Fantastic Festivals of the World
The Fire Festival (Las Fallas) in Spain, The Mid Autumn Lantern Festival in Hong Kong, the Puppet Festival in France, The World Buskers Festival in New Zealand…
The Fantastic Festivals of the World series gives viewers an opportunity to visit these sites and more in fabulous HDTV. Every year there are thousands of festivals highlighting special historical occasions, music, dance, folklore, and crafts. The HD production team led by Marc Pingry and Sigal Bujman visits the most unique of these events.
The programs focus on what makes the festivals unique and takes the viewers off the beaten track outside of the event.
Episode 101: Mid-Autumn Lantern Festival, Hong Kong
The festival origins go back to the 14th Century uprising against the Mongols. The rebels smartly wrote the call to revolt on pieces of paper and hid them in pastries that they smuggled to compatriots.
Today, during the festival, people eat those special pastries known as “Moon Cakes”. They are made of ground lotus, sesame seed paste, egg-yolk and other ingredients. Along with the cakes, shops sell colored Chinese paper lanterns in the shapes of animals, and more recently, featuring popular cartoon characters. On this family occasion, parents allow children to stay up late, prepare a special meal and take them to public places to light their lanterns. Hong Kong light up with thousands of lanterns in all colors, sizes and shapes.
Off the Beaten Path: Exploring magical Hong Kong: Visits to the giant Buddha on Lantau island, a sampan driver in Aberdeen among traditional house boats, Chueng Cheu, a charming Island where cars are forbidden and Tai O village where all the homes are built on stilts. Autumn season bring believers to Wong Tai Sin temple where locals make offerings for the Moon festival.
For our Food Segment we will explore a Kowloon tofu factory to learn about this ancient culinary custom of the East along with street market stalls with their unique variety of dried sea food. We also visit the famous and very typical Tai Chong bakery for its incredible egg tarts.
Hong Kong’s other specialty markets are highlighted with the Goldfish market, the Yuen Po Bird market, the Mong Kok flower market and the Jade market in Yau Ma Tei.
Special Thanks to the Hong Kong Tourism Board and Cathay Pacific Airlines for their assistance with this episode.
Episode 102: Festival des Marionettes, Charlevile-Mezeries, France
The art of puppet theatre is celebrated at a dedicated festival in the French town of Charleville-Mezieres. The festival was started in World War Two by local youth who wanted to make children laugh during those hard times. Today, visitors fill the streets of this friendly town to meet the world’s best puppeteers.
“It’s the Mecca of the puppet world. Every puppeteer has to come here at least once in their lifetime,” says Eric Bass, a festival performer.
The Festivals program visits this 17th century town located in the heart of the Champagne-Ardennes region of France. Puppets come in all shapes and sizes at this festival. Some shows are designed to criticize, some to steer emotions, others to simply entertain and of course to make audience nostalgic for their childhood memories. Performers from all over the world show their craft in the city’s narrow streets, in the beautiful main square, along the river bank and inside traditional theaters.
Off the Beaten Path: The Festivals program finds a medieval city named Troyes that looks just the same as it did 800 years ago. In Reims, a visit to underground cellars of Champagne maker Madame Pomery, and the impressive Cathedral where Joan of Arc was present along with France’s kings. They are still picking pinot noir in the Drappier vineyards when the crew arrives. Two up and coming Michelin one star restaurants and their young chefs are profiled.
Special Thanks to the Champagne Ardennes Regional Tourism Board and Air France.
Episode 103: The World Buskers Festival, Christchurch, New Zealand
Busking, which dates back to 1852, includes any street entertainment performed for the public.
The city of Christchurch comes alive when street performers from all over the world converge on this beautiful location on the east coast of New Zealand’s South Island. The Festival’s program captures the live performances of some of the best “buskers”, hand picked by the Festival’s director, Jodi Wright, from around the world.
Off the Beaten Path: The crew travels north from Christchurch to the former Maori and whaling village of Kaikoura. Here they meet with local tour guide Maurice Manawatu, who introduces the Maori culture to the team. Capturing the giant sperm whale from the air and boat is very visual along with the dolphins that seem to be attracted to the camera. Also in Kaikoura is a sheep shearing demonstration and adventurous 4 wheeling in magnificent scenery on a rocky coastline ending the trip in a secluded seals reservation.
You can’t be in New Zealand without doing something related to Lord of the Rings. In the Canterbury High Country the festivals team goes to the valley where the Riders of Rohan made their home on a rock with the real name of Mt Sunday.
Special Thanks Christchurch and Canterbury Marketing.
Episode 104: Carnaval de Quebec, Quebec City, Quebec, Canada
Carnaval De Quebec brings a true “joie de vivre” (joy of life) during the cold winter months. Carnaval (as it is referred to in French) takes place annually from late January to early February and continues for 17 days. More than 300 family oriented activities and events occur around stunning Quebec City during Carnaval. This carnival is the world’s largest snow-oriented winter carnival. With a temperature way below zero, the warmth of this carnival will melt every viewer.
Off the Beaten Path: For a place to stay outside of Quebec City, nothing can beat a night at the Ice Hotel. For some high-speed thrills there is the toboggan ride at Chateau Frontenac or streaking through the north woods on a racing dog sled. Just a 30 minute drive from the festival is Mt Saint Anne, one of the premier ski resorts in the Northeast. Maude, an expert skier, takes us down the slopes and through the woods. One can’t visit Quebec in the winter without trying out the miles and miles of snowmobile trails. Food is another attraction with a visit to one of the most popular restaurants in Quebec. An original salmon dish is prepared by the Chef. On the sidewalk, hot maple sugar is poured in the snow for a frozen, decadent treat. The Fantastic Festival’s crew takes their high definition camera on a high-speed snowy adventure.
Special thanks to The Quebec City and area Tourism and Convention Bureau
Episode 105: Festival Las Fallas, Valencia, Spain
Celebrated from the 13th to the 19th of March every year, the Fallas are giant creations of styrofoam, wood and paper mache, created in honor of St. Joseph, patron of all carpenters. They are built by an ensemble of artists and local workers, and then put together like a puzzle in the streets of Valencia by competing clubs. The Fallas represent a huge investment of money and personnel during a whole year. The surprising fact is that those “museum worthy” artistic creations are burned to the ground on the last night of the festival in huge bonfires. This act of faith and pyromania brings tears to the women and evokes strong emotions from the men. The whole town of Valencia participates with a week long celebration of parades, bands, firework displays and the daily Mascaleta. The Mascleta is a long tradition of the loudest kind. The event takes place every day at 2pm in the city hall square. It features firework artists competing on who can be the best “noise maker” by creating a symphony of sound. All is done to the applause of the adoring Valencians.
Off the Beaten Path: The Festivals program travels to the mountainous region of Castillon and the hill town of Morella for some black truffle cooking. We meet a weaver who uses 300-year-old traditional machines to create the beautiful garments worn in the Fallas Festival.
Special Thanks to Comunitiat Valencia Tourisme and Iberia Airlines.
Episode 106: Carnival, St Thomas, US Virgin Islands
“It’s Carnival baby!” Those words sum up this April finale to Carnival season. Non-stop action to the beat of calypso music, this show is lively and definitely colorful. This Fantastic Festivals program covers a variety of fun activities: The food fair with its Caribbean tasty dishes, the Calypso King contest, the wild early morning J’ouvert party and the race boat competition. The two highlights of the Carnival are the children’s parade followed the next day by the very impressive and action filled adult’s parade.
Off the Beaten Path: Leaving St Thomas, the crew travels to the Island of St John where they visit an ecologically friendly resort called Maho Bay. Next stop is the Island of St. Croix for some deep sea sport fishing, a visit with bush doctor Ras Mulumaba who shows off the natural “pharmacy” that grows wild around the ruins of an old sugar plantation, and some local cooking at Harvey’s restaurant in Christiansted.
Special thanks to US Virgin Islands Tourism Board.
Episode 107: Gypsy Festival, San Marie de la Mer, France and The Medieval Fair, Sedan, France
In the month of May two amazing and very different festivals occur in France. One is a “Medieval Festival” in the Champagne Ardennes region. The other is the Gypsy Pilgrimage in Provence.
First stop will be in the historical fortress (the largest in Europe) town of Sedan, a city that hosts a medieval festival each year. Walking around this huge castle with knights, ladies and even a medieval torture chamber takes one back in time. The locals compete in games for the honor of their neighborhood in this beautiful city.
Second stop is the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, in the beloved region of Provence. Every year in May, Gypsies from all over the world gather in the tiny city of Saint Marie de La Mer. They take their patron Saint Sara through the narrow streets of this charming village and deliver her to the sea. The name of this place, which is a peaceful tourist destination during the summer, suggests the city’s religious importance. It means Saint Mary of the Sea.
Off the Beaten Path: Nobody expects to see cowboys in Provence but in Camargue where flamingos are a common sight and bulls graze next to rice fields, French cowboys called Guardians are having a round up. There is also a bullring where ribbons are bravely ripped from the horns instead of a sword in the heart. Provence is also where impressionist legends, Cezanne (Aix en Provence) and Van Gough (Arles), created some of their best work. The Festivals program takes the viewer to the actual sites, which inspired these masters.
Special Gastronomical Segment: Located in the Rhone-Alps region, Lyon has always been a strategic crossroads. The Festivals crew tests the city’s reputation for some of the finest dining in France as they experience the different cuisines that can be found there. Three great restaurants are profiled, a traditional “Bouchon”, an established Michelin Star restaurant and an innovative nouvelle cuisine chef. One of the better-known exports from this region is Beaujolais wine. A trip to George Debeof’s vineyards is a great way to taste the landscape north of Lyon, as well as its trademark wine.
Special thanks to Champagne-Ardennes Tourism Board, Rhone Alps Tourism, Provence Tourism, The French Government Tourist office, Maison de la France and Air France.
Episode 108: Rath Yatra, Puri, India
Every year, in late June or early July, Hindus celebrate the Rath Yatra festival. Rath means chariot, Yatra – a pilgrimage or procession. It is one of the oldest festivals in the world and is still celebrated today in the same way it has been for hundreds of years.
Though this festival is celebrated all over India, it originated in the city of Puri, one of the holiest places in India, on the coastal shores of the Bay of Bengal. Every year the deities of Jagannath, his brother Balaram and sister Subhadra are traditionally installed on huge, beautifully decorated chariots up to three stories tall. Devotees pull the chariots in a Yatra (procession) through Puri’s main street. The local King performs a ritual, like his ancestors traditionally did for a thousand years, by humbly sweeping the chariot’s floor with a broom. It is as a symbolic act of serving the deities. Over a million pilgrims gather to pull the Giant chariots in honor of Lord Jagannath, whom many Hindus believe is the creator of universe.
For the Off the Beaten path segment “Festivals” take advantage of their location with visual stories from the Golden Triangle of Hindu temples in this region. They will capture the unique flavor of this area with recipes rich with spices and exotic ingredients. The world famous Odissi dance is being taught at the Orissa Dance Academy, where young boys are dressed like girls and perform complex acrobatic moves.
Special thanks to India Tourism, The Orissa tourist office, and Air India.
Episode 109: The Green River Rendezvous, Pinedale, Wyoming
Every summer in the high desert of central Wyoming along the Green River, mountain men, townsfolk and tourists gather to carry on the tradition of Rendezvous in the small town of Pinedale. Rendezvous took place in the early to mid 1800’s when the beaver top hat was the fashion rage of Europe. Trappers took on the harsh terrain, cruel winters and hostile conditions to supply beaver pelts to the East. In the summertime they would gather together with their fellow mountain men, Native Americans and traders to exchange their winter’s bounty for supplies to carry them through another year. It was a time to swap stories, gain a wife, play games and get ready for the upcoming winter in the mountains.
Today, the charming town of Pinedale celebrates this historic event with a staged pageant, trader’s row, a parade and a classic small town Americana rodeo.
The Festivals program will capture the dramatizations, the games and the people that make this festival a great event.
Off the Beaten Path. Segments include Fly fishing in Faeler Creek with experts, horseback riding in the Rocky Mountains and meeting real cowboys. An ATV ride through the highlands of the Rocky Mountains, an Oregon trail ride in old western wagons along Green Lakes, whitewater rafting on the snake river, searching for wild horses in the red desert, and the gorgeous scenery of the area.
Episode 110: Fiesta de Urqupina, Quillacollo, Bolivia
This festival is celebrated every August in honor of the Urqupina Virgin in Quillacollo Village. Bolivians have been celebrating this event since the 18th century with rituals and acts of faith that portray a unique combination of Indian-Pagan and Christian beliefs. Markets are alive during the days of the fiesta with traditional foods, arts and crafts with related themes and colorful parades. The first day of the festival consists the “Entrada Folklorica” where dance groups from all over Bolivia perform and play music in honor of the virgin. The second day starts in the middle of the night with a 15 KM pilgrimage walk to Quillacollo followed by an early morning mass filled with the hopeful light of the devotee’s candles. At the market stalls miniatures in the shape of a house, fake dollar bills, cars, passports, university diplomas or even a statue of a woman giving birth represent the pilgrims various requests. The third day at the sacred hillside where it is believed that the Virgin appeared, those miniatures will be symbolically placed on purchased pieces of land. Believers hammer into the hard surface in an effort to get a piece of rock from the blessed hill. The size of the rock they will succeed to pull out will represent the size of the favor asked from the virgin. Those who got their request granted will return to the hill the next year to pay their gratitude and have a brand new request for the Virgin.
Off the beaten path: The beautiful city of La Paz and the great shopping it offers, Lake Titikaka with its amazing altitude, the Andean way of life in the remote region of Cara Cara. Bolivian typical cuisine in Cochabamba’s La Cancha Market and the interesting indigenous culture will be some of the highlights of this section.
Special thanks to Christopher Redner for his support.
Episode 111: Kyu-bon and Eisa Festivals, Okinawa, Japan
The sound of drums fills the air as dozens of young dancers perform the Eisa dance on Okinawa Island.
Every summer the Obon is celebrated to honor the ancestor’s spirits. It is believed that the spirits come and visit their living relatives during the festival’s three days. This is a highly important holiday for the Okinawan and Japanese cultures.
Okinawa is a unique Island with a strong sense of identity, which endured wars and oppressions, natural devastations and economic hardships. Throughout unstable times, Okinawa’s culture and tradition has remained its core and soul.
Obon is a festival of the dead. A strong bond between the living and the deceased and the young dancers serving as a communicative link between both worlds, highlights the unique identity of the Okinawans.
Groups of young men and women take very seriously their role as those who serve the spirits and entertain the living. This tradition has become increasingly famous and all over the world Eisa groups and fans can be found.
Off the Beaten Path: Understanding Okinawan culture today can’t be completed without researching its past and the glorious Ryukyu Kingdom, which ruled in Okinawa for 500 years. Influenced by China, and Japan, this Island offers many venues to explore. From historical castles to Ryukyuan arts and crafts; from the birthplace of Karate, to the famous Okinawan diet and its extremely healthy dishes. Above all we meet the warm, gentle people of Okinawa and enjoy their hospitality as we enjoy an interesting journey around the Island.
Special thanks to James Taylor, Edo Sanchez, the Okinawa Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Okinawa Film Office.
Episode 112: September Cultural Shows, Papua New Guinea
Just south of the Equator and north of Australia lies the amazing, remote and hardly visited country of Papua New Guinea. A land where its songs touch the heart and its dances move the body from its core. The visitor is always being stimulated by the constant discoveries this country offers. The crew experienced some of this while traveling in Papua New Guinea and recording its cultural shows. Painted with spiritual masks and dressed with grass skirts just like their ancestors did for generations, using the powers of sorcery, and working with traditional tools it is as if their culture has remained untouched by outsiders. This tropical paradise is as rare as it comes.
1. The Goroka Show in the Central Highlands is where tribes meet to dance, sing and show off their costumes.
2. In the Tufi region, on the coast of the Coral Sea we find another demonstration of tribal tradition. Women with tattooed faces wearing their festive robes made from the bark of a tree dance in a local sing-sing.
3. The Canoe Festival preparation in the village of Waga-Waga at Milne Bay is restoring old rituals based on wars between rival tribes.
4. In the capital, Port Moresby, Independence Day is celebrated the same day as the Hiri Moale, a festival in honor of trading between neighboring regions.
Off the Beaten Path: PNG has some of the best snorkeling and scuba diving in the world, the festivals team visit the Tufi diving resort and it’s hidden fiords in an area that is just opening up to the outside world. Visiting remote villages we learn about their every day life, clay pot cooking and basic survival skills.
Special Thanks to Papua New Guinea Tourism and Air Niguini
Episode 113: Whirling Dervishes, Konya, Turkey
Konya is the holiest city in Turkey. Located in Western Anatolia it is in the center of the country.
Every December this festival portrays the most spectacular dances by The Whirling Dervishes. They are famous all over the world for their magnificent dance, red turbans and flowing white skirts. This is not only a dance. It is based on a philosophy founded in the 12th century. Every movement and musical instrument has a meaning. Konya is the main location of the Mevlevi Order, better known around the world as the “whirling dervishes”. It is a holy city because it was the place of residence of the famous poet Celaleddin Rumi (also called Mevlana) who founded the order. He is regarded as one of Islam’s greatest mystics who based his philosophy on world unity and love. This culture believes that dance and music represent the positive and releases one from the pain of daily life. That may explain why the Dervish’s whirling is done in a trance, as a way of releasing the individual’s ego and an expression of love for god.
Off The Beaten Path will take us to the extraordinary land formations in Central Anatolia. This region has a lot to offer with its mysterious underground cities, Goreme Valley Open Air Museum and impressive fairy chimneys. Istanbul will be our destination for marvelous architecture and a culinary adventure.
Hidden Tea Houses, markets full of spices, spectacular scenery and traditional hospitality will all be explored in this segment.
Special thanks to Turkey tourist offices in Los Angeles & New York and to Turkish Airlines.
