Described in Austrian folklore as a horned, anthropomorphic half-goat half-demon, who haunts the central European mountainous region that supposedly birthed the creature, Krampus comes alive during an annual festival which spreads some good old-fashioned pre-Christmas terror! Nowhere does this devil rampage more frighteningly than the town of Klagenfurt, the capital city of the southern Austrian province of Carinthia, on the eastern shore of Lake Wörthersee. Here the biggest and most rowdy Krampusnacht unfolds every year, brimming with ghastly demons, quite literally everywhere. The highlight of Krampusnacht is essentially an alcohol-fuelled Krampuslauf race, which winds through the pedestrian-friendly city centre, with a thousand alpine-jogging contestants dressed as scary, child-kidnapping, horned and furry devils. So terrifyingly demonic are Krampus costumes, that a constant debate rages throughout the country, involving a number of eminent psychologists and reputable schools, all of whom want the creature completely banned from society because it is so scary to kids!
Since first launching in 2002 (long after the original fair was christened in Switzerland in 1970), Art Basel Miami Beach has created such an art-drenched ecosystem full of diversity, that there’s something for just about everyone at this four-day artistic spectacle which completely takes over the famous beachfront Florida city. While the fair’s epicentre is the Miami Beach Convention Centre, there are literally dozens of offshoots, offbeat and off-centre exhibitions, films, performances and shows throughout the city. For 2018, more than 200 of the world’s leading international modern and contemporary art galleries display artworks by over 4,000 artists, including paintings, sculptures, installations and photographs, not to mention museum-calibre masterpieces of the highest quality. Meanwhile, editioned pieces by the new generation of emerging young artists will also be showcased, many of which are infinitely more affordable than the works on sale by big named artists.
Whilst many German cities and towns have a scenic backdrop of historic houses and beautiful squares for their Weihnachtsmärkte, dating back to 1393, Frankfurt’s Christmas market is one of the oldest in the country, and the scenery and atmosphere is uniquely enchanting. Officially opened by the city’s mayor late last month, the elaborate and lavish decorations, the scenic surroundings of the Römerberg and St. Paul’s Square and the huge Christmas tree in front of the Römer all combine to make Frankfurt’s Weihnachtsmärkt one of Germany’s most beautiful, stretching from the Zeil shopping mall to the Römerberg and down to the River Main. With more than 200 beautifully decorated stalls vying for attention, and the scent of roast chestnuts, mulled wine and grilled sausages permeating the air, it’s impossible to resist sipping on hot apple wine with cinnamon and cloves, or treating yourself to some Bethmännchen almond candies.
Don your finest winter-wear to trip the ice fantastic at the grand Edmond J. Safra Fountain Court at Somerset House, which must surely be one of Europe’s most stunning locations for seasonal skating. No matter how impressive (or amateur) your skills, a visit to this 900-metre square outdoor rink will look the very picture of glamour in your Instagram posts! Skating by day is a veritable family affair, with kids and parents of all ages on the ice. After sunset, “Skate Lates” feature a specially curated programme of music throughout the season, including takeovers by the likes of radio station Balamii, Tottenham based club Five Miles, and DJ Emily Rawson with the Rock The Bellescrew. Après skate, recharge at Fortnum & Mason’s Lodge, in the west wing of Somerset House, where you can munch on British classics like Welsh Rarebit and mince pie with clotted cream, or splash some cash at the rink-side shopping arcade.
Turkey’s famous whirling dervishes are the stuff of legends and famous the world over. Mevlâna annual ceremony attracts more than 100,000 visitors annually to the Anatolian city of Konya (an hour by plane from Istanbul), to commemorate the death of 13th-century Sufi poet, Mevlâna Celaleddin-i Rumi, one of the world’s great mystic philosophers. His work in poetry and religious writings are amongst the most cherished in Islam and beyond. Affectionately known as “Rumi” in the west, he is a best-selling poet in the US with legions of loyal fans. Throughout this festival, whirling dervishes, dressed in white robes with voluminous skirts, dance as if they are in trance, under the observance of a seyh (master). Their performances can best be described as mesmerising and mystifying – the ecstatic spinning accompanied by orchestral music and chanting making for a truly spellbinding spectacle. The festival’s highlight is the last night, when the entranced dervishes spin to commemorate Mevlâna’s wedding night.
“Live love dance” is the motto of Sunburn, one of India’s most famous electronic dance music festival brands, held in various locations around the globe, culminating in the biggest annual event which takes place just after Christmas and before NYE in Goa. Sunburn is a carefully crafted combination of music, food, shopping and EDM entertainment, spread over three days, and the handpicked line-up of artists showcases some of the world’s top DJs alongside local talent. If past Sunburn gatherings are anything to go by, the festival’s twelfth outing promises to be bigger than ever before. Some of the industry’s biggest names in dance music have performed at Sunburn, including Swedish House Mafia, Armin Van Buuren, Axwell, Tiesto, Paul Van Dyk, Avicii and Pete Tong. And a couple of years ago David Guetta played the closing night party. Festivalgoers can also let loose with a range of adrenaline-powered activities, including bungee jumping and zorbing, completing the ultimate music-driven vacation experience.
Sorry Sydney Harbour, but the first place in the world to welcome the first sunrise of the New Year is New Zealand, and what better place to do it than Rhythm & Vines, the country’s annual, award-winning music festival, held at Waiohika Estate family vineyard close to the city of Gisborne (hence the “vines” in the name!) The line-up is spread across three days and seven stages, and past headliners have included Calvin Harris and Mark Ronson. American rapper, singer and songwriter from Chicago, Juice WRLD – who has repeatedly knocked Drake and Kanye West off Spotify’s top spot this year – will be headlining day one. Premium accommodation options including onsite glamping and teepees (set in a cute village) and buying a Vintage Club Premium Pass provides access to a VIP bar, various experiential cocktail bars around the site and special platforms boasting the best views of the main stages.
Whilst Filipinos are known worldwide for their gracious hospitality and friendly nature, this feast festival held annually in January, in honour of the Santo Niño (the Infant Jesus), allows us a glimpse of their wild, colourful and playful side, a facet of these devout and thoughtful people rarely seen in public. The ultimate Filipino fiesta experience and believed to be around 800 years old, Ati-Atihan is an enthralling festival of constant movement, drumming and feasting, not to mention a non-stop riot of exhibitionism, costume, music and dance. The grandest Ati-Atihan celebrations in the Philippines take place in its capital, Kalibo, where soot-black painted faces, feather headdresses and animal bones create a show-stopping visual treat. After days of relentless drumming and festivities, it is nigh on impossible for even the most reluctant traveller not to get covered in soot and become part of the romping, all-night closing masquerade ball.
For ten days every January, the historic Colombian walled city of Cartagena opens to the public some of its most charming colonial spaces – indoors and out – for the Festival Internacional de Music. Performances by classical musicians from around the world quite literally fill Cartagena with music, including Teatro Heredia, the beautiful chapels of hotels Santa Clara, Santa Teresa and Iglesia de Santo Toribio, and Plaza San Pedro Claver. The festival program is divided into three, with the audience hearing music composed in Europe, New World music from different eras, and European works with influences from unpublished New World languages. This year’s performers include Quartetto di Cremona which is world renowned for its mature and lyrical sound (pictured). An Italian string quartet founded in a city famed for its Stradivarius collection, Quartetto di Cremona consists of Cristiano Gualco (violin), Paolo Andreoli (violin), Simone Gramaglia (viola) and Giovanni Scaglione on cello, and is considered one of the best of its generation.
Celebrating the baptism of Jesus Christ in the River Jordan by John the Baptist, Timkat is the greatest festival for Orthodox Christians in Ethiopia, and the three-day affair is rich in colour, comprising various ceremonies all conducted with great pomp. On the eve of Timkat, called Ketera, sacred replicas of the Ark of the Covenant (known as tabots), are wrapped in luxurious cloth and placed on the heads of priests to be carried out of the church in procession with the clergy. The pilgrimage halts just outside of the city at Fasilides’ Bath, whereupon a divine liturgy is celebrated at 2am, attended by crowds who bring picnics to eat by the light of oil lamps. At dawn a priest extinguishes a candle burning on a pole set in a nearby river using a ceremonial cross. Many in the congregation leap into the river. Escorted by horsemen, the tabots are then taken back to the churches, while the festivities continue.
Formerly a volcano and rising 342 meters above sea level, Mount Wakakusayama, in the Japanese city of Nara, is the location for this annual event held on the fourth Saturday of January, which sees the entire hill fired-up in a controlled burn. Following a parade that includes a giant rice cracker tossing competition, a torch is lit with sacred fire at Kasuga Taisha Shrine. Buddhist monks then carry the sacred fire down to a small shrine at the foot of the hill. First, interfaith members of Kofuku-ji, Todai-ji and Kasuga Taisha ignite the hill. Then hundreds of fireworks are launched, followed by the ritual burning of the hill, for roughly an hour, with the grasses on the slopes blazing as if a red hell is draped over the mountainside. When all of Mount Wakakusayama is eventually alight, like a gigantic flickering torch, unsurprisingly the fire can be seen across the entire metropolis.
Spanning the gamut from electronic to experimental, funk to free and mainstream to modern, Denmark’s world-renowned winter jazz festival has been thawing the Scandinavian chill with smoking tunes for more than fifteen years, gradually growing into one of the biggest European gatherings of the musical genre. Taking place over three weeks, there are more than 500 concerts to experience at 100+ different venues across Denmark. International stars on tour, new award-winning productions and different concert themes drop anchor in numerous of the country’s cities and suburbs. Hence, Vinterjazz very much kick-starts the season for the country’s clubs, and helps keep the music playing throughout the year. A highlight of the 2019 festival is the appearance of DR Big Band on 10th February (pictured). Founded in Copenhagen in 1964, DR Big Band comprises 19 outstanding jazz musicians, all of whom are strong personalities, crisp soloists and celebrated contemporary faces on the Danish jazz scene.
The most important day of the professional American football season, when millions of fans who can’t make it to the stadium are glued to the couch for the duration of what is often the most watched US television program of the year, Super Bowl LIII will be the 53rd Super Bowl and the 49th modern-era National Football League championship game. It will decide the league champion for the 2018 NFL season, be played at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia and be broadcast by CBS. Super Bowl’s halftime show has always attracted major talent. Janet Jackson had her infamous wardrobe malfunction in 2004. Coldplay, Beyoncé and Bruno Mars have also featured. Lady Gaga wowed the crowd in 2017 and last year Justin Timberlake made his third halftime appearance. This year, Adam Levine (pictured) will bring his Jagger-like moves to the biggest televised concert event of the year when Maroon 5 performs.
Held every two years and almost certainly the most important event in alpine ski racing, the last FIS Alpine World Ski Championships were held in the exclusive Swiss lakeside resort of St. Moritz. This year’s host city of Åre in Sweden is a leading Scandinavian ski resort, and was selected at the FIS Congress in Barcelona in June 2014. Very much a prestigious gathering, winter athletes from more than 70 nations will compete in a packed two-week schedule of 11 racing events, and will see new world champions crowned in downhill, super-G, giant slalom, slalom, alpine combined and the alpine team event, amongst others. For a truly VIP experience and to avoid the crowds, purchase a Lounge 2007 pass to use the exclusive two-floor tent just next to the finish line, at the very center of action. Meanwhile, away from the slopes, visitors will be entertained by a variety of shows, DJs and live bands until the early hours.
Whilst most people spend the winter months doing their level best to avoid ice and snow, the inhabitants of the picturesque French-speaking province of Québec City do the very opposite, and positively revel in the frigid surroundings, celebrating the joie de vivre of carnival season in freezing, sub-zero fashion. Québec City held its first large carnival in 1894, but the annual event was interrupted by two wars and an economic crisis before the first official edition of the Québec Winter Carnival took place more than sixty years ago in 1955. The largest winter shindig in the world has been an annual event ever since, comprising parades, an outdoor amusement park, giant ice slides and snow sculpture competitions. Not to mention a fair amount of eating, drinking and being merry, plus traditional dogsled and canoe races. Not to be missed is the Ice Palace constructed with compacted snow bricks and lit with tons of coloured lights.
The start of a new year is not just about fresh goals and aspirations for the people of Colombia, it also marks the beginning of carnival season. This vibrant, four-day extravaganza (the biggest in the world after Rio) may kick off mid-February, but the party atmosphere starts weeks earlier, when enthusiastic participants adding finishing touches to elaborate floats, and rehearsing dancers can be seen on Barranquilla’s streets. Pre-carnival events include the crowning of King Momo (the leader of carnivals) and the Carnival Queen, and the reading of the Lectura del Bando, which serves as a call for citizens to begin celebrating. The Queen leads the first day’s festivities with the main event – the Batalla de Flores – with spectators in fancy dress filling the streets, cheering the passing floats. The Grand Parade on day two features a multi-coloured mass of flamboyant characters bedecked in lavish costumes, all vying for a place in next year’s main event!
Dating back to traditional agricultural celebrations and marking the arrival of spring after new year, the annual Lantern Festival is one of the most important and romantic dates on the Taiwanese calendar. Thousands of shining decorative lanterns, bearing the wishes of their owners, illuminate the sky over rural Pingxi District in New Taipei, Taiwan. Meanwhile, firecrackers are set off at the Wumiao Temple in Yanshui District of Tainan in southwest Taiwan. Together, these ceremonies are known as “fireworks in the south, sky lanterns in the north.” Locals eat the traditional fare of rice dumplings with sweet and savoury fillings, known as tangyuan, and take part in lion and dragon dances, acrobatics and mock battles. Giant high tech light installations give the festival a futuristic edge, while times past are reflected in traditional handicraft markets selling everything from painted fans, Chinese knotwork and snacks, to paper craft and, of course, lanterns.
Broadcast live on ABC and beamed around the planet from the evocatively-named Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles on “Oscar Sunday” 24th February 2019, Hollywood’s night of nights is a prime opportunity for some serious star gazing as well as some serious gossiping! From the moment nominations are announced (on 22nd January 2019) through to the glitzy ceremony itself, the fortunes of nominees often swing up, down and sideways, depending on everything from box-office numbers to shifting cultural and political winds. By the time the nominees and celebrities strut and pose on the red carpet for the 91st Academy Awards, those in the know will have already set themselves up in comfort and style at the Beverly Wilshire hotel in the heart of Beverly Hills, or The Polo Lounge of the Beverly Hills Hotel, both favoured haunts of the Hollywood elite for decades. Will you be staying up late to watch the acting world’s biggest night of the year?!