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UFO Festival – Roswell, New Mexico

LATE JUNE TO EARLY JULY.

SO THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE!

If truckloads of alien paraphernalia and tens of thousands of alien-existence believers are anything to go by, then yes. The belief that there is something out there is alive and well at the world’s premier UFO festival.

ROSWELL IS WHERE IT ALL HAPPENED, RIGHT?

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Sure is – this is where the extra-terrestrial spaceship (aka military surveillance balloon) crash-landed in 1947. Don’t feel left out if you’re a believer in the balloon over the spaceship; the festival actively welcomes any sceptics out there who might need some convincing.

WITH A SHORTAGE OF ACTUAL ALIENS AND UFOS, WHAT ELSE HAS THE FESTIVAL GOT IN STORE?

Over the course of four days there are costume competitions, including one for your pet, if they enjoy getting their alien on too; an alien street parade; live musical entertainment; and guest speaking panels packed with authors who have been published on the topic of the moment – ETs and UFOs.

Thaipusam Festival – Batu Caves

LATE JANUARY OR EARLY FEBRUARY (DEPENDENT ON THE TAMIL CALENDAR).

ERM, WE MIGHT SIT THIS ONE OUT.

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Deep breaths; this gnarly festival isn’t a stickler for audience participation. THAT’S A RELIEF. NOW WHAT

ON EARTH IS GOING ON?

Thaipusam is observed around the world where there are significant Hindu Tamil populations. The celebrations centre around the remembrance of Lord Murugan, a Hindu god of war. He was apparently responsible for killing demons, thus demonstrating the triumph of good over evil.

SURE, BUT WHERE DOES THE WHOLE SKEWER THROUGH SKIN BIT COME IN?

The extreme flagellation is a way of showing atonement for sins and a commitment to overcoming temptations. The devotees carry their kavadi (burden) from Kuala Lumpur to the Batu Caves (approximately 9km) balanced on the piercings in their bodies. Once at the caves, they offer their burden to the gods and pledge their fidelity to family and divinities. It’s a custom passed down from generation to generation, and despite the somewhat gruesome nature of the event, you’ll see all members of the family getting involved, all the way from children to grandparents.

La Tomatina – Bunol, Valencia

LAST WEDNESDAY IN AUGUST.

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THIS HAS GOT TO BE ONE OF THE MESSIEST FESTIVALS WE’VE EVER SEEN.

We’ll give you a hot tip – don’t wear your Sunday finest. You can expect to get entirely covered from tip to toe in squished tomatoes at this annual food fight festival in Eastern Spain.

AND THIS IS ALL IN AID OF WHAT?

A rollicking good time. Is there a better reason? The origins of the festival aren’t clear, but that doesn’t stop thousands upon thousands of revellers turning up on the last Wednesday in August to hurl tomatoes at one another.

DO WE BRING OUR OWN TOMATOES?

The festival has grown to such extraordinary size that the town trucks in tonnes of the red missiles and dumps them in the centre of town for the food fighters to get stuck into.

HOW LONG DOES THE CHAOS LAST?

Partying lasts all week, but the messy part of the affair lasts just a few hours, from 11am to around 2pm. Most of the action happens close to the town centre, but the streets fanning out from there are all caught up in the mix, so you can expect to get pelted wherever you are.

Kanamara Matsuri Festival – Kawasaki

EARLY APRIL.

THIS PRETTY MUCH TAKES THE CAKE.

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If you thought Finland was out there with its wife-carrying and air guitar obsessions, then here comes the weirdness to outdo all weirdness.

IS THAT A…?

Yes ma’am, it sure is. The English translation of this festival’s name is the Festival of the Iron Phallus. We’re betting you haven’t seen quite so many penises out in the open, in one place, at one time. The penis parade that happens in the afternoon on the day of the festival is a sight to behold; in particular, the phalluses put up on the pedestals are impressive in their anatomical correctness.

SEEMS A TOUCH GRATUITOUS.

For Westerners, the sight of so many model penises on display, some of which are the size of a standing human being, for example, can be confronting or amusing, depending on your point of view. However, the meaning behind the festival isn’t so token or gratuitous – the point of the festival for many normally reserved Japanese is to celebrate fertility, marriage, birth and healthy sex.

Ivrea Orange Festival – Ivrea, Turin

FEBRUARY.

A FRUIT FESTIVAL SOUNDS VERY QUAINT.

That’s what we thought, but no, this is war.

WAR DOESN’T SOUND LIKE MUCH FUN.

Ok, it’s not exactly war, but a re-enactment of an historic battle between the victorious yet humble village folk and a despotic lord – instead of using more historically accurate weaponry like swords, the actors use oranges.

OF COURSE THEY DO. THAT MAKES PERFECT SENSE.

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It’s thought that the use of oranges came about after young women decided to drop oranges from balconies on high onto boys below that they found attractive… but ignoring the nonsensical sequence of events that got us here, the festival is a colourful, entertaining, vibrant spectacle watched by over 100,000 spectators. It’s not possible for just anyone to take part in the actual battle, however; you need to register to be part of the regiment of foot soldiers.

OH GOOD, WE CAN STAND SAFELY ON THE SIDELINES AND CHEER THE VILLAGERS ON.

Sure, but be warned, being anywhere near the town square while the oranges are being launched will put you at risk of copping a juicing.

Dia de los Muertos – Mexico City

1–2 NOVEMBER.

DEATH ISN’T USUALLY A GOOD REASON FOR A RAUCOUS PARTY.

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Try telling Mexico that. The widely observed and wildly popular ‘Day of the Dead’ festival is more about a joyous celebration of life than it is a subdued mourning of the dead.

HOW ON EARTH DID THIS COME ABOUT?

It’s believed that the modern Mexican celebrations originated in indigenous traditions and rituals over 3000 years old. By the late 20th century the customs had developed to honour the deaths of children on 1 November and adults on 2 November.

WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENS AT THESE DEATHLY PARTIES?

Families will decorate the graves of their lost loves as well as set up altars in their homes with the deceased’s favourite food, drink, candles, flowers and incense in order to wish them well in the next world. The exuberant celebrations include dressing up in masks and painting faces. The ubiquitous skull motif has become a symbol of the festival, as it’s designed to remind us that no matter what we are in life, we are the same in death.

Buso Festival – Mohács

FEBRUARY.

HUNGARIAN HALLOWEEN?

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The creepy costumes donned by the revellers at this eccentric Magyar carnival certainly give Halloween ghouls a run for their money.

WHAT ARE THESE MASKED MEN DOING? AND WHY?

Dressed as horned monsters with woollen pelts, these costumed fiends are entrusted with the job of frightening off the freezing winter weather. It’s a symbolic nod to a significant Hungarian historical event. In the 16th century, the townsfolk of Mohács dressed in disturbing get-up to frighten away the invading Turkish army.

ONCE THE AWFUL WEATHER HAS BEEN SENT PACKING, WHAT’S NEXT?

The festival lasts six days and over the course of this time there are lots of activities, open to all, that won’t scare you silly. There’s a costume competition for little monsters, a street procession that starts off on boats on the Danube and ends with horse-drawn floats in the centre of town, and a burning man effigy to signal the end of the cold. Everyone walks around drinking mulled wine and brandy and toasting their success at seeing in the imminent end of winter.

Boryeong Mud Festival – Boryeong

MID TO LATE JULY.

TIME TO GET DOWN AND DIRTY?

You got that right. Many Koreans believe that the mud in Boryeong contains healing properties so, as any self-respecting health fanatic knows, this means it’s time to get all your friends together and get completely covered in the stuff from head to toe.

THIS SOUNDS LIKE FUN.

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Millions of mud wrestlers can’t be wrong, right? The mineral-rich mud attracts excitable local and international visitors all keen on getting completely slathered in the stuff. It’s a family-friendly affair with activities that range from mud races and slides, to the more sedate mud facials and body painting. There is even entertainment in the form of musical acts (hip hop and pop predominate) and spectacular evening fireworks. Don’t leave before the Korean b-boy show on the Friday night. AND IF

WE DECIDE IT’S TIME TO CLEAN UP OUR ACT?

The festival puts on free showers so you can get the mud out of your eyes and ears (and the rest), but there’s also the ocean nearby which is a welcome way to rinse off after a few hours in the sludge.

Air Guitar World Championships – Oulu

LATE AUGUST.

IS THIS JUST GOING TO BE LIKE EVERY STUDENT HOUSESHARE ON A SATURDAY NIGHT?

You can expect a superior standard to your mate Dave’s beer-fuelled rendition of ‘Back in Black’. The competitors who make it to this, the holy grail of air guitar competitions, take their craft very seriously.

HOW SERIOUSLY?

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If you’re in any doubt as to the earnestness of the ideals of the competition, then have a read of the organisers’ ideology. These peaceful rockers believe that if everyone in the world played air guitar, wars would end, climate change would stop and all bad things would disappear. Now that’s got to be worth a riff, right?

HOW DO WE GET IN ON THE FUN?

Choose your song, practise like crazy, then send in a one-minute edited clip of your best effort. Or work your way through your national ranks. Be sure to play with technical accuracy and unbridled passion. Remember that your instrument must be invisible, although it can be either electric or acoustic in make (believe), and you are not allowed any air roadies or air back-up bands – that would, of course, be a totally unfair advantage.

WOMADelaide – Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

MARCH.

UM, ADELAIDE – NOT YOUR TYPICAL AUSSIE TOURIST DRAWCARD.

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The state capital of South Australia doesn’t often hit world headlines, but with this perennially popular world-music festival it steals the show.

WHAT’S WOMADELAIDE ALL ABOUT?

If you can beat it, strum it, blow it, shake it, dance to it, sing with it, then you might find it here. This is a festival that showcases a staggeringly broad variety of music from all over the