Your Guide to the ‘Chinchilla Festival’ in Australia 

If there is any nation on Earth who knows how to party and throw a festival then it’s the Aussies and their offering which we’ve decided to give you a guide to is the Chinchilla Melon Festival.  Never has there been a celebration of the rotund fruit quite the way there is in Chinchilla, Queensland. This festival has been going for some years now and if you want to visit a zany and exciting festival then look no further than the Chinchilla Melon Festival. Let’s see what it is all about.

The Origins

Chinchilla produces around 25% of all of the melons in Australia including Honeydew, Watermelon and Rockmelon varieties. The town began its festivities dedicated towards melons in 1994 after a sever drought left the town unable to grow melons for an entire season. When the drought was over, local businessmen and producers put their heads together and decided that they would have some festivities to celebrate the end of the drought, the result was the Melon Festival.

How Many Visitors

Visitors to the festival have increased steadily in number and after beginning with around 2,500, this figure has risen to more than 10,000 in recent years as popularity of the festival continues to spread.

What Goes On?

The festival is exactly what it says, a festival dedicated to Melons and all of the events that take place are centered around the various different types of melons which are produced. The unique and interactive events involve the following unique and crazy activities:

– Melon skiing

– Melon bungee

– Melon bungee

– Melon Ironman

– Melon chariot

– Melon eating races

– World record attempt melon pip spitting

Everyone can enter into the contests but if you think this is for you then you should be aware, the locals practice their crazy activities all year long in order to become the champion in their chosen discipline.

A super special event in 2009 saw resident John Allwood broke the Guinness World Record for the amount of melons smashed with his head, the impressive Aussie managed a rate of 47 melons per minute.

A Look at the Accolades

In 2009, the same year as Allwood’s Guinness World Record, the Chinchilla Melon Festival won the award for Queensland Regional Achievement and Community Award for Tourism Event.

How You Can Visit

If you want to go to this crazy festival then you are more than welcome, head down to Chinchilla in Queensland on the 19th of February this year. All you is to get yourself some accommodation and then enjoy the festival. In order to take part or watch, you do not need to book tickets, simply pick up a schedule of events and then go crazy with some melons. Make sure that you take your camera though, there is no festival in the World like this one and your friends probably won’t believe you when you tell them just what you saw.

Your Guide To ‘Naggol’ in Vanuatu

In another of our focus pieces on some of the World’s weirdest and wonderful festivals we are going to take a look at one of the most incredible and scariest festivals on the planet, the Naggol Land Diving Festival in Vanuatu. In what was most definitely the precursor to bungee jumping, this adrenaline-fueled festival is certainly one of the wackiest festivals that there is and if you want to know more about it then read on.

 

What The Festival is All About

During the festival, men ritualistically dive from wooden platforms with vines tied to their feet in order to receive a blessing from God. The wooden structures which the men jump form can be up to 30 meters high and the divers can reach speeds of up to 72km per hour as they fall to the ground below. The ritual takes place just before the yam season begins as the land is dry and provides strong wood for the structures and the linea vines are at their most supple.

History

The legend of land diving comes from a woman who was unhappy with her husband’s sexual desires, she ran away to the forest and the man ran after her. In order to escape her husband, the woman climbed high up into a tree, when the man followed her, the woman tied vines to her feet and jumped from the tree, she survived the fall thanks to the vines. The man tried the same feat although didn’t tie vines to himself and died from the fall. The men dive from the wooden structures to prevent being tricked again.

The Ritual

On the morning of the jump, those taking part go for a ritual wash before dawn, they decorate their bodies and anoint themselves with coconut oil. The men will wear boar tusks around their necks and the as the divers begin, the village will sing and dance to provide encouragement. around 20 men from each village will jump and the least experienced will jump from low platforms, the most experienced divers will go up to the top of the wooden structure and jump from there.

Land diving is a rite of passage for the boys in the village and once they have been circumcised  at the age of 8, they will be able to perform their first dive. During the child’s dive, their mother will hold a favorite possession of the boy and once the dive is complete this will be thrown away in honor of the fact that he has now become a man.

Tourism

Many people head to the Naggol festal to witness the incredible feats of these men and whilst the villagers aren’t known to have a problem with this it is important that if you do go, that you remain respectful and keep your distance. This is not a game or a sport for the locals and you shouldn’t treat it as such, watch by all means and interact with the locals, but understand what the festival means for them.

Your Guide To Mardi Gras, New Orleans

Mardi Gras is a celebration of outstanding food, high jinks, late night partying and deep American soul and you can find it in the heart of the south, New Orleans. Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday as it is colloquially known is a huge marching procession through the center of New Orleans where people dress up, dance and sing the day and night away in a colorful and loud display life. Tasty food, creative drinks and lots of fun is the order of the day at Mardi Gras and if you want to be part of the action this year then here is your handy guide.

When?

The idea of the festival is to have a final blow out before lent and as such the celebrations take place throughout the two weeks leading up to shrove Tuesday. The two biggest days of the festival are Fat Monday and Fat Tuesday, these are the days when the processions take place throughout the town.

How Does it All Take Place?

The parades that take place though many streets in New Orleans are organized by Krewes, these are local social clubs who put together the event and organize the floats. There are several different types of floats which go through the city, each organized by various Krewes and as the floats pass they will throw out beaded necklaces to the people on the street.

Resellers are encouraged to wear colorful clothing as well as costumes and masks to the event and each year sees some pretty outlandish costumes. It should be noted that members of the Krewes will not wear fancy dress until after Fat Tuesday. Laws that exist about concealing your identity are suspended for a day and the revelers can wear whatever they like across their faces.

King of the Carnival

Each year the Krewes of the carnival have the responsibility of erecting the king of the carnival, Rex. The Rex motto is Pro Bono Publico—for the public good” and this is placed in the center of the french quarter of the city to celebrate the festival.

What to Expect as a Visitor

Heading to New Orleans Mardi Gras as a visitor you should expect to have the party of your life, a non-stop wall to wall festival which involves every bar and eatery across the city. The festival has also become a celebration of all things New Orleans which include the food so expect to see lots of good, old fashioned southern fried food on offer.

Hotels will be tough to get so make sure that you get in quick if you want to enjoy the Mardi Gras in style. The throws which are tossed from the floats can be of great value so try to hang on to what you manage to grab. Other than the parade you will be able to enjoy a lot of fun in the city bars and on the city streets as you enjoy the carnival together and one thing is for sure that once you have been to Mardi Gras once, you will want to come back again and again.

Your Guide to ‘The Day Of The Dead’ in Mexico

As far as worldwide festivals go, there are none that are more haunting, more colorful, more spiritual and more all encompassing than Day of the Dead is to the Mexican people. Day of the Dead or Dia de los Muertos is a celebration and remembrance by the Mexicans of those who have passed on and across three days, they will use rituals and traditions in order to give thanks to the lives of their loved ones and remember with fondness the lives which they lived.

Let’s take a look at exactly what this festival consists of and how it is celebrated.

When and Where?

Celebrations take place throughout Mexico, some towns take it much more seriously and have far greater celebrations than others but all Mexicans celebrate this festival. Day of the Dead takes place between October 31st and November 2nd with each day relevant for the different souls who have died.

On the 31st of October, Halloween is widely celebrated throughout Mexico, as it is in many other parts of the World. Traditionally this would have been part of the day of the dead celebrations but modern influences have altered this day slightly.

 

The 1st of November is dia de los inocentes and dia de los angelitos, this is the day that is dedicated to those who were killed by accidents or children who have died. The 2nd of November is dia de los muertos o dia de los difuntos which means day of the dead and this is the day where all of those who have died are celebrated.

What Are The Rituals and Traditions

The majority of day of the dead traditions are centered around the ofrendas that are given towards the dead. These ofrendas are displays which often consist of similar objects that are placed in the home, on the streets, in churches or even at gravesides to remember the dead.

The offenders usually consist of  the highly scented Cempasuchil flower, orange in color, these flowers are to attract the should of the dead. The altar or ofrenda will also be set on three tiers to represent the three stages of life, below Earth, Earth and the Heavens. Around the altar you will find water to quench thirst on the journey to the afterlife, salt, to heal wounds and candles to signify life. You will also find skulls and foods and drinks that the dead person enjoyed placed on their altar as well as a photo of the dead. These altars will remain in place for around a week.

Pan de Muerto

A sweet bread is often consumed around the day of the dead festival and is a loaf-style bread, heavily sugared with bone-shaped portions.

Dress

The clavier style has become heavily associated with day of the dead and Halloween costumes, these are living dead style outfits that are incredibly intricate and impressive to see. The female version of the costume is the Catarina, a beautiful women’s outfit with skulls for faces.

Wherever you go throughout Mexico during this time of year you will see altars and processions for day of the dead and it is a great festival to be involved with.

Your Guide to the ‘Festival Of Colors’ 

The festival of colors as many of us know it, is actually an Indian festival called Holi which, whilst celebrated by many around the World, is observed largely by the Hindu faith. The celebration involves the throwing of colored powder over others who are celebrating and after being such a large hit across India, the festival is now celebrated in many countries across the World.

