The Christmas season is over and for many this means the post holiday blues brought on by feeling a little too fat, a bit too poor and having to go back to work. But the party isn’t over everywhere, in fact January is host to a surprising amount of festivals world-wide. So if the reality of home gets too much for you, why not run away and join in with one of these.
Every January, this area of the Philippines plays host to the Ati-Atihan festival, which is one of the country’s most exuberant displays of music and dancing. Celebrations take the form of colourful parades featuring traditional costumes, music performances and plenty of feasting on rich food. Attracting both devout Catholics and non-religious folk, this is an event where everyone can party together, in a somewhat surreal environment. The festival commemorates the welcoming in Kalibo of a host of refugees from Borneo in the 13th century, and is re-enacted with performers dressed as the tribal people who welcomed the immigrants with open arms.
Not all festivals take the form of wild celebrations, and this one is for the more poetically natured out there. Elko in Nevada is the location for the annual National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, which started 32 years ago and is still going strong. What started out as a simple meeting place for ranchers to share poems about their experiences, has turned into a pilgrimage destination for thousands of people who share an enthusiasm for Western music, art and storytelling. The festival creates a great sense of community through an appreciation of those who live according the rhythms of nature, even Clint Eastwood would surely shed a tear.
Timkat is a devoutly religious festival celebrated in Gondar by the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church. It involves a ritual enactment of the baptism of Christ, in which priests balance sacred replicas of the Ark of the Covenant on their heads in procession to a 17th century building and pool known as Fasilides’ Bath, where many of the crowd submerge in the water. After this the colourful crowd parade back to the church while singing and dancing, before heading home for a night of feasting.
Ituberá, Bahia, Brazil
While many January festivals involve hard partying or religious fervour, this is of the more spiritual variety. The Universo Paralello festival lasts for 10 days over the New Year, and is a place where world arts and alternative culture meet on the beach. The event started 13 years ago as a small New Year party for a couple of hundred people, but has now grown to see over 2,000 people come together to enjoy the best Brazilian psychedelic music. It’s not just about the music, there are ecological and spiritual workshops and classes, and a feeling of living for 10 days in some kind of dream-like utopia.