Held to commemorate Ireland’s patron saint and the arrival of Christianity, St. Patrick’s Day has been an official Christian feast day since the early 17th century. Legend has it that the association with shamrocks and the “wearing of the green” stems back to Saint Patrick’s use of the three-leaved plant to explain the Holy Trinity to the pagan Irish. Celebrated in more countries than any other national festival, today St. Patrick’s Day is a tribute to the far-reaching influence of the Emerald Isle’s expatriate population. However, there’s nothing like experiencing 17th March in Ireland itself, where the public holiday is the climax of a long party. The official festival, established by the Irish government 24 years ago, includes four days of street parades, concerts, céilithe (traditional music sessions), theatre performances and fireworks. Whilst the best place to participate in the revelry is Dublin, cities, towns and villages throughout Ireland hold their own parades and festivals.
The second oldest surviving motor race in Australia (after the Alpine Rally), the F1 Rolex Australian Grand Prix is also the first opportunity of the season for fans to catch a glimpse of new supercars on Melbourne’s famous Albert Park Grand Prix Circuit. On 17th March, Lewis Hamilton will start his world championship defence with the likes of Sebastian Vettel on his tail. Meanwhile, Australia’s Daniel Ricciardo will be vying for a podium spot in his hotly anticipated first race for Renault Sport. Albert Park is an exhilarating setting for drivers and spectators alike, since it boasts a thrilling combination of fast straights and demanding slow speed turns with multiple overtaking opportunities. The Heineken Village offers a unique and interactive setting with races, where fans can unwind and enjoy the complete Formula 1 experience in style. Meanwhile, an F1 Fan Zone is home to motor shows and kids’ corner, so there’s something for every family member.
Get the hatbox down from the top of the wardrobe and dry clean your best designer togs – the planet’s richest annual horse race is upon us again! Held in one of the world’s most talked-about cities and attracting the cream of Dubai society as well as a fair few international glitterati, the Gulf’s leading equestrian event is as much about being seen as it is a tribute to the beauty of Arabian horses. The culmination of Dubai’s World Cup carnival, the main event at Meydan Racecourse, will see USD 35million of prizes presented to the winners of the day’s nine races, which include eight thoroughbred contests and one for purebred Arabians. The after-race concert typically draws some of the biggest names in pop (the past few years have seen SIA, Janet Jackson, Kylie and Jennifer Lopez take to the stage) and the day naturally concludes with a massive fireworks display.
This ancient Hindu ritual to mark the beginning of spring – otherwise known as the Festival of Colours due to the bright powder participants throw at each other – is essentially a two-day celebration of the triumph of good over evil. The proceedings begin with the lighting of Holika bonfires, symbolising how the God Vishnu helped burn the devil Holika, according to Hindu scriptures. The next day, Rangwali Holi is when people delight in covering their neighbours in water and a rainbow of gulal, or paint powder (apparently Lord Krishna, a reincarnation of Lord Vishnu, liked to prank village girls in this manner). While Holi is observed throughout the world, the best places to see the festival are India and Nepal, especially Delhi, Varanasi, Vrindavan and Jaipur. One note: women should avoid walking about alone during Holi as some men take it as an opportunity to get a little too friendly!
The world’s largest tourism trade fair could be just the ticket if some inspiration is needed for your next cultured travelling experience! ITB Berlin is billed as a trip around the globe in just a few hours, and an opportunity to explore destinations in over 180 countries. With more than 10,000 exhibitors it might be a bit of a nightmare to navigate, but thankfully it’s made easier by being divided into regions and thematic sections, including responsible tourism, business travel, cultural tourism, adventure travel, medical tourism, travel technology, LGBT travel and etravel. A map of the exhibition layout is available online, so you can plan what to see before arriving. This mammoth, annual event has surprises around every corner – expect everything from flamenco dancing to henna hand-painting, massages to cooking demonstrations, EDM to folk dancing. For travel professionals there are also press conferences, talks, product presentations and networking events.
Celebrating its twentieth birthday in 2019, the Mother City’s annual award-winning celebration of jazz will once again take over the Cape Town International Convention Centre for two full days, featuring every type of live performer, from global legends and festival newcomers to musical storytellers and up-tempo high-energy acts for younger attendees. More than forty local and international artists will perform on five stages, including Cameroonian Grammy Award-winning jazz bassist; London-based saxophonist and composer Nubya Garcia; South Africa’s Soweto Gospel Choir; Brazilian multi Latin Grammy Award-winning jazz pianist, singer and composer Eliane Elias, and French multi-instrumentalist singer FKJ. Topping the bill will be Chaka Khan (pictured) who is arguably one of the world’s most famous musicians complete with a rich musical legacy including 10 Grammy Awards. Khan is a songwriter, actor, author, philanthropist, entrepreneur and activist who has influenced generations of recording artists, releasing 22 albums and racking-up ten Billboard #1 songs in the process, including her smash hit ‘I’m Every Woman’.
