Festivals of the world: where to go in October

Oktoberfest

Festivals are a living, dancing museum of cultures and traditions in an increasingly globalised world. There is no better place for travellers to understand a country than an event where it proudly celebrates its individuality, whether through music, camel races or monumental food fights. The top festivities for October are listed below. Location: Theresienwiese, Munich, Germany Dates: 16 days from late September to early October In 1810, a horse race was held to celebrate Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig’s wedding. The jamboree was such a rip-roaring success that it became an annual event and morphed into today’s famously large and ribald party. The horse race was dropped in 1938, because everyone was only interested in one thing: beer. Read more.

Combat des Reines (Fight of the Queens)

Location: Martigny, Valais, Switzerland Dates: first week in October Switzerland’s Valais region is famous for its pistes, but a far stranger sport than skiing takes place here every spring and autumn. Erdinger cows, diminutive but aggressive beasts, fight each other to decide which brown-coated contender will be ‘queen’ of the herd. The combatants snort and stamp their hooves before charging, locking horns and trying to force each other backwards. Read more.

Durbar

Location: Emir Palace Rd, Kano, Nigeria Dates: end of Ramadan Throughout the Islamic world, the Eid al-Fitr festival is celebrated in a variety of ways. It marks the end of Ramadan, the month when Muslims fast during daylight hours (in Arabic, eid means ‘festivity’ and fitr means ‘to break the fast’). In Nigeria’s Islamic north, the end of the testing month is celebrated with equine cavalcades called Durbars. One of the best places to see them is Kano, West Africa’s oldest surviving city and an ancient centre of Islamic learning.

Ghadames Date Festival

Location: Old city, Ghadames, Libya Dates: three days in October At the end of the date harvest in Ghadames, Libyans head to the city’s World Heritage-listed old quarter to eat dates and celebrate. Residents of the modern town return to their family homes in the old city, officially uninhabited since the mid-1980s, and throw open their doors for singing, dancing and public festivities. The shadowy old city has a network of covered walkways that provide shelter from the Saharan sun. Read more.

Vegetarian Festival

Location: Jui Tui temple, Th Ranong, Phuket Town, Phuket, Thailand Dates: first nine days of the ninth month in the Chinese calendar (late September/early October) Thailand’s largest island, nicknamed the ‘Pearl of the South’, is particularly spectacular during the Vegetarian Festival. Celebrated by Phuket’s Chinese community, the event marks the beginning of the month of ‘Taoist Lent’, when devout followers of the Tao abstain from eating all meat and meat products. Read more.

Matchmaking Festival

Location: Main St, Lisdoonvarna, County Clare, Ireland Dates: last Friday in August to first Sunday in October With its population of about 1000 Celtic citizens, tiny Lisdoonvara (Lisdoon for short) is famous for two things: its spas, which made it a popular Victorian resort, and its tradition of basadóiri (matchmakers). For a fee, these Guinness-swilling Cupids would help singletons find a partner. Read more.

Círio de Nazaré

Location: Praça Justo Chermont, Belém, Brazil Dates: second weekend in October The largest festival on the River Amazon, not to mention Brazil’s biggest hoedown after Rio’s Carnaval, Círio de Nazaré revolves around a small statue of Nossa Senhora de Nazaré (Our Lady of Nazareth). Supposedly sculpted in Nazareth (Galilee), the image is believed to have performed miracles in medieval Portugal before getting lost in Brazil. A humble cattleman rediscovered it in 1700 on the site of Belém’s Basílica de NS de Nazaré. Read more.

Entenrennen (Duck Race)

Location: Alleenbrücke, Tübingen, Baden-Württemberg, Germany Dates: early October It’s not exactly the Running of the Bulls. Indeed, the ducks involved in this bridge-to-bridge race aren’t even alive: they’re the yellow, rubber species whose usual habitat is the bathtub. Nonetheless, Tübingen’s annual contest is spectacular, if inexplicable. In a random, Germanic version of the ‘Poohsticks’ game enjoyed by Piglet et al in Winnie-the- Pooh, a truck dumps some 7000 duckies into the Neckar River from Alleenbrücke. Read more.

River Festivals

Location: LaosCambodia and Thailand Dates: full moon in late October or early November Also known as Ok Watsa, Laos’ Awk Phansa celebrates the end of Vassa, the Buddhist Lent. During this three-month period, monks sit out the rainy season in meditation, reviving their vows and fasting. Reaching the end of the challenging period is a cause for celebration for monks across Laos, and the rest of the country’s 6.5 million people grab the opportunity for a party. Read more.

Bridge Day

Location: New River Gorge Bridge, West Virginia, USA Date: third Sunday in October It’s the world’s largest extreme-sports event. More than 450 BASE jumpers hurl themselves off a 265m-high bridge, watched by up to 200,000 spectators. BASE stands for ‘building, antennae, span, earth’, the fixed points from which the adrenaline-seeking jumpers leap. Every year since 1980, the steel structure high above the New River has proven to be a perfect launching pad. Read more.

El Señor de los Milagros (Lord of Miracles)

Location: Lima, Peru Dates: 18, 28 and 29 October This large procession celebrates a 350-year-old mural of the Lord of Miracles (Christ). Painted by a freed slave, the fresco has survived vindictive authorities, bumbling workmen and three earthquakes. The first procession took place in 1687, when an earthquake obliterated the chapel that housed the portrait, leaving only the altar and the miraculous mural. Read more.

Masskara Festival

Location: Bacolod, Negros Occidental, Philippines Dates: weekend nearest 19 October MassKara’s name is a fusion of the English word for ‘many people’ and cara, the Spanish word for face. It’s a perfect of this Philippino fiesta, in which Bacolod’s 450,000-plus residents take to the streets wearing masks with radiant smiles. Read more.

Jidai Matsuri (Festival of the Ages)

Location: Kyoto Gosho, Kyoto, Japan Date: 22 October Compared with the former Japanese capital’s other major festivals, the Aoi and Gion Matsuris, Jidai Matsuri is a newcomer. It began in 1895 to raise the city’s morale after the Imperial Court shifted to Tokyo. The main event is the historical parade, featuring period costumes from eras dating back to 794, when the city began its 1000-year tenure as capital. Read more.

Halloween

Location: New York City, New York, USA Date: 31 October The shrill cry of ‘trick or treat’ from children on the doorstep, dressed as a blood-curdling gang of zombies and ghouls, is as synonymous with the States as baseball and Big Macs. It’s an important part of American family life and Hollywood slasher movies. Read more.

Moulid of Sayyed Ahmed Al-Badawi

Location: Tanta, Egypt Dates: end of the cotton harvest in late October One of Egypt’s most important moulids (religious festivals), held at Tanta in the Nile Delta, honours a Moroccan Sufi who fought the Crusaders in the 13th century. Some two million pilgrims arrive from across the Arab world to pay their respects at the main mosque, which holds al-Badawi’s tomb. Read more.

Diwali (Festival of Lights)

Location: Mumbai, India Date: fifteenth day of the Indian lunar month of Kartika (October/November) Having celebrated Krishna’s birth and Rama’s victory over the ten-headed demon-king Ravana at the Janmastami and Dussehra festivals, India’s Hindus now burn butter and oil lamps to lead Rama home from exile. Read more.

Fantasy Fest

Location: Duval St, Key West, Florida, USA Dates: ten days ending on the last Sunday in October One of the most outrageous parties in the lead-up to Halloween is this camp blowout in subtropical Florida. Started in 1979 as a ploy to liven up a quiet period for the local tourist industry, Fantasy Fest is a mind-bending series of fancy dress parties and parades.

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