You may have had an experience with the festival of colors but may not know exactly why the festival is celebrated or how the celebrations and traditions came about. Read on to find out more about the festival of Holi.

What is Holi

Holy is a festival that takes place between  the second and third week of March and coincides with the Phalgun Purnima or full moon each year that signifies the the end of winter and the arrival of spring. The celebrations of the festival are all about fun, pleasure and happiness and are representative of good beating evil or in this case, spring beating winter. The festal lasts for 2 whole days and is celebrated throughout India and Nepal.

Celebrations and Traditions

Most parts of the celebrations that take place over these two days are indicative of happiness, one is encouraged to play, laugh and more importantly to repair broken relationships and to forgive and forget.

The origin of the celebrations comes from Prahlada who was a worshipper of Vishnu and the son of  Hiranyakashipu, a man given an indestructible boon and believed that he was god-like. Prahlada suffered a cruel life but his faith prevented him from being injured. Prahlada’s aunt tricked him into sitting on a pyre with her but she was wearing a fire-proof cloak, the fire burned and the cloak flew from his aunt and covered the boys body. When his aunt died his father smashed a pillar with his mace and Lord Vishnu appeared and killed him. The next day, when peace was restored, the people covered their faces in the ash of the fire and this is where the traditions of covering each other in color comes from.

Traditions

The traditions kick off with bonfires on the eve of Holi and for weeks beforehand the locals will collect firewood for the bonfires. On top of the bonfires the locals will place an effigy of Holika, who famously tricked Prahalad onto the fire.

On the morning of Holi, colored water, chalks and paints are thrown around with careless abandon, all of those celebrating will be covered in color as they sing and dance.

The evening of Holi is spent cleaning up and bathing to wash away the colors and this when the ritualistic forgiveness takes place.

Elsewhere

The celebration is enjoyed all over the World at different times of the year although the only tradition that is really carried out is the throwing of colors, this has less religious connotations and is more about people enjoying themselves and being covered in bright colors.

Your Guide To ‘The Vegetarian Festival’ in Phuket, Thailand

One of the most eclectic, awe-inspiring and interesting festivals in Thailand is the vegetarian festival that takes place in Phuket each year. If you are interested in crazy festival and haven’t yet heard about or been to the vegetarian festival in Phuket, then read on and find out about this zany festival that is about far more than eating vegetarian food.

When The Festival Takes Place

Usually the festival takes place around October time, the dates change as the festival falls in line with the Chinese lunar calendar and hits on the 9th month within that calendar.

What is the Festival All About

The idea of the festival is that the Chinese believe that a 10-day diet of vegetarian food and scared rituals will cleanse the should and earn merits for the afterlife. The festival forms one of the parts of the Nine Emperor Gods Festival that takes place across Thailand.

Rituals and Traditions

During the festival, those practicing must where white during the 10 day period and undergo a strict vegetarian diet. The idea is to a complete cleanse of the body which also means no sex or alcohol. Some are exempt from the festival which includes those who are in mourning and women who are going through the process of menstruation or pregnancy.

Mediums will go into a trance-like state as the channel the deities and serve to rid those practicing of bad luck and bad fortune.

During the festival, people will aim to cleans their bodies by going to extraordinary lengths such as putting spikes through their faces, swelling swords and walking on fire.

Where the Festival is Held

Many of the traditions like fire-walking take place on the streets of Phukets but the majority of the rituals will take place a handful of the 40 Temples throughout the city. The Kathu Shrine is the holiest temple in Phuket and and this is where the origins of the vegetarian festival are. Thousands of practitioners will gather at the Kathu Shrine as they seek to rid themselves of bad luck and evil throughout the festivities.

The Closing of the Festival

At the end of the festival there is a huge fireworks display, this is also when the most ‘grotesque’ acts take place by those observing the festival and the final day of the festival is dedicated to prayer and worship as well as the ‘merit-making’ events. The end of the festival culminates in a party-like atmosphere with singing and dancing.

If you were to look online at this festival you will probably just see images of the gory merit-making that takes place but the festival is about far more than that. If you decide to head down to Phuket for the festival you will need to ensure that you remain respectful to the locals, this is an important festival for them and one which could dictate their future. By all means enjoy the festival, but look to keep your distance.