This noisy, exuberant celebration, which involves masses of fireworks and the burning of giant puppets, attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors from around the world to València. Held in honour of St. Joseph’s Day on 19th March, Las Fallas is believed to have originated in a pagan celebration of the spring equinox and is first recorded as being held in the late 15th century. Each neighbourhood in Valencia funds the construction of its own ‘falla’ – the wood and papier-mâché sculptures at the heart of the fiesta – which often reach 15 metres high and usually poke fun at local and international politicians and celebrities. The fallas are placed at key points around the city so visitors can wander about and check them out, before they are burned on night of the final day (19th March) in a ceremonial explosion, accompanied masses of fireworks. Expect many effigies of Donald Trump to be raised to the ground!
Regularly voted the world’s best by DJ Magazine, Carl Cox, Sasha, Jon Digweed and Sven Väth will be among the headliners when one of the world’s favourite electronic music festivals cranks up the volume in new downtown Miami locations for 2019: historic Virginia Key Beach Park and Miami Marine Stadium. This year’s line-up fulfils the festival organises commitment to expanding house and techno programming. Eric Prydz will perform a solo set, as well as a set under his Cirez D techno alias alongside Adam Beyer. Also billed are two epic collaborations, Dog Blood (Boys Noize and Skrillex) and Gigantic NGHTMRE (Big Gigantic and NGHTMRE) that will surely be bringing some serious heat to this year’s festival. Popular acts including Ghastly, 3LAU, Malaa, Elephante and WHIPPED CREAM will be performing on the Ultra Worldwide stage. Meanwhile, the UMF Radio stage will be bumping with epic sets from Jai Wolf, Kasbo and Pluko, along with a mau5trap takeover.
This is not for the faint hearted! Essentially the precursor to bungee jumping, this ancient ritual sees brave men and boys of the Sa tribe (near Tansip, on Pentecost Island in a remote part of the South Pacific) hurtle towards the ground head first from wooden towers of 20-30 metres high, at speeds of more than 40mph, with nothing more than tree vines tied around their ankles and no safety equipment. During the preparation period, the men seclude themselves from the women and refrain from sex. Tribal members on terra firma sing and dance to help the divers be brave. The vines act as bungee cords and each diver is invited to build their own platform and select their own vine so that no one else can be blamed for a fatal accident! If the vine is too short the jumper will crash into the tower. If it’s too long he will almost certainly break bones or possibly even perish.
Towards the end of the traditional annual ski season, the world’s biggest festival in the snow kicks off in the Austrian resort of Mayrhofen for a week. Frequently referred to as the Glastonbury of mountain gatherings, days are spent skiing, boarding, enjoying music in mountain-top locales, feasting on vast spreads and relaxing in luxury hotel saunas plus over 100 spas and pools. Nights deliver a completely different experience, with cutting-edge performances happening in a host of unique alpine venues, from pools and sky-high igloos to enchanted forest clearings and mountain stage sets, and Austria’s largest fancy dress street party. This year’s mammoth 20th anniversary festivities feature more than 100 of the biggest acts in the business, headlined by famed British electronic music duo Groove Armada (DJ set), Grammy Award-winning British-American rock band Fleetwood Mac, world-famous British DJ Fatboy Slim and pioneering electronic band The Prodigy.
California’s glossy, glam, dry and heated answer to the wet and mud of Glastonbury, held at the Empire Polo Club in the Colorado Desert over two consecutive weekends, Coachella is the first major international music event in the annual festival calendar. Essentially a massive well-organised cultural playground hosting up to 100,000 people at any one time, Coachella is attended by sweaty fashionistas, designer-hippies and musical trendsetters. Known for its show-stopping all-star line-up and breathtaking large-scale art installations, the 2019 20th birthday line-up for this veritable global gathering is no exception and is led by Ariana Grande (performing on both weekends), Childish Gambino and Tame Impala, plus Idris Elba and DJ Snake on the decks. Other notable acts include Solange, Janelle Monáe, Aphex Twin, Billie Eilish, The 1975, Anderson, Paak, Kacey Musgraves, Kid Cudi, Weezer, CHVRCHES, Gesaffelstein, Christine and the Queens, Mac DeMarco, Maggie Rogers and South Korean girl pop group BLACKPINK.
About 30 minutes north of Los Angeles, the Californian city of Santa Clarita is home to one of the world’s biggest cowboy gatherings which celebrates the state’s western heritage: the Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival. This action-packed happening routinely attracts more than 10,000 attendees annually for its live music, authentic western activities, trick ropers, gun spinners, magicians and more, as well as living history exhibits and fine Western gear, not to mention Dutch oven peach cobbler which is reputedly so tasty it’s earned a reputation of its own! This year, former festival director Mike Fleming and his band, New West, will host “New West and a Tribute to Don Edwards” at Don Ygnacio del Valle’s estancia, which is one of the best surviving examples of an early Californio Rancho in its original setting. Also this year, a four meat “Cowboy Cook-Off” will take place in the categories of pork, pork ribs, brisket and chicken!
