7 MUST-SEE FESTIVALS IN 2020
By Erika Suban
MARK YOUR CALENDAR – Events to photograph in 2020
Good planning is the key to a happy trip. Not only to avoid a hurricane in the Caribbean or the rainy season in Bangladesh, but also to take those iconic photographs that are all about a special location during an exceptional time. If you get your dates right, you’ll have the opportunity to capture unique images that will mean only one thing: you were one of the lucky ones there to experience it.
So mark your calendar with the best events to photograph in 2020. Now you can ask your boss for some deserved time off and get the Visa paperwork ready in time, if you need it. Or choose the best travel insurance, to be on the safe side. Maybe research some recommended local restaurants to try. Get ready now, because when the time to travel comes, it will feel good to know that you have done all you needed in order to have the best time of your life. And once you are at destination, you can finally simply marvel at the spectacular celebrations unfolding in front of your eyes. Or maybe even join in.
Venice Carnevale / February 8 – 25, 2020
The Carnival in Venice is a triumph of colours, folklore and tradition, parades of costumes and characters that animate calles and canals to the sound of music and dances. This ancient tradition originated from the Greek Dionysian or the Roman saturnalia that allowed a temporary dissolution of social obligations and hierarchies to welcome jokes. It was a period of symbolic renewal, then adapted to the Christian religion to include a feast before the sacrifices required by Lent.
With time its religious connotation has been mostly forgotten, and Carnival is now a big party celebrated all over the world, according to local customs. From Rio de Janeiro to New Orleans, from Germany to Tenerife, it’s all about having fun. But the Carnival in Venice is the only one with a unique combination: a magical Italian city and the most sophisticated costumes and masks you’ll ever see. A Venetian Carnival is simply impossible to match.
Bhutan’s Punakha Festival / March 4 – 7, 2020
The Punakha Festival (Punakha Tshechu) is the Buddhist festival that celebrates the Guru Rimpoche, the saint who brought Buddhism to the magnificent Kingdom of Bhutan. It takes place at the beginning of the first Bhutanese month (based on a lunar calendar), runs for a week and is simply one of the best ways to get to know the ancient living culture of Bhutan.
Locals and visitors descend on the Punakha Dzong – the most impressive temple in the country – for a week of celebrations unlike anything you’ll see anywhere else in the world. Everyone is dressed in their finest clothes, while hundreds of masked and costumed dancers perform centuries-old stories in a truly magical atmosphere.
Holi India / March 9 – 10, 2020
Holi is a Hindu festival celebrated across India with contagious happiness. The celebrations commemorate the victory of good over evil, particularly the burning and destruction of a demoness named Holika with the help of Lord Vishnu. It’s sometimes now simply called the Festival of Colours because the local communities throw coloured powder or coloured water all over each other in a spectacular manifestation of pure joy.
The core of the festival is celebrated across North India on the 9th and 10th March 2020, but different regions have their own customs. For instance, a more authentic and ancient traditional celebration takes place much earlier in the holy cities of Vrindavan, Mathura and in the adjoining villages of Barsana and Nandgoan. They are truly unique to photograph, so arriving in India before the actual days of Holi is recommended. People sing and dance around the fire and, in some parts of India, even walk across the hot coals of the fire!
Holy Week / April 5 – 11, 2020
In Christianity, the last week of Lent immediately preceding Easter is celebrated solemnly. It’s the time when Christians recall the events leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion and his Resurrection. During this time churches all over the world are adorned with special decorations and organize elaborate processions that reenact the suffering (Passion) and death of Jesus, surrounded by pilgrims and believers.
But let’s not forget that Holy Week observances began in Jerusalem in the earliest days of the Church, so celebrating the Holy Week in Israel is a poignant experience for anybody, not only for the most devout pilgrims who participate in the event every year. Thousands of people from all over the world come here during this time to trace the footsteps of Jesus and his last moments, and the amount of photographic opportunities makes it even more unforgettable.
Mexico’s Day of the Dead / October 31 – November 2, 2020
During the Día de los Muertos in Mexico, families celebrate and remember their deceased relatives, whose soul is welcomed back for a brief reunion. If you have seen the movie “Coco” you know exactly what we are talking about. The festivities are over 3,000 years old, many rituals have changed, but you can always expect skeletons, skulls, altars and colourful cut-paper streamers everywhere. Young people wear costumes and women dress like Catrina, a satirical character created by artist José Guadalupe Posada. The markets are full of orange, yellow, white and red flowers, that are believed to help guide the dead back to the living.
Everyone participates. Entire families gather in cemeteries, adorn the graves of their loved ones with flowers, petals, leaves and candles, and spend the night there as a big happy family. A Dia de los Muertos in Oaxaca, a southern cultural gem home to many indigenous groups and one of best destinations in Mexico any time of the year, is not only spectacular, but also traditional and spiritual.
Yi Peng (Thai Lantern Festival) / November 1, 2020
The Yi Peng Festival is celebrated on the night of the full moon of the last month of the Thai Buddhist Calendar. Since this is a lunar calendar, the dates of the festival varies a bit from year to year. It’s almost always in November, though. And the centre of the festival takes place in Chiang Mai, Thailand’s second largest city.
During this sombre Buddhist festival, lanterns are lit and released into the night sky. Buddhists believe that releasing the lantern on a full moon frees them of the previous years bad luck. And if they make a wish as they release the lantern, good fortune will come to them in the coming year.
This festival attracts devotees from all over Thailand, and the world. The sight of thousands of orange lanterns rising slowly into the sky with a full moon backdrop is visually stunning. Although the event takes place over just a few short hours, the memories will last a lifetime.
Pushkar Camel Fair / November 22 – 30, 2020
The Camel Fair in the small town bordering the Thar Desert in Rajasthan is simply India’s greatest tribal gathering, and therefore one of the most highly-rated travel experiences in the country. It’s held each November at the time of the Kartik Purnima full moon and attracts thousands of camels, horses and cattle and over 400,000 people.
Imagine seeing all the camels slowly converge, dressed up for the occasion and paraded to participate in beauty contests, even raced before being traded. Musicians, magicians, dancers, acrobats, snake charmers and carousel rides attend as well to entertain the crowd. On the last day of the Camel Festival thousands of devotees will then bathe in the lake of Pushkar, which is believed to have been created when Lord Brahma dropped a sacred lotus flower to earth. Don’t miss the opportunity to visit one of the oldest cities in India during such a special time.
There’s no doubt that festivals provide great opportunities for photographers. There are countless other festivals around the world, much more than the few we’ve mentioned here. What is your favourite festival to photograph? Tell us in the comments below!