Episode 114: Songkran Festival – Thailand
The Songkran marks the Thai New Year. It is considered to be one of the Kingdom’s most fun and family oriented festivals with its traditional water splashing. Celebrated in the hottest season of the year its appropriately filled with water activities, from polite wet splashes to well aimed water canons…
The water also symbolizes purification and cleansing from all illness and evil in order to start a fresh new year.
Songkran is also a time for thanksgiving for all the positive aspects of life: kindness, generosity, happiness and peace.
Rituals and offerings to the Buddhist monks, floral floats, bathing of Buddha images in the streets and the Miss Songkran parade are all part of the festival activities. The celebration, which embodies Thai culture and tradition, includes another act of faith: sand is brought to the temples and castles are built as a blessing to be earned by its believers.
Off the beaten Path takes the viewer to the exotic region of Chiang Mai in northern Thailand. Also called “The Rose of the North”, the city is located in a fertile valley and has magnificent architecture with its 300 temples, as well as natural beauty. In Bangkok, the beloved Thai cuisine and interesting markets is featured in the show’s food segment.
Episode1 15: Andalusia Spring Festivals – Spain
The wonderful region of Andalusia is a testimony to Spain’s rich past: Moors, Christians and Jews have left their mark and influence everywhere, from magnificent structures to seasonal celebrations.
Seville, a city adorned with centuries old architectural jewels, dedicates a festival each spring to highlight traditions that have been passed on for generations. This festival is called the April Fair, where locals celebrate with their version of Flamenco, the Sevillanas dance. Participants dressed in colorful costumes, build luxurious tents for their families and invite guests to eat, drink, sing and dance all night long for an entire week.
Springtime is when the fragrance of oranges and jasmine are in the air and the city of Cordoba, also called the city of senses, holds a Patio Festival. Traditionally, each house has an adorned patio to keep them cool in the summer heat but during spring the Patios are at their colorful and fragrant best. A competition, seriously judged by a group of selected locals, is held for the prize of the best and most beautiful Patio in Cordoba.
The city of Jerez’s Equestrian festival draws thousands of participants. Every farm or Hacienda shows off their horses, circling with colorful carriages around the city. Spanish beauties dress up with flowing dresses, often seated behind the male rider and parade while holding a glass of local sherry. Jerez is also known as the birthplace of Flamenco, where Gypsies found a home and cultivated their passionate dance into everyday life.
Off the beaten path: We visit the azure Mediterranean beaches, the incomparable Alhambra cathedral in the city of Granada and a charming small village along the way, where two Andalusians have a passionate sing-off competition. The team travels to the high peaks of Sierra Nevada, doted with white-washed houses where local villagers parade in honor of their patron saint. Down in the fertile valleys, miles of olive groves produce the famous Spanish olive oil. It has been the region’s industry for 2000 years. We learn from the workers in an oil factory how it is done. Tapas were invented in this region. A Cordovan chef teaches us how to cook these popular delicacies.
Special Thanks to the Spanish Tourism office in New York, Andalusia Tourism office, Jerez Film Board and Iberia Airlines. Produced in association with HDnet.
Episode 116: Chinese New Year – Hong Kong
Chinese Festivals occur according to the Lunar calendar. The first and the ‘mother of all celebrations’ is the Chinese New Year. This time it’s the Year of the Dog! Families get together for joyous meals, people bring gifts to their god in busy shrines. The whole city is ‘dressed’ in gold and red, the colors of good fortune. At night, skyscrapers shine with impressive neon light displays. We see what’s cooking for the New Year’s big meal and how one particular family celebrates at their home. The New Year’s parade is what everybody has been waiting for. With groups from all over the world, the costumes, music and dances are nothing but spectacular!
Off the beaten path: We visit the fisher folk’s village at Lamma Island and see their special New Year prayer. We participate in the making of Dim Sum, the most recognizable food in HK. And we witness the ‘Lucky Race’ at the Hong Kong Jockey Club.
SERIES 2 (As at 5 May 2008 – Locations and dates subject to change)
Episode 201: “Dia de Los Muertos” – (Day of the Dead), Michoacan, Mexico
To discover how the “Dia de los Muertos” (Day of the Dead) festival is celebrated in Mexico, the ‘Fantastic Festivals of the World’ team traveled to the heart of the beautiful and lush Michoacan State. By the shores of Patzcuaro Lake, small indigenous villages, descendants of the Purepecha tribe, celebrate this festival in a most unusual way. Here they call it the “Night of the Dead”. Pagan rituals from Pre Hispanic times are blended with the Colonial Catholic traditions by the local people to create a colorful and uplifting way of honoring their adored dead. Off the Beaten Path: Michoacan is known for its skilled artisans. Stone carvers, devilish mask makers and the ancient craft of creating figures from corn cane are the area’s specialty. Culinary Delights takes us to the city of Morelia and two sisters who specialize in local cuisine such as Tarascan soup and pot coffee made with chocolate.
Episode 202: “La Fiesta de la Tradicion” – (Tradition Festival), Argentina
The Gaucho is Argentina’s most beloved folkloric character. “La Fiesta de la Tradicion,” is a festival commemorating the Gaucho tradition and Argentina’s history. At the Pampas town of San Antonio de Areco, Gauchos wearing colorful ponchos perform wild equestrian games during the day and eat their favorite Asado grill at night. At the Mataderos Fair in Buenos Aires, people enjoy street dancing while in the La Boca neighborhood couples improvise sensual Tango moves. In the desert region of San Juan, locals dressed as the personalities that shaped Argentina’s history, from Indians to independence heroes, meet around the ‘Fogon’, the traditional fire gathering. Off the Beaten Path takes us to the Valley of the Moon in the high dessert region of San Juan where rock formations and dinosaur remains made it a popular destination. The Tigre delta in Buenos Aires Province provides a different landscape of lush islands and countless river streams. Culinary Delights has a delicious home made pasta dish and the Gaucho’s grilled meat, the popular Asado.
Episode 203: “Fasnacht Carnival”, Germany
The Fasnacht is one of the oldest and most traditional pre-Lenten carnival events. In Germany it is called the Fifth Season! It is still celebrated – with absolute authenticity – in the Black Forest region and in the city of Constance with old Carnival guilds and clubs. Historic handmade costumes and uniquely painted, hand-carved wooden masks are always the most distinctive aspect of the festivities.
In the city of Cologne the whole town participated in one magnificent parade, many dressed with original and funny costumes.
Off the Beaten Path: The Black Forest region known for its scenery, and the traditional cuckoo clock that was invented here in the 18th century by farmers affected from the typically long winter months. Culinary Delights includes the Black Forest Cake whose key ingredient for success is the local cherry schnapps and the Black Forest ham, whose aroma comes from smoking the region’s unique wood.
Episode 204: “La Bouna Pasqua” – Sicily, Italy
In Sicily, Easter is celebrated with great passion. The city of Trapani holds an emotional 20-hour procession in its streets with men carrying heavy “Misteri” statues that are 500 year old and tell the story of Christ suffering. San Biaggio Platani a village in the inner land of Sicily, huge construction made from natural material only, such as grains, bamboos and even pasta are created by two competitive groups, the Madunnara (named for the Madonna) and the Signurara (named for the Lord). While in Prizzi the Devil dance takes part on the town’s streets. Men with colorful masks representing death and the Devil stand between mother Mary and Christ, preventing them from meeting but eventually fail as the crowd cheers for the happy ending. On Easter Monday in San Martino Della Scala, a small hidden village in the mountains, the monks of the Benedictine Monastery release birds saved from the harsh winter as they do each Easter, in a tradition that is more than 300 years old. Off the beaten path segment takes us to the stunning landscapes of Sicily includes the mythical Etna volcano, ancient Greek ruins in Selinunte and the Phoenician settlement in Mozia Island, adjacent to Marsala salt marches. Culinary Delights includes Ricotta making from fresh sheep’s milk, the best Cannoli in the world made in Polizzi Generosa village and at Palazolo pastry shop in the town of Cinisi the making of the Sicilian Casata cake.
Episode 205: “Payihas Harvest Festival” – Philippines
The festival is in thanksgiving for a good harvest, and is in honor of San Isidro de Labrador, the patron saint of the farmers. The festival is celebrated in May, the one month of rest between harvest and planting for the following year. In a country where the language has around 200 words for “rice”, this resource plays an integral part in the decoration with are made with traditional food crops. Kiping, which are leaf shaped wafers made from rice flour paste, are dyed bright colors and arranged into chandeliers, flora, and other creative colorful designs. The festival events include a competition for the best decorations, a Carabao (water buffalo) parade, a procession in honor of San Isidro, a parade of giant figures, and many parties in the streets. Of the Beaten Path: Exploring Manila Rizal Park’s displays of arnis de mano, a local pre-Hispanic martial art of stick fighting. Mt. Banahaw is a dormant volcano that is considered sacred site by locals and is frequented by worshippers, albularios (healers), as well as priestesses who live in scattered communities on the volcano. Culinary Delights includes some classic Lucban dishes like Longganisang Lukban – mildly spicy pork sausages sold on main streets. Pancit Habhab – noodles sautéed with shrimp, pork, garlic and onion and served on a banana leaf cone.
Episode 206: “Garma Festival”, Australia
The Yolngu Aboriginal people, who have 40,000 years of cultural history, gather every year for the Garma festival. The Festival is held annually in Gulkula, North East Amhem Land Northern Terrtory, Australia. The festival features: the bunggul ceremonial performance; traditional Nuku Dhulang paintings on bark; women’s cultural practices such as the collection of bush tucker, bush medicine, and bush dyes for weaving; the craft of spear making and throwing, and much more. The festival also includes traditional dance, song, art, and ceremony of the Yolngu people. There is also a special Yadiki (didgeridoo) Masterclass, where people can learn how to play these unique instruments.
Off the beaten path: We visit Ayers (Uluru) rock, a natural formation that stands out of the surrounding landscape with its one-of-a-kind appearance. The Uluru rock is only matched by the Cutta Cutta caves, which have stalagmites with their own distinctive shape. We will also take a kayaking trip along that Tropical Savanna river systems of the Northern Territory and check out Australia’s fantastic beaches. For Culinary Delights we will explore the cooking methods and cuisine of the local people of Australia’s Northern Territory. Australians know these foods as “bush tucker,” and Aboriginal people have been eating these foods for more than 50,000 years.
Episode 207: “Highland Games”, Scotland
The Highland Games have been around for so long that the origin pre-dates recorded history. The games are intensely competitive, but it is all in the spirit of celebrating Scottish heritage and culture. The games include Highland dancing, a demanding and difficult dance with steps that grow increasingly faster and complicated. Also present are the Scottish heavy events, where contestants display their extraordinary strength. Still, the festivities wouldn’t be complete without the bagpipes, drumming, and, of course, plenty of traditional Scottish food.
Off the beaten path: We will explore the many different styles of castles in Scotland, some that date back as far as the 13th century. Then we will visit another striking feature of Scotland: the elaborate gardens. We will visit the communities of the Outer Hebrides in the Western Isle who use the Scottish Gaelic languages and get acquainted with the current Gaelic way of life. Scotland’s Gaelic culture is older than recorded history and is being revived in many Scottish communities. Later we will explore the Scotch whisky distilleries, and the Scottish pubs, one of the main social institutions. Culinary Delights: Throughout the trip we will brave Scottish foods such as haggis, Arboath Smokie, cranachan, and bannock, and find out what exactly goes into making these unique foods.
Episode 208: “Boi Bumba”, Paritins, Brazil
The festivals of culturally rich Brazil display the influences of the indigenous, Portuguese and Arab populations. At the Amazon province, in the town of Parintins, a festival of folklore takes place called Boi Bumba, meaning roughly “beat the bull”. As the story goes, a husband killed his most loved ox to please his beautiful wife, and the priest of the village called for the people to have celebrations and parties happy enough to bring the beloved bull back to life. Boi is both a style of music and dance that celebrates the history of the people of the region. The festival is a competition between two groups of Boi performers, who contend in dancing, singing, and band music. Each night these two groups try to out-do each other with stunning displays that are unique to the region. Although the festival is ferociously competitive, the two groups must not display bad sportsmanship or they will lose valuable points. Anticipation and excitement peaks on the third and final night as the performers prepare to hear the judges’ decision.
Off the Beaten Path: A one-day boat ride from Manaus down the Amazon River to the city of Parintins. A tour of this river reveals dry land forests, lowlands, and a canoe trip through flooded forests (Igapos) where visitors can see giant water lilies with leaves that span up to seven feet. The flooded forest is a unique and astounding natural event that cannot be seen in any other region. Culinary Delights includes the lively markets of Manaus, the bean stew Feijoada, Brazil national dish and Capo of Guarana (a ritual drink of indigenous Amazonians).
Episode 209: “Andong Mask Dance Festival”, Korea
The Andong Mask Dance Festival takes place in early October, carrying on a cultural art form that has been passed down for generations. The Mask Dance festival’s original purpose was to drive evil spirits from the village, and over time the festival has become more charming and performance oriented, with spectators often becoming a part of the show. Performers use the audience for impromptu jokes and acts, giving onlookers a high level of participation. The myriad of events includes more than a dozen Korean mask dances, as well as dances from other visiting countries. There is also much more going on, including a Confucian Dosanbyolsi poetry event, traditional Korean games, Korean puppet theatre, and cultural events in Hahoe village, which is one of the last living remnants of old Korea. Off the beaten path: Not far from the festival itself, we will explore the 600-year-old Hahoe village and the local people there who preserve their Korean culture and traditions. Then we will travel to the South Korean Capital, Seoul, to see the Changdokkung Palace, the place from which Korean kings ruled for four centuries. Culinary Delights includes traditional Korean cuisine such as Kim chi, a Korean staple food, and heotchae sabap, a special meal that the poorer class of Andong invented to recreate an upper class ceremonial banquet.
Episode 210: “The Lantern Festivals” – Taiwan
Bombing the God Handan in Taitung: According to Taiwanese legend, the god of wealth Handan is very afraid of the cold. To keep him warm and to gain good luck for the coming year, people in the Taitung province throw firecrackers at a young man masquerading as the god Handan. These men wear nothing but shorts and protective headgear, and are paraded through the streets on a sedan chair. They sustain serious burns on their torsos and legs, but it is believed to bring them and the people who throw the firecrackers luck and wealth. Taipei Lantern Festival: Started in 1990 by the Taiwan Tourism Bureau, the Taipei Lantern Festival celebrates the Lunar New Year. The festival displays large animal lanterns that can reach as tall as 14 meters and attracts millions of spectators each year. This festival is a modern take on a traditional holiday. Pingsi Sky Lanterns Festival: Thousands of handmade lanterns are released into the sky in Pingsi during the national Lantern Festival. The custom of sky lanterns dates all the way back to the Ching dynasty, when Pingsi residents used them for communication. The lanterns, which have prayers and requests written on them for the gods, can reach as far as 3,000 feet in the air. Off the Beaten Path: Wu Lai, just south of Taipei, is a mountain village home to the indigenous Ataya tribe. Culinary Delights: Tang-yuan, a dumpling filled with bean paste, sesame paste, peanut powder, fish, or meat, is traditionally eaten during the Lantern Festival. Other popular Taiwanese dishes include: ba-wan, meatballs in dumplings; o-a-zen, oyster omelets; mua-ji, sweet dumplings; and Hakka leicha, pounded tea.…
Episode 211: Lag Baomer & Shavuot Celebrations, Purim, Israel
In Meron, tens of thousands of Jewish people arrive from all over to make a pilgrimage up the mountain for the Lag Baomer festival. It is also a ritual for 3-year-old boys to get their very first haircut. Raging bonfires are a major part of the festivities.To celebrate the end of the Counting of the Omer, there is a festival called Shavuot. People also consume dairy products, such as cheesecake and cheese blintzes.The customs of Shavuot include the reading of a liturgical poem and the book of Ruth during the morning services. Houses and synagogues are decorated with greenery and flowers, and there is an all night Torah study called Tikkun l’el Shavuot. Shavuot is also strongly connected with the harvest. On kibbutzim, there is a beautiful Bikkurim ceremony and parade, where produce from the kibbutz is displayed. The Milk and Honey Festival taking place throughout the Jezreel Valley (Emek Izrael) offers a host of activities during the Shavuot festival including jeep trails, horse races, bus tours of the valley, folk dancing, folk singing, and a flower and farm market. In Jerusalem during Shavuot, crowds flock to the Western or “Wailing” Wall for the morning service there.
Episode 212: The Five-Petalled Rose of Celebration, Czech Republic
Every year, Straznice hosts one of the oldest and most popular folklore festivals in Europe. In this festival, the Czech people celebrate many aspects of their intangible culture. There is lots of traditional dancing, including a special dance called Verbunk, which young men would perform this dance as a form of conscription protest. In Cesky Krumlov, everyone travels to another time in a 3-day Renaissance town festival called the Five-Petalled Rose Celebration. The participants become noble ladies and gentlemen, knights, jugglers, musicians, actors, burghers, merchants, or craftsmen… all who come from the great period of development during the reign of Vilém and Petr Vok from the House of Rosenberg. The myriad activities include historic town processions, knight tournaments, theatre performances, musical concerts, and medieval street feasts. Festival visitors can participate in medieval games such as pony rides, trampoline, and the catapult.
Episode 213: Summer Festivals, Japan
Traditional festivals and rituals in Japan celebrate divine nature and express thanks. The Kumano area where the fire festival takes place is said to be sacred. It has one of the most mysterious shrines in Japan, which combines elements of Buddhism and Shugendo, an ancient religious practice. Participants’ parade with a Mikoshi (portable shrine) decorated with fans, carrying huge torches. The purpose of the event is to invoke the gods and to pray for the well being of all creatures living on earth. The Onbara Festival and the Gyo-ja Festival in the Nara Region involve ancient Shugendo rituals for purification, fertility dances and colorful parades. Off the Beaten path highlights the Kumano Roads, hot springs and traditional craft making.