Visually Stunning Asian Festivals You Have to Witness for Yourself

Visually Stunning Asian Festivals You Have to Witness for Yourself

Make these colourful, visually stunning Asian festivals next on your travel bucket list!

Asia is melting pot of different beliefs and religions, and in this region of the world, festivals are a way to commemorate the birth of a god, a triumph over evil, or as a thanksgiving.

Among all the festivals in the world, light and lantern festivals are the most beautiful to see and experience. They are a sight to behold, and they leave a lasting impression. So why not make these Asian festivals next on your travel bucket list?

Also read: Festive Reasons Why You Should Travel Before 2016 Ends

Diwali – India

DiwaliImage credit: Khokarahman

This Hindu light festival symbolises the triumph of light over darkness and is one of the most important celebrations in India. This is also celebrated to commemorate Lord Rama’s return to Ayodhya after his 14-year exile.

This festival may be considered the equivalent of the Thanksgiving holiday in the US. Families gather, they clean the house and light up hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of clay oil lamps to welcome the goddess of wealth, Lakshmi. This is the first part of the Diwali celebrations.

There are fireworks in the streets, and people give out sweets. Sweets and fireworks, by far, are the best combination. The beauty of this festival doesn’t stop here. As night falls and families continue to light up their homes with clay oil lamps, visitors enjoy a sight to behold.

Although it is primarily a Hindu celebration, this festival can be enjoyed by people from all walks of life and of every religion in India. To experience this five-day celebration, book a flight to India in October or November. Do note that exact celebration dates vary every year depending on the Hindu Lunisolar calendar.

Loi Krathong – Thailand

Loi KrathongImage credit: John Shedrick

The November holiday kicks off at night with a full moon in the sky. Thais carry their respective Krathongs (a lotus-shaped vessel made of banana leaves that usually contain three joss-sticks, flowers, coins, and a candle) by the river banks.

Each person will light a candle and whisper a wish as they place the Krathongs on the water and let them float away. This is their way of giving thanks to the goddess of water. It is believed that these beautiful lotus-shaped mini-barges carry away bad luck as well as sufferings.

asian festivalsImage credit: John Shedrick

Loi Krathong also coincides with Yi Peng, a festival where sky lanterns are released into the air to give time for tham bun (merit). Loi Krathong and Yi Peng are celebrated at the same time, so you can enjoy both spectacles when you head to Thailand in November.

Obon Lantern Festival – Japan

Obon Lantern FestivalImage credit: JamesAlexanderJack

Japan is known for its many festivals, be it children’s festivals, winter festivals, and one that celebrates a phallus symbol.

Also read: INSANELY WEIRD Is An Understatement For These 7 Festivals in Japan

Tourists flock to Japan mostly in April to join the festivities when the sakura (cherry blossoms) blooms, but there is another festival one should not miss.

Obon is a Buddhist ceremony for welcoming back and appeasing the souls of one’s ancestors. It is a known fact that the Japanese have high regard for their dearly departed. It is believed that each year, their ancestors’ spirits return to pay them a visit.

This festival usually happens between August 13 and 15. Depending on the region, it may be celebrated a month later.  Kicking off the welcoming party, a lantern ormukaebi fire is lit in front of the gate on the evening of the 13th; this is a form of a guide for visiting spirits. Obon dances (bon dori) are performed, graves are visited, and food offerings are placed at the house altars and temples.

By the end of Obon, families light up floating lanterns that are set afloat on rivers, lakes, and even seas. This time, it is a guide for the spirits to go back to their world.

This festival focuses primarily on respect and love for departed loved ones, who are welcome to visit every year. The floating lanterns are pretty, they serve as a reminder to many that light really does serve as a guide.

Check out the yearly schedule of Obon, for it may vary from region to region. Make sure to watch the obon dori and observe monks chant their sutras during this festival.

Water Festival – Cambodia

Water FestivalImage credit: Photasia

The most festive celebration in Cambodia is the Water Festival, and the place to be is Phnom Penh. People from all over Cambodia flock the city to see boat races, illuminated boats, and fireworks.

The 12th century was the year the festival started as a celebration to honour King Jayavarman VII and his army, which defeated the Cham people who occupied Angkor in 1177. Aside from this commemoration, this also marks the extraordinary natural phenomenon of the reversal of the water current of Tonle Sap River. Cambodians also celebrate the 12th lunar month full moon during this festival.

Lanterns containing flowers, incense sticks, candles, and offerings are lit. Tonle Sap River becomes a beautifully lit waterway as Cambodians and tourists alike whisper their wishes and release the lanterns onto the water. The biggest lantern is the Royal lantern. At exactly 12 midnight of the full moon night, it is released at the riverside of the Royal Palace.

To cap off the three-day festival, fireworks will be lit, and beautifully decorated illuminated boats called Lo Pratip are on full display, floating on the river.

Muju Firefly Festival – South Korea

Muju Firefly FestivalImage credit: Korea Tourism Organization

The province of Muju is home to the longest and steepest ski runs in South Korea, and it has the most scenic and lush mountains where fireflies thrive. However, it seems the glowing insect has some really stiff competition when the festival starts.

During the summer month of June, visitors flock this beautiful mountainous province to see the fireflies in their natural habitat. It is also the month when the nine-day festival is held. Visitors are offered an array of activities including dance troupe presentations, talent shows, taekwondo performances and even weaving tutorials.

Aside from all the food and revelry, the festival is also an avenue to provide focus on environmental issues. This is an important highlight of the celebration of these luminous flying bugs, which only thrive in clean and healthy environments.

Visitors can get up close and personal with the delicate bugs by paying a fee, and enjoy the sky lanterns and fireworks that will light up the night sky during the festivities.

Also read: Muju Firefly Festival: A Night Spectacle You Have to Witness in Korea

Chinese Lantern Festival – China

Chinese Lantern FestivalImage credit: North sea deamer

The Chinese Lantern Festival originated during the Qin Dynasty and is the next important festival after the Chinese Spring Festival. It falls on the first Chinese lunar month and is the first night to see the full moon.

In the past, it was known as the Chinese Valentine’s Day. Red lanterns adorn all the streets in an aligned formation, creating beautiful glowing yellow and red lights, reminiscent of soldiers holding up flames to guide one’s path.

During this festival, people watch lantern parades, fireworks, performances, join in some games such as guess the lantern riddles, and eat glutinous rice balls with fillings called Yuanxiao.

Also read: 14 Bizarre, Almost Freakish Festivals in Asia You Have to Experience

For tourists, these festivals are not only visually stunning, but also spiritually and culturally eye-opening.

About Author

James Aquino
James Aquino

After visiting more than fifty international cities in three continents (and still counting), James is on a quest to visit at least two new countries each year. A registered nurse, a stage father, and a grumpy husband, he has always believed that travelling offers something that you will never learn from school. His best advice is to always take pictures along the way, but never forget the stories behind them. Read more of his travel stories and his passion project at The Panoramic Soul.


Related Posts