Have you ever experienced the sensory overload of Burning Man or watched cultural barriers disintegrate during Holi’s glorious human rainbow? Have you felt the magical effervescence and communal joy at the Thai Lantern festival, watched a procession during a penis festival in Japan, crashed an Uzbek wedding, or spent Christmas away from home baking in 36 degree heat?
Since the earliest days of humanity, festivals and celebrations have brought communities together—fostering traditions and forming an important part of our cultural heritage—yet in recent years we feel more connected to our iPhones and via the internet than each other. As as result the value of opportunities for meaningful, real-world connections with both family and strangers is greater than ever. Some celebrations can feel like stepping into dream-worlds in which cultural norms cease to apply, and for this reason, attending great festivals can feel like turning up the saturation on life.
Without further ado, dive into the rabbit hole and marvel at the twenty-one stories of ephemeral human festivities and merriment from around the world below.
Credit to Maptia Founding Storyteller Phil Gribbon for the stunning photo featured in our theme header this week. You’ll find his story from the festival of Holi below and you can peruse his other beautiful photos over at philgribbon.com.
5 min read · By Shannon O'Donnell · Read this story on Maptia
A close look at the traditions and meaning behind the beautiful lantern release during Thailand’s Yee Ping and Loy Krathong celebrations each November.
Zig-zagging along the path, our shadows long and wild in the candlelight, we approached one of the full-size igloos, domed and grand with a welcoming amber light. This was the winter festival of ‘kamakura matsuri’, and like all good traditions, its origins remained shrouded in mystery.
Out in the desert at Burning Man, I realised I didn’t need metaphors to describe love—whether it is boy-girl, boy-boy, girl-girl, friendship, or families—affection is the outward manifestation of love, and it is all over the playa.
Suzanne is the author of ‘Almost Somewhere: Twenty-Eight Days on the John Muir Trail’, as well as four collections of poetry. Explore more of her writing over at suzanneroberts.net.
I attended Burning Man for the first time this year. I am no longer considered a “virgin”. From the art, the music, and the gifting economy, to its vastness and the temporal nature of this festival, here are a few thoughts about my “first time”.
From the traditional carving of radishes into phallic shapes, to penis-shaped lollipops, to a giant pink statue of a dong that is paraded through the streets—the penis festival in Kawasaki is an unusual celebration of manhood that has taken place at the Shinto shrine for four centuries.
2 min read · By Dave and Deb · Read this story on Maptia
The most shocking festival we’ve ever seen is Thaipusam. It attracts two million people who pay homage to the Lord Muruga. Worshippers pierce spikes through their cheeks, and stab hooks in their backs to pull chariots and people, with reins attached to these hooks.
Dave and Deb of theplanetd.com have explored all seven continents and over 80 countries. Living by their motto ‘Adventure is For Everyone’, they aim to prove that you don’t have to be an uber-athlete, adrenaline junkie or a member of the ultra rich to be an adventurer. Say hi to them on Twitter @theplanetd.
Dahi (yogurt) Handi (pot) literally translates to a pot of yogurt! It celebrates his endearing love for all things milk, and the tricks the mischievous, naughty baby Krishna would resort to—just to get his hands on that creamy yogurt his mother would try to hide in vain!
As the Year of the Snake approached, and colourful decorations lined the streets, the fast-paced and fluid city of Saigon was filled with a pre-Tet madness. Lucky enough to live in a house that adopted me as one of their own, my memories are of food and family.
A table awash with lamb and vodka. An impromptu wedding speech. Dancing with other men’s wives. I think I might be a little out of my depth here. And I wasn’t even invited.
Young folks flock to Thailand for the famous—or rather, infamous—Full Moon Parties. Considered a rite of passage for backpackers on the Southeast Asia “Banana Pancake Trail”, the Full Moon Party is not for the faint of heart, and probably not for anyone over 30, either.
We travelled from all over the world to celebrate. Exploring Lake Kariba’s expansive waters was our plan, but we ended up shipwrecked together on its shoreline instead.
“Pamplona was rough, as always, overcrowded... It is all there, as it always was, except forty thousand tourists have been added. There were not twenty tourists when I first went there... four decades ago.” —Ernest Hemingway, 1985
A two day riot of colour, dance and music, the Sani Festival is the perfect way to build a social camaraderie among the far flung villages of the Zanskar valley.
Spring and summertime in Tokyo are bursting with celebrations. The city fills with dragons, lanterns, children in kimonos, dance parties in the park and old people carrying gallons of sake.
FIBArk (First in Boating on the Arkansas) is a whitewater festival held in a small Colorado mountain town that will surprise you with the intensity of its fearless river competitors and revelers.
During the summer months, colourful festas are a common sight all over Italy. In the small town of Roccella Ionica, that overlooks the sparkling, clear blue waters of the Reggio Calabria region, it is no different.
Alpaca, roasted Inca style, brightly decorated altars and angelic choirs in small colonial churches, drums and bells floating in the air—celebrating Christmas in the city of Puno, on the shores of the beautiful Lake Titicaca, made for a memorable way to spend the holiday season.
When you come from a place of frosty, windscreen-fogged winters, where December is a time to wrap up warm and thaw by an open fire at the local old-man pub, a hot Christmas is more than a bizarre concept. It turns your world upside down.
When they told me I would be in Hamburg following the band Fabryka, who should have been playing at Reeperbahn Festival, I was really excited. I didn’t know how much “excited” was a proper word...
Simona Ardito is a talented storyteller—always roaming with a hungry heart. Take a look at more of her photography on Flickr here.
I knew I wanted to take photos of Holi in India, and asked the Internet where she thought I should go. Mathura was the answer.
As one of the longest religious celebrations in the world Señor de los Milagros takes over the streets of Lima. Honoring the Lord of Miracles and Cristo Moreno was a vibrant, musical, lively ongoing experience in the streets of my Barranco neighborhood.
Maptia Storytelling Theme 6
Have you ever experienced otherworldly gastronomic delights or tasted cultural delicacies of unusual origin? If so, we hope that many of you will share your stories and find the time to spin an appetising yarn! As always, we will be featuring your top stories on our blog in a few weeks’ time alongside other mouthwatering narratives. Be sure to complete your stories on Maptia by Monday 10 January for a chance to be featured.
For now, just a small group of founding storytellers are contributing to Maptia and we are only able to send a limited number of new invites each week. We don’t yet have the resources to cope with more, and are still working on the coding and design. However, if you have a food-related story in mind, and absolutely can’t wait to get started, then send a 200-word snippet and photo to firstname.lastname@example.org and we would love to shuffle your invite right to the front of the queue.
If you have made it through all these stories of Festivals and Celebrations why not take a look at a couple more of our most popular posts below: