hari Raya Nyepi) is a day of reflection and meditation, where those practicing Hari Raya Nyepi abstain from pleasure-giving activities, including talking and eating, for 24 hours.
New Year, Sri Lanka New Year is celebrated in Sri Lanka with many fun activities including elephant racing and coconut games. Sinhalese and Tamil cultures alike join in with the festivities and it’s a nice time to be in this otherwise tumultuous country of civil unrest.
Songkran, Thailand Songkran is known throughout Asia as a mass water fight when anyone and everyone takes to the streets over the three days to douse one another with water. Although the event has traditional religious leanings, it’s hard to see how when you discern the mayhem.
Vesak, Sri Lanka Vesak is an important Buddhist holiday honoring Buddha and is held during full moon in towns, villages and cities all over the country. Bamboo lanterns light up the sky.
Araquio Festival, Philippines Dating back to the Philippines’ Spanish colonial days when there was much fighting between Christians and Muslims, the Araquio Festival unites both religions in this fun event.
Dragon Boat Festival, Taiwan This early June event is a big one for Taiwan and China in general, held on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month - usually in early June. The event is all about the early royal official Ch’u Yuan who drowned himself after his predictions for the king came true. Dragon boat races are held in his honor to this day which is meant as re-enactments to try and find his body all the while to the beat of drums.
Dumpling Festival, Singapore Also linked with the Dragon Boat Festival of China and the fate of Ch’u Yuan, Singapore’s Chinese community race dragon boats and consume lots of dumplings.
Rath Yatra, India The ancient seaside town of Puri in India stages the annual Rath Yatra, an important religious ceremony featuring huge numbers of Hindus. Huge images of Krishna as Lord Jagannath are dragged to the Gundicha Ghat temple amid lots of noise.
Nadaam Festival, Mongolia Rriyn Gurvan Nadaam is Mongolia’s biggest festival, a three-day event of horse racing, wrestling and archery. The event goes off all over Mongolia and features the country’s greatest athletes, both men and women.
Tenjin Matsuri – Osaka, Japan Tenjin Matsuri in late July is Japan’s main summer event featuring a huge procession of ox-drawn wagons, horses, portable shrines and thousands of costumed participants marching towards Mido-Suji Avenue. Everybody boards a boat at Tenjinbashi Bridge from where the procession heads down the Dojimagawa River. A ferocious fireworks display concludes this magnificent event.
Bali Arts Festival, Indonesia Bali’s Arts Festival is a fantastic event for tourists to see on the holiday island and is held pretty close to Kuta beach. A thronging opening procession is followed by performing musicians and dancers.
Hungry Ghosts Festival, Hong Kong Ghosts are set free from the underworld to roam the world for a lunar month in Hong Kong every year. Celebrations include Chinese operas while people burn fake money and offer food to appease the restless spirits.
Independence Day, Indonesia One of the most interesting spectacles in Indonesia for tourists, Independence Day - Hari Proklamasi Kemerdekaan RI – celebrates Indonesia’s independence from Japan and features bright military parades and fireworks.
Feast of Nuestra Senora Penafrancia, Philippines Celebrated mid-September in Naga, Bicol Region every year with a parade on the river where the image of the Lady of Peñafrancia is carried along the river complete with floating candles.
Ramadan Bazaar, Malaysia Cities throughout Malaysia come alive with the Ramadan Bazaar which marks the end of the fasting with lots of eating and many fun side attractions.
Shanghai International Arts Festival, China Goes off throughout October with performing arts including symphony concerts, opera, dance recitals, theatre, magic shows and typical death defying Chinese acrobatics.
Dragon Boat Races, Laos Late October is Laos’ turn to take the dragon boats for a spin with every riverside town in the country getting in on the act of celebrating the end of Buddhist Lent. Luang Prabang is the main port of call of this fun festival.
Deepavali, Singapore Those in Singapore in late October-early November should head for Little India where the Hindu community of Singapore celebrates the Hindu month of Aipasi with lots of noise, color and food.
That Luang Festival, Laos Laos’ biggest event involves thousands of Buddhist followers who descend on That Luang temple to receive alms. Flower processions and much merit making go on for several days in early November while a huge market, live music, and dancing are also part of the event.
Wangchuan Ritual, Taiwan The Chinese King Wan is honored at Tunglong Temple in the small town of Peimen on Sanliao Bay, where the King’s Boat is paraded through the town and floated out to sea. Colorful rituals go off all over town.
Loy Krathong, Thailand Most of Thailand gets in on the act of constructing and floating small boats made of banana leaves and adorned with lotus flowers, incense, money and a lock of hair. The boats are then launched at night during the full moon at the water’s edge all over the country to rid bad luck.
King’s Birthday, Thailand A national holiday in Thailand, this very big day honors the revered King Bhumibol on his birthday, December 5, with much pomp and flag waving. The Grand Palace in Bangkok is the focus of the festivities and sees the king at his balcony while the island resort of Phuket puts on the King’s Cup Regatta.
Hari Natal, Indonesia Christmas in Indonesia is celebrated with vigor like no other nation in Asia due to its large Christian populace. Out of place Christmas trees adorn shopping malls and carols are unceasing.