Your Guide To ‘The Great Wildebeest Migration’ in Africa

The great wildebeest migration is one of the most outstanding natural phenomena that you are ever likely to see with the naked eye. Over one million wildebeest moving as one solid unit across the planes of Africa in search of food and grazing land on a journey that is perilous as it is arduous. Throughout the journey the wildebeest must survive threats from come of the World’s most dangerous predators and cross death-defying rivers as they travel form the southern Serengeti to the Masai Mara national reserve in Kenya. If you want to catch a glimpse of the biggest mass movement of any animal in the World, then here is a guide on where the wildebeest travel and what may be your best chance of catching a glimpse.

The Beginning

Around November-December time, the wildebeest arrive on the planes of the Serengeti during the short rains feeding on the nutrient-packed fresh grasses. The wildebeest remain in the regions of southern Seronera throughout January, February and March as they birth and care for their young calves. There is some gradual movement north in early April and then towards the end of the month, the migration north commences.

The Long Journey North

The beginning of north is the first tim that you will see the striking image of the wildebeest collective, all heading north to seek fresh grazing and fresh water. The regions of north Seronera and Moru Kopjes are, by this time, filled with hundreds of thousands of wildebeest and often you will see some zebras and gazelles with the group.

June sees the one of the biggest challenges on the journey for the wildebeest as they hit the Grumeti River. The wildebeest generally gather on the south side of the river and wait for the rest of the group to catch up. Crossing on mass provides more protection against predators such as lions and crocodiles and it also allows more assistance for the young. This will be the first of two tough rivers that the group will need to cross during their journey.

Grumeti Reserve

Throughout July and August the wildebeest will move throughout the Grummet reserve, a great opportunity for tourists to spot the impressive migration. The Serengeti park is also a great place where tourists can see the group and many gather in the national park each August to witness it.

September

One of the most perilous months for the wildebeest as they face the great Mara River, a wide river with dangers on either side. The gushing river leaves the wildebeest with frantically dashing as their only option which can be quite a spectacle. Those who can make it across the river will have achieved 90% of their journey and from here they will start to gradually flow south through the Lobo area of the Serengeti National Park. Finally the wildebeest will find their way back to the start around October where they will once again feed on the fresh grass of the southern Serengeti, before starting the journey all over again.

Your Guide To ‘Chale Wote Street Art Festival’ in Ghana

Africa rarely seems to get much of a mention when it comes to Worldwide festivals which is strange considering the range of attractive, strange and lively festivals which are held across the continent. Today we are going to take a look at one of the coolest festivals across Africa, the Chale Wote street art festival which is held in Ghana each year.

If you fancy heading to an altogether different kind of street art festival then you don’t need to go to New York or London, this year you should be heading to Ghana.

Where it is Held

This brilliant modern festival is held each year in Accra, the capital city of Ghana. Previously held in September, the festival is now hosted on the last weekend of August. The festival can be seen throughout the city streets and many community centers and public forums are opened up to celebrate the festival.

What is it All About?

The festival was put in place in order to create an exchange between local and international artists where they could all gather in one place to hold a festival of music, dance and of course, street art. The festival attracts street artists from all over the World who look to exchange ideas and concepts with local African artists.

The festival is a blending of international styles which seek to promote art in Africa and to promote African art and culture worldwide. The festival is still in its youth after having just five festivals but already the event is gaining mass popularity and each year has seen more artists join the movement and more visitors arriving to enjoy the show.

What to Expect?

If you plan on heading to the 2017 event then you can expect to say bright, colorful and conceptual street art, music, dance, spoken word, interactive installations, fashion shows and street parties. Each year has a theme, this year’s has not yet been chosen but the past themes have been as follows:

2012 – Outer-space exploration

2013 – Re-imagination of African folklore

2014 – Death: An eternal dream into limitless rebirth

2015 – African electronics

2016 – Spirit robot

The festival always seeks to push the boundaries of a wide-variety of concepts and styles and for this reason it has become so attractive to artists from around the World.

Quite honestly, you should expect a 6 day festival of all things positive colorful and well, African. There is constant music, constant partying, colors surround you wherever you go and the locals embrace all who come from afar to their city.

You should dispel any illusions that you have about Africa when you think about Accra, this is an exciting, modern and ‘happening’ corner of the World, never mind Africa and if you want to truly experience the best of this continent’s culture and style then you should be heading to Accra this year to enjoy the brilliant Chale Wote street art festival.

Your Guide To The ‘Songkran Festival,’ in Thailand

You may have heard of a giant water fight that takes place in Thailand every year,  what you have probably heard about is the incredible water fight that takes place in Chiang Mai each year to celebrate Songkran. Whilst this water festival is a key part of Songkran, the festival itself is much more than that and today we are going to take a look at what the festival is, how it is celebrated and what makes the festival so special to the people of Thailand.

