Festival Spotlight: March

From colour bombs on the streets of Delhi and a million-strong Guinness-fuelled parade in Dublin, to thunderous pyrotechnic displays in Valencia and light illusions in Chichen Itza, these March festivals are anything but subdue – and we wouldn’t miss them for the world.

Holi

Where: Across India, Nepal and Sri Lanka
When: 23 March 2016

Every year the streets of India erupt into a kaleidoscope of colour, as revellers of every age take to the streets to welcome the start of spring by throwing coloured powders and water during the vibrant celebrations of Holi. While there are many differing tales surrounding the origination of Holi, the basic principle remains the same – it represents the defeat of light over darkness, of good over evil and general comradery. Northern India sees the biggest celebration of Holi in cities like Jaipur and New Delhi; however Varanasi and Mumbai offer some good competition too.  You’ll want to leave your nicer attire at home for this one!

Local men during the colourful festivities of Holi in India. Photo courtesy of Jan Kostal.
Local men during the colourful festivities of Holi in India. Photo courtesy of Jan Kostal.

Spring Equinox

Where: Chichen Itza, Mexico
When: 20 March 2016

Every year during the Spring Equinox one of Mexico’s biggest stars certainly steals the spotlight. Within the ruined temple city of Chichen Itza, crowds gather in a carnival-like setting at El Castillo Pyramid for the annual light-and-shadow illusion that takes place here when the morning and afternoon sun gives the impression of a serpent ascending the pyramid’s staircase.  If you prefer a smaller crowd, consider visiting during the week leading up to or after the Spring Equinox for the chance to see the same illusion, though perhaps not as clearly.

The star of the show - El Castillo pyramid at Chichen Itza in Mexico. Photo courtesy of Calvin Giggs.
The star of the show – El Castillo pyramid at Chichen Itza in Mexico. Photo courtesy of Calvin Giggs.

Las Fallas

Where: Valencia, Spain
When: 15-19 March 2016

Dating back to the Middle Ages when winter supplies were set ablaze to clear way for the start of spring, today Las Fallas is a grandiose celebration marked by burning effigies and thunderous pyrotechnic displays. Large-scale effigies are meticulously created by artists out of papier-mâché, some reaching up to 30 metres in height, and are then paraded through the streets accompanied by music performances and dance troupes. The celebration then reaches its climax on the final night when all the effigies are set alit, bar one that is saved as a symbol of prosperity, and fireworks take over the night sky. This massive bonfire is followed by all night parties in the streets.

Effigies set ablaze in Valencia, Spain during Las Fallas. Photo courtesy of Ben Kaberon.
Effigies set ablaze in Valencia, Spain during Las Fallas. Photo courtesy of Ben Kaberon.

St Patrick’s Festival

Where: Dublin, Ireland
When: 17-20 March 2016

What first originated as a religious feast in the ninth century is something quite different today. Taking place every year in Dublin – Ireland’s capital city, this four day celebration sees green-clad party-goers gather in their throngs, pints of Guinness in hand to dance and celebrate in the streets. In the lead up to St Patrick’s Day there are fairs and events taking places across the city, but the main event is a million-strong parade that is held on March 17th. Celebrations are not limited to Dublin either, New Yorkers love a good Paddy’s Day Parade too.

St Patricks Day Parade in Dublin, Ireland. Photo courtesy of Giuseppe Milo.
St Patricks Day Parade in Dublin, Ireland. Photo courtesy of Giuseppe Milo.

Semana Santa

Where: Antigua, Guatemala
When: 20-26 March 2016

While Semana Santa is a Catholic occasion by nature, that does not mean it cannot be appreciated by those of differing beliefs or none all together. Typically commencing a week before Easter on Palm Sunday, this Holy Week sees Guatemala enveloped in a violet-hue, the colour of penitence, as it honours the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Semana Santa’s main event is an elaborate parade, laid out through the city by colourful carpets, which is then followed by a procession of men dressed in purple robes carrying floats depicting images of Christ either carrying or on the cross itself.

Procession of floats during Semana Santa in Guatemala. Photo courtesy of Makenzie Donaldson.
Procession of floats during Semana Santa in Guatemala. Photo courtesy of Makenzie Donaldson.

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