Bob Marley said ‘Wake up and live’, and I could not agree more. Life is short; make it an entertaining experience, and what better way to do so than through festivals.
Carnival, Rio de Janeiro
Considered the biggest carnival in the world, early February the yearlong preparation features gaudy floats and nearly naked women in a throbbing, four-day long festivity. The centrepiece is the Sambódromo parade, where neighbourhood groups compete for bragging rights as best ‘samba school’. The Masquerade Ball is almost as breath-taking, packed with beautiful people, all bemasked, bewigged and becostumed. G-strings encouraged.
Mardi Gras, New Orleans
Begin in New Orleans, where Mardi Gras is defined by its larger-than-life floats, Bourbon Street antics and thousands of strands of multi-coloured beads in early January. The famous two-week festival features Kings and Queens, garish floats and thousands of trinkets thrown to the crowds (female members are urged to bare their breasts in encouragement). All inhibitions are let loose, as the official start of abstinence is around the corner (Ash Wednesday).
Kanamara Matsuri, Kawasaki
Held the first Sunday in April, this fertility extragavanza is definitely not for prudes. The ‘Festival of the Steel Phallus’ features transvestites carrying a great pink penis through town while onlookers of all ages suck phallus-shaped lollipops, kids straddle penile swings, and adults carve penis-shaped radishes – an experience that one is sure to never forget!
Pamplona Bull Run, Pamplona
The San Fermin festival is a nonstop cacophony of music, dance, fireworks, processions – and the small matter of running alongside a handful of agitated, horn-tossing toros that takes place early July each year. As long as you’re 18, sober and running in the same direction as the bulls, it’s guaranteed to be the experience of a lifetime!
La Tomatina, Bunol
Tomato buffs rejoice for this is your festival! Imagine a food fight that involves the entire town, with 125 thousand kilos of tomato trucked in as weaponry. The culmination of celebration of the town’s patron saint late August, drunken participants hurtle the fruit at each other for an hour. Not for the short-tempered.
‘The festival of colours’ is celebrated mid-March, where the coming of spring is celebrated by throwing fistfuls of coloured powder at anyone and anything. The experience is fortified by the use of water balloons and water guns, and amplified by the music, dancing and sweets amongst a massive crowd. It promises to be memorable.
Six festivals, a 365 day long party, and unforgettable unique experiences – after the completion of this bucket list, you are definitely awake and living.
Photo credits: Terry George (Rio Carnival) and Jorge Royan (Holi). Flickr Creative Commons