What is Songkrann

Songkrann is a celebration of the Thai New Year, the festival takes place on the 13th, 14th and 15th of April each year and it signifies the end of winter and the beginning of the spring. The etymology of the word Songkran comes from the Sanskrit word ‘saṃkrānti’, which means astrological passage and the festival coincides with Aries rising on the charts of astrology. There are a great deal of traditions which take place to herald in the New Year and many rituals which the Thai people make in order to ensure they have the most successful year that they can.

Traditions and Rituals

Some of the symbolic traditions which take place during Songkran are the visiting of temples and taking food to Buddha, pouring water on the statues of Buddha as a cleansing process is also performed and many people who have moved away from their families will return to be with them to signify unity. Pouring water on the hands of elders by the younger members of the family is also something that is heavily practiced by way of showing respect.

The Water Festival

The most famous aspect of the Songkran tradition is the water festival, the one which you may have heard about in Chiang Mai has gained such notoriety as a result of its popularity amongst tourists but these festival take place throughout Thailand.  The water festival is an extension of the cleansing of Buddha statues and signifies the Spring-cleaning aspect of this time of year. In many cities and towns throughout Thailand you will find locals showering each other in water from water tanks and guns or even just throwing buckets of water over each other by way of celebration and purification.

Aside from the water festivals, you may also see chalk being thrown over people. This custom has its origins in the monastery as monks used to place chalk on one another as part of the blessing process.

Influences

The festival of Songkrann is heavily influenced by the Hindu festival Holi, the mixture of chalk and water for example are very familiar to the customs used in Holi and even the names are similar in their traditional languages.

Songkrann is a great festival to be part of and you can join the Thais in heralding in their New Year in style the next time that you are in Thailand.

Your Guide To The ‘Up Helly Aa Fire Festival’ in Lerwick, Scotland

As part of our guides, looking at some of the finest, craziest, weirdest and most outlandish festivals in the World, today we are going to take a look at the Up Helly Aa festival which takes place in northern Scotland and the Shetland Islands each year. This spectacular festival of fire  occurs on the last Tuesday of January and sees visitors from all over the World head to the chilly northern Scottish lands for a festival like no other. Let’s take a look at the history of the festival and a guide to what you should expect to see if you visit Up Helly Aa.

The History

The festival takes place in around 12 locations but the oldest is the Lernwick celebration, the festival was borne out of the annual Yuletide tradition of tar-barreling. This was a festivity that saw 12 barrels filled with tar being lit on fire and then dragged through the town by sledges and carried by men as they caused mischief throughout the town as people cheered, following the show, everyone would retire the public houses to continue the festivities.

Tar-barreling was outlawed in 1880 and the festival of Up Helly Aa was the festival that replaced it. At first it was just a small torch procession but in 1882, the town of Lernwick significantly increased its procession size for the visit of the Duke of Edinburgh, from that year up to the present day, the festival has been a huge event of fire and festivities.

What You Will See

If you want to visit the festival the here is what you can expect to see.

– Morning

In the morning you will see the first Jarls, these are men dressed in Viking style dress who will arrive in floats in the shape of ships. The Jarl squads will go for breakfast in the Islesburgh Community Centre before heading on to the Galley Shed and then The British Legion.

The squad will march with their galley floats from the British Legion with pipe and brass bands in tow before arriving in the market cross where the Proclamation of Up Helly Aa is situated. The squads then head up to the ferry terminal where you will get a chance to take some photos of the impressive costumes and their galleys.

Toast are drunk around 1030 as the bands continue playing and then the squads break off into various rooms and halls.

Day Time

Throughout the day you can enjoy the exhibitions that have been displayed, short movies playing, and the chance to meet some of the Jarls. Grab some food and get ready for the evening festivities.

Evening

At 7pm the Jarl quads are given their torches and begin the march, led by the Guizer Jarl squad, the Guizer Jarl is the chief around here. At 730pm, a rocket is fired across the sky of the town to begin the march. The squads then march through the town singing and chanting in an impressive fiery sight.

The group then culminates in the North King George V playing field, they circle the field before congregating in the centre where there is a huge galley ship. You will hear a bugle call and then witness over 1000 torches being thrown into the galley to set it on fire and then  a firework display will begin.

As the evening progresses you will see shows and skits taking place all over the town, drinking games, street food and dancing are all on offer for visitors in a night of raucous fun that will go well into the early hours.

As expected, the following day is a public holiday so that everyone can recover from this incredible festival.