Well, it’s that time of year again. After all the hype, Christmas and New Years are finally over and we’re left with a fairly empty calendar...or are we?! Actually, this is the best time of year for some of the most colourful and cultural happenings around. The only hard part is deciding which one to catch this year. Read on and let us help you figure it out...
Mardi Gras in New Orleans
Even if you’ve never been to Mardi Gras, you probably think you know what it’s all about – beads, girls and booze, right? Nope. Not even close.
The celebrations actually date all the way back to Louisiana in 1699, when it was strictly a religious observation. But within a few decades it became an occasion to party and over the last 150 years, the New Orleans variation has developed its own intricate rules, traditions and costumes representing the distinct local culture.
Want to witness this extravaganza yourself? This year, New Orleans Mardi Gras is on from February 6th to 12th. There are multiple parades on every single day across the city and, contrary to popular belief, almost none of the parades pass through Bourbon Street – because it’s too narrow! On Fat Tuesday itself, all the parades are on Uptown or in the Metairie neighbourhood.
We recommend getting up very (very) early on Fat Tuesday to catch the Krewe of Zulu parade in the French Quarter, likely to be followed by an ‘Indians’ march. The Mardi Gras Indian krewes are a much sought-after sight, as locals pay tribute to their mixed French/Native American/African heritage and history with huge, flamboyant costumes and traditional African chants.
Also make sure to catch the Endymion parade on Saturday, February 9th. Endymion are one of the city’s largest krewes. This year their parade will feature singer Kelly Clarkson as celebrity Grand Marshall as well as the world’s biggest Mardi Gras float, which cost $1.2USD million to build. The best part of all of this is that it’s free to watch any of the parades and to catch the throws – bring a bag to tote around your bounty of beads, stuffed animals, doubloons and cups!
Perth Arts Festival
Travelling around Australia? Or just looking for an excuse to head out west? The Perth International Arts Festival is on February 8th to March 2nd and really, truly has something for everyone.
Some of the most exciting shows include Dead Can Dance, ‘David Lynch Presents Chrysta Bell’, Philip Glass, the Kronos Quartet, modern ballets and a vintage circus called ‘La Cucina Dell’Arte’. There’s even a whole category called ‘free and spectacular’, including ‘Bombs Per Minute BPM’, a free pyrotechnics performance in Langley Park on February 9th.
Our favourite part of the festival that it’s up to you how much you want to spend, as the seats for paid events range from $25AUD for students all the way upwards of $150AUD. But get your tickets quick, as many of the events are selling out rapidly!
Like Mardi Gras, Venice Carnival is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. This festival coincides with Shrove Tuesday but is really a celebration of Venetian history and culture...and the most famous aspect of the Carnival is, of course, the masks. Venice’s famous masks appear in all shapes and sizes and anyone can compete for the daily prizes awarded twice a day at Piazza San Marco from February 2nd to 10th.
There’s tons of events on every day, from free and official street theatre to private-but-pricey soirées.
We particularly love the Flight of the Angel in Piazza San Marco on Sunday, February 3rd. This traditional show features a special guest (usually a celebrity), flying along a rope from San Marco Tower all the way down into the middle of the square. Another must-see event is the Festa Della Marie, happening in the same square on Saturday, February 2nd. This is a kind of beauty pageant where 12 beautiful women are carried in a parade from San Pietro di Castello to Piazza San Marco and presented to the waiting crowds. It dates back to when the Doge of the Venetian Republic would bestow wedding dowries and magnificent jewels on the 12 most beautiful of the city’s poorest women.
There’s way too much going on for Carnival to list them all here – from operas to traditional dances to walking theatre shows – so make sure to check out the official website.
Heading to Brazil instead? We've put together a list of everything you need to know about Rio Carnival 2013!
Chinese New Year in Hong Kong
When it comes to Chinese New Year, Hong Kong really knows how to throw a party. Also known as the Lunar New Year or the Spring Festival, this is a great opportunity to experience the vibrant local culture and customs.
February 10th sees the Night Parade wind through the harbour-front area of Tsim Tsa Shui, with marching bands, lion dancers, costumed children’s characters and a whole bunch of illuminated floats, turning the entire area into a street party. The next evening, get yourself onto a boat or head for the Convention Centre to get the best view of the stunning fireworks display, as multiple barges set off synchronised fireworks over Victoria Harbour.
Elsewhere, flower markets spring up all over Hong Kong this time of year, the biggest and busiest of which is the one in Victoria Park. It’s open every day of the festival until dawn on February 10th. These aren’t your run-of-the-mill flower displays – the markets are just bursting with vibrant colours and scents; it’s a sensory experience all of its own.
Heading elsewhere this February? We've found the best places in the world to celebrate Chinese New Year around the world.
So what are you doing this February? What have we missed out on? Comment below and tell us!Photos courtesy of Mike, Tulane Public Relations, Pat (Cletch) Williams and Robert Lowe. All images used under the Creative Commons license.
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