October Fest(s)

With the month half over, many people are starting the countdown to one of the biggest parties of the year: Halloween. What they don’t realize is how many other festivals they could be celebrating in the 2 weeks leading up to that spooky day. Read on to find Panrimo’s favorite international festivals in October.

7) Naga Fireball Festival (Nong Khai, Thailand) October 16th

Crowds gather on the banks of the Mekong River to enjoy this unexplained phenomenon. As darkness falls, glowing orbs of varying sizes (some as large as basketballs) rise high into the sky over the river before vanishing. Though some nights are more active than others, thousands of these reddish, fireballs can be seen in the sky near the close of the Buddhist Lenten season. Many have tried to find scientific explanation behind the orbs, but no scientific explanation has stuck. Locals attribute the phenomenon to Naga, a mythic river snake.

6) Bridge Day (West Virginia, USA) October 18th

The New River Gorge Bridge in Fayetteville, West Virginia held the first Bridge Day to celebrate the 3rd anniversary of the bridge’s completion, and what better way to do that than by allowing hundreds of people to throw themselves off of it? Every year 400 BASE jumpers parachute off the bridge, floating to safety in the river 876 ft below. Hundreds more rappel down from the bridge supports as 100,000+ spectators cheer them on. Supported by a number of extreme sport companies and boasting top tier corporate sponsors, the festival shows no signs of slowing down, despite a history of death and injury. What fun is a party with no risk? ….Right?

5) Masskara Festival (Bacolod, Philippines) October 19th

The name of this festival is its best descriptor: “mass” (a lot of people) + “kara” (face) = “Masskara” (a lot of faces). The festival was founded in 1980 when the city of Bacolod was facing not only an economic crisis, but also a recent tragedy (over 700 people perished in a terrible ferry accident). Looking to revive optimism and inject some much-needed cheer into the locals, the town leaders devised a party to make people smile. Wearing a variety of grinning, cheery masks, participants take to the streets and dance, does it get any more upbeat? Though mask fashion has changed over the years, the mood hasn’t. Smile!

4) Jidai Matsuri (Kyoto, Japan) October 22nd

In 1868, the capital of Japan was moved from Kyoto to Tokyo as a result of regime change and political shifts. Consequently, the imperial family, who had resided in Kyoto for over a hundred years, was forcefully transplanted, along with thousands of household staff, lesser nobility, and hangers-on. Kyoto officials, worried their city would fast lose relevance and appeal, devised a plan to keep themselves in the public eye, the result being the “Festival of the Ages.” Ostensibly held to honor the ancient Emperor Kammu, the large parade begins at the Imperial Palace and ends at Heian Shrine. For 5 hours, 2000+ participants dressed in gorgeous, medieval costumes parade behind an ancient portable shrine as it winds its way through the city center. Though not at all like raucous American parades, this is a spectacle not to be missed!

3) Diwali (Mumbai, India) October 23rd

Held on the darkest night of the Hindu calendar month of Kartik, Diwali is a celebration of light, goodness, and hope. Preparations and subsequent celebrations make this a 5-day affair, but the main night the must-see moment. Participants (which is everyone) clean their homes, dress up, decorate, and prepare a feast, but all of this is just set-up for the main event. As the night approaches, the city lights up as thousands of lanterns, candles, lights, and fireworks illuminate the houses and streets, symbolizing the triumph of good over evil. Everyone gets presents too, what’s not to love?

2) Pushkar Camel Fair (Pushkar, India) October 31st-November 6th

Held on the banks of Pushkar Lake, the Pushkar Camel Fair is the place to be if you are buying, selling, or a fan of camels. Thousands of people gather for the annual festival, though the event is not limited exclusively to the purchasing of livestock. Amusement park rides, races, cricket, a moustache competition, and numerous food and shopping stalls are only a part of the festivities. Camels aren’t the only animals in attendance, with sheep, goats, and cows also available for purchase.

1) Día de los Muertos (Oaxaca, Mexico) October 31st

Nearly 3000 years old, the Day of the Dead festival started as an indigenous celebration in honor of the Goddess Catrina, aka “Lady of the Dead.” Originally it would have lasted for nearly a full calendar month, though modern observances are limited to a 3-day period, centering on the main festival on the 31st. It is a very family-centric celebration, during which family members gather to remember the deceased. Remembrance can include everything from candles to sugar skulls, private altars to public decorations in the graveyard. As a bank holiday in Mexico, everyone spends the day celebrating life and praying for the deceased. Though the colorful decorations may make people think of a party, this is generally a more somber event, with some people even going so far as to carry around dolls representing their dead relatives.

So now you know about all the amazing parties you could join, what’re you waiting for? Go buy a camel!