Festivals: From the People, to the People.

Good day, everyone.

The new year has started, and perhaps you want to start fresh by maximizing your time. You want to make each day as efficient as possible, so you can spend your time procrastinating to study, work, or socialize better than last year.

We totally believe it. Yeah, totally. 

So that’s why we include the summary down at the end of this article. You can just read it, and still understand the big picture of this article. 

However, if you like reading like us, the whole article is going to entertain you.

Happy reading!

Humanity’s Tendency To Celebrate

celebrating festival

It’s been a cumbersome year for all of us, and we’re sure that you’re longing to go out attending festivals. The ecstasy is unlike any other. 

Well, a new year, a new dream. Hopefully by this year, we can finally acquire a way to beat the pandemic, thus making us able to go out safely.

Safe to assume, all of you have joined, or at least heard about festivals. Unless you live in a cave, no offense to those who actually live in a cave though, you are bound to participate, or be exposed to a festival.

But first, what do festivals mean?

If you look it up in the Oxford English Dictionary, the word festival originated from Latin. Initially the term festival only refers to religious holidays and celebrations. Through time, it has received added meaning to refer to other celebrations and events that are outside religious phenomenons. 

The addition of festivals that are not for religious purposes serve as entertainment for people. This can be seen with music, food, as well as film festivals. Some festivals are actually done because of religious practice, but then becoming an entertainment by itself.

In ASEAN countries alone, you can find dozens of festivals definitely worth visiting. Moreover, ASEAN countries are rich in culture, which makes the festivals even more interesting.

Curious about what those festivals are? Come join us where we will explore some of the most entertaining, eye-catching, as well as highly important festivals around ASEAN countries. Hopefully, we can visit all of them this year!

Let’s go!

A Boost of Happiness

Nowadays, festivals are everything, for everyone. 

Just tell me what your idea of a fun and amusing festival is, I believe there’s a festival for that. 

You read that right, all kinds of festivals, even for your weirdest ideas.

You fancy spraying and splashing water to strangers without any serious repercussions? Go to Thailand in mid April and join the Songkran festival. There, you can just join the locals and tourists alike in spraying water to everyone. Expect yourself to get wet too!

The Songkran festival is one of the new year celebrations of Thailand’s solar calendar. Water represents purification, thus it’s believed that people who got poured / splashed by water during this festival are going to have their sins and bad luck washed away.

Songkran Festival
Songkran Festival. Source: Crystaldive.com

Perhaps you don’t like the crowd that much, let alone getting soaked. You prefer to have a more quiet kind of festival. What? How can a festival be quiet? Ridiculous!

Turns out, it’s not ridiculous! 

In Indonesia, specifically Bali, there is a literal festival of silence called Nyepi. It’s actually the start of the Balinese new year, which is celebrated by the Balinese with silence, fasting, and meditation. It is actually forbidden for Balinese to go out of their house during Nyepi. Only a handful of essentials such as ambulance, police, military, and hotel escort vehicles are allowed to go out, and this is only possible with a special permit. 

There are four points of prohibition that’s supposed to be done by Balinese Hindus during Nyepi called Catur Brata Penyepian; no activity (amati karya), no turning on lights or starting fire (amati geni), no going out (amati lelungan) and no recreational / entertainment activities (amati lelanguan).

The prohibitions will be enforced by Pecalang, local custom security officers of Bali. Some say that they are often fiercer than the police themselves. Nyepi will last the full 24 hours.

Pecalang during Nyepi
Pecalang during Nyepi. Source: Intisari Grid

Stroll a bit down the road (not literally), and you arrive in the Philippines.

The Philippines are proudly religious. So much that in fact, the majority of festivals that happen in The Philippines have religious backgrounds. One of the biggest festivals is The Sinulog Festival in Cebu

The Sinulog Festival is a celebration of the statue of baby Jesus known locally as Santo Niño de Cebú. This statue was handed to the Rajah Humabon of Cebu by the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan in 1521. This is a highly pivotal moment of the Philippines’ religious history since it laid the groundwork for the birth of Christianity in the country.

It is thought that upon receiving the statue, Queen Juana, the main consort of Rajah Humabon, danced with joy holding this image of the child Jesus and hence dances being a big part of this festival.

The Grand Street Parade of The Sinulog Festival
The Grand Street Parade of The Sinulog Festival. Source: Guide To The Philippines

This festival spans across several days, with the Grand Street Parade as the main attraction. It is held every third Sunday of January. During the festival, you can explore the area, which has exceptional historical and cultural milieu. 

Not only that, you can also watch fireworks, taste local cuisines, and even join to watch the Kaplag Festival, a sub-festival of the Sinulog festival where actors and actresses re-enacts the Baptism of Queen Juana and Rajah Humabon as Catholics, as well as the noteworthy moment when Ferdinand Magellan gave the image of the Santo Niño as a baptismal gift to the Queen.

Perhaps you’re wondering about a festival in honor of the harvest?

You can go to Borneo island where Dayak people celebrate the Gawai Dayak Festival. “Gawai” means festival and “Dayak” is a collective name for the indigenous peoples of Sarawak, Indonesian Kalimantan and the interior of Borneo.

Ngajat during Gawai Dayak
Ngajat during Gawai Dayak. Source: Borneo Talk

This festival is a day to give thanks to the gods after the rice harvesting season is over; when all the paddy stalks have been threshed and the fresh grains have been neatly stored. You can find several things to partake in, such as Ngajat or dancing, as well as exploring exotic foods and a special rice-wine drink called tuak. 

Moving on, we’re going to Vietnam, specifically the complex of temples and shrines in Hanoi called The Huong Pagoda, or The Perfume Pagoda.

Here’s the place for the infamous The Perfume Festival, where pilgrims from all over Vietnam come to pray for a prosperous year and pay their respects to Buddha. The pilgrimage itself happens during the 15th day of the 1st month of the lunar calendar. 

The Perfume Pagoda
The Perfume Pagoda. Source: Day Tours Hanoi

After attending all those festivals, you must be hungry.

Now, let’s go to the Singapore Food Festival!

Singapore Food Festival
Singapore Food Festival. Source: CGTN

Despite its dainty dimension, Singapore is one of the busiest countries in the world, being the major transportation hub in Asia. With all those businesses, come all mouths that like to munch. Naturally, Singapore’s foods and beverages were influenced by its diverse culture. 

All of the festivals we mentioned above span several days during their holding. If you dig going to festivals, you’re in for a treat!

Lots of Festivals, Lots of People

We explored some exciting festivals in ASEAN countries. It became apparent that covering all of ASEAN countries’ festivals in a single article will be impossible. Limitations of both the platform and  the writer. 

However, we include links for the corresponding festivals, should you feel inclined to learn more about them!

We realize that all ASEAN countries have immensely entertaining and rich festivals, so if you think we missed some, just let us know! Those festivals must be lit!

All in all, festivals exist to remind us to be kind to each other, always grateful, and that we should enjoy life together with everyone. Especially in this world that is often infused with negativity. 

By the way, some of you might’ve noticed a pattern in this article; the mention of several kinds of new years. 

Yes you got that right, Sherlock!

While we’re in this period of new year, we decided to mention the new year celebrations other than the Gregorian calendar’s new year that we’re currently celebrating. What do you think so far, folks?

Also, are you curious about how the new year is celebrated in one of the most prominent ASEAN countries? Of course you do!

So next week, our content writer Josephine is going to take you exploring the celebration. It’s going to be in-depth as well. Stay tuned to our social media posts! 

Gamal out~

Summary, so you can study 😉

The new year is here!

However, many of us are still unable to go out and enjoy life as what we usually do in pre-pandemic days. Some miss going out to school, some miss going out to work. Many of us definitely miss going out attending festivals.

Festivals initially refer to religious events and celebrations. Nowadays, the term can be used to refer to events outside of religious purposes; such as food, music, harvest, and many more.

This month, we’re taking you to virtually explore the festivals in ASEAN. The cultural, historical and religious diversity gives the festivals a rich value. From the splashy water ‘war’ in the Songkran festival of Thailand, the mouth-watering foods of Singapore’s Food Festival, the peaceful tranquility of Nyepi in Indonesia and some others, festivals are incredibly enjoyable and highly entertaining. 

You’re curious about it now? Let’s read the whole article!

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Written By
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Gamal Kevin Alega | @gamalkevin

A law student from Indonesia; currently living in Pekalongan, Jawa Tengah. Highly enthusiastic about languages, cultures, and technology. Joining AYO as a Content Writer with the intention of honing writing skills, as well as enriching connections from various cultures and backgrounds. A proficient eater with 23 years of experience as well.

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