It may be close, but the Far East is a world apart from India. There are so many languages, religions, ethnic groups and cultures that the festivals are truly something to behold. Let’s have a look at some of the celebrations that happen in China, Japan, and South Korea.
Although the Chinese New Year is world renowned, within this same period, the Lantern Festival is celebrated all over the country. It culminates the Spring Festival and has done so for about 2,000 years! Because the date of the Spring Festival is based on the lunar calendar, the precise date of the Lantern Festival changes every year. But it always falls on the 15th day of the first Chinese lunar month, which is sometime between the 5th of February and the 7th of March.
The Lantern Festival is of particular importance because it marks the return of spring and symbolizes the reunion of the family. Sadly, nowadays people can’t really celebrate the festival with their loved ones because there is no public holiday. However, lanterns are lit all over the country and people try to solve the riddles written on them. Lion and dragon dances are also commonplace as is walking on stilts.
Japan also has a huge number of festivals and many of them have their roots in Chinese ones; although they have undergone great changes as they mixed with local customs. One such example is Tanabata, also known as the Star Festival, which originated from the Chinese Qixi Festival. This festival celebrates when the deities Orihime and Hikoboshi met, who according to legend are separated by the Milky Way but are allowed to meet once a year on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month. In line with Japan’s reputation for being orderly and conservative, poems are meticulously written on small pieces of paper and used to decorate trees before being set afloat on a river the day following the festival.
On a not-so-orderly note, the Japanese also celebrate the Onbashira Matsuri once every six years, which is probably a good thing seeing as ambulances are on standby to aid participants once they finish their celebrations. The festival takes place in the Lake Suwa area and involves cutting down large fir trees from the nearby forest before placing them in the ground as a shrine. It is all very ceremonial until the climax of the festival when these huge logs are slid down the steepest hill in the vicinity with as many of the sake-laden, festival participants riding them. Japan: a country of contradictions!
Lastly, Boryeong, South Korea, also has an interesting festival that is not for the faint-hearted! There is a program of events for both day and nighttime, which all center on the main cause for the festival: mud. It’s not just about mud fights though; the mud itself is considered rich in minerals and is, in fact, used to manufacture cosmetics. Although it was originally a marketing gimmick, the festival now attracts an international audience and provides an essential source of income for the locals.