The hottest month of the year in Thailand sees the entire country go bananas in friendly water fights and street parties that last nearly a week! Derived from the Sanskrit word saṅkrānti, and also known as Thai New Year or the Thailand Water Festival, Songkran was originally a way for Thai people to sprinkle water on their family members and elders to bring good fortune, as well as pay their respects to images of the beloved Buddha. Today, the festival has transitioned into three days of fun-filled water fights and non-stop revelry in the scorching heat, soaking locals and visitors alike in the teeming streets, with buckets of water, hoses and super-soakers. Previously held on dates that were dependent upon the Thai lunar calendar, whilst Songkran is now commemorated on the same days every year, the sopping wet celebrations typically begin before and end many days after the official holiday!
Taking place in venues both familiar and unusual across the bohemian, British south coast city, Brighton Festival is an annual celebration of music, theatre, dance, circus, art, film and literature via a variety of events. A veritable creative cornucopia of world-class art and entertainment happenings – including debates, musical concerts and theatrical performances – many of the festival’s events are specially commissioned and have their first public airings during these three weeks every May. Previous guest directors of this critically acclaimed London-By-The-Sea mixed arts fest have included actress Vanessa Redgrave (2012) and cartoonist David Shrigley (2018). Guest director for the festival’s 2019 outing is multi award-winning Malian singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Rokia Traoré, pictured. Traoré’s album “Bowmboï” won the Critics Award category at the BBC Radio 3 Awards for World Music in 2004, and “Tchamantché” won Victoires de la Musique World Music Album of the Year in 2009. (www.rokiatraore.net/en)
In mid-20th century America, the celebration of Cinco de Mayo became, amongst Mexican immigrants, a way of boosting pride in their heritage, not to mention an excuse to eat Mexican food and drink tequila all day! But in Mexico the holiday is celebrated a little bit differently: since Cinco de Mayo actually commemorates a military victory (when, despite being vastly outnumbered by the French, the Mexican army was triumphant on 5th May 1862), the day is celebrated in the state of Puebla with parades, speeches, mouthwatering meals and historical re-enactments of the famed 1862 battle. In Puebla, visitors experience an authentic, vibrant and colourful celebration, featuring art spectacles, costumed paraders, Mexican dancers, mariachi bands, parties and dancing filling the streets. Be sure to sample mole poblano, the most traditional Cinco de Mayo dish. It’s a thick sauce made with green chillies (among many other ingredients) that is usually served over turkey or chicken.
For ten days annually from the end of May until early June, when the playful British weather is most likely to be bright and sunny, thousands of literary buffs young and old alike descend upon Hay-on-Wye, in Wales’ beautiful Brecon Beacons National Park, to sit and read books. The world-famous Hay Festival celebrates great writing from poets and scientists, lyricists and comedians, novelists and environmentalists, and the power of great ideas to transform peoples’ way of thinking, and gives everyone from children to professors the opportunity to enjoy the energy of the written word. One of this year’s headline events is a performance by the legendary Gipsy Kings, featuring André Reyes, in the evening of 30th May. The Gipsy Kings first captured the world’s imagination in 1987 with self-titled album ‘Gipsy Kings’. More than three decades later, the band has become a live phenomenon, known for its energetic sets that feature infectious Latin rhythms and virtuoso guitar playing.
Known as the cultural capital of the Indian state of Kerala, its name literally translating to “the city of the Sacred Siva”, Thrissur, the country’s 20th largest city, is rich in history, brimming in cultural heritage and wealthy in archaeological treasures. If you have a weakness for colourful Indian festivals that both delight and assault the senses at the same time, then this is the one for you, complete with fireworks, folk dancing, revelry and plenty of drumming. In a region in which elephants are a common feature of religious festivities, Thrissur Pooram stands out as an observance that is especially endowed with the presence of these giants, which are, of course, the main attraction and decorated with gleaming golden headdresses, ornamental bells, palm leaves, peacock feathers and beautiful intricate paintings. Ornate parasols – carried by the elephant riders on tall bamboo poles – add to the stunning overall visual feast of it all.
The historic Spanish city of Girona – located in the country’s northeastern Catalonia region, beside the River Onyar – is best known for its medieval architecture, walled Old Quarter and the Roman remains of Força Vella fortress. But, for ten days every year, Girona’s buildings, courtyards, monuments and gardens are adorned with more than one hundred spectacular floral displays and arrangements, staged alongside a programme of traditional Spanish events and culinary happenings. Whole streets become art installations, accompanied by music, light, fountains and the intoxicating scent of thousands of flowers. Girona’s Town Hall always comes up with a well-constructed and somewhat dignified display that befits its status and its central location on the Plaça del Vi, the city’s bustling square. Throughout Girona during the festival, the wonderful ensembles of striking colours and penetrating aromas that accompany the cultural heritage of this beautiful Catalan city, make this part of Europe a must visit spring destination.