The Yadana Gu Spirit Festival
September 7-11, Myanmar
Held in small town of Amarapura just south of Mandalay, Upper Myanmar, the festival draws thousands of people – and spirits – to the Yadana Gu Spirit Festival. The celebration is led by hundreds of spirit mediums who become possessed by the Nats during the ceremonies. The spirit mediums perform ritual dances and songs accompanied by a traditional Burmese orchestra as festival-goers make offerings of food, flowers, alcohol, and money to the Nats. Travellers and culture buffs will find the Yadana Gu Spirit Festival a fascinating opportunity to witness ancient animists traditions that predate the expansion of Buddhism into the region that is today called Myanmar.
September, Kerala, India
Ten days before Onam, people start creating their floral mats in front of their houses. Believing that the spirit of King Mahabali is visiting Kerala at the time of Onam, people celebrate and dance to assure the king that his people are happy. The highlight is the strictly vegetarian banquet to honour King Mahabali called Ona Sadya, which is served on the main Onam day. The nine-course feast of 11 mandatory dishes used to be even more elaborate with 64 dishes and is prepared days beforehand. The food has to be served on a banana leaf, laid with the end to the left. There are strict orders of serving and clear directions as to what will be served in which part of the banana leaf. Cutlery is a big faux pas since people eat with hands.
Independence Day Celebration
August 31, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Witness the Merdeka Day Parade at Dataran Merdeka, Kuala Lumpur, in celebration of Malaysia’s Independence Day on August 31. Known locally as Hari Kemerdekaan, it is the time when Malaysians show their appreciation for yet another year of harmony among the people, and are reminded of their country’s struggle for independence. Among the events leading up to the day of the parade are a marathon, a carnival and a concert.
August 26 and 27, Aichi Prefecture, Japan
Dai-Chochin Matsuri or the Giant Lantern Festival is one of the brightest and most delightful festivals in Japan. The festival is also called the Suwa Shrine Lantern Festival since the tradition of lighting up lanterns to drive away sea demons started at Suwa Shrine about 450 years ago. Since then it has become the custom to ignite a kagari-bi bonfire, as a Shinto ritual at the festival. Dai-Chochin Matsuri features enormous chochin or paper lanterns which measure more than five metres in diameter and 10 metres in length. The 12 sets of paper lanterns appearing at the festival are depicted with colourful motifs of famous Japanese myths.
September 19, Vietnam
According to legend, the celebration originates from an old folk tale about parents working so hard to get ready for harvest that they forgot about their children. Mid-Autumn Festival is a time when parents will make it up to them. There’s a festive atmosphere in many cities as lights and flowers adorn the streets, toy shops stock their shelves and people flock to buy moon cakes which are sold in shops in the hundreds. The night of September 19 is the best time of the year to watch the full moon (as well as to munch on a moon cake and wash it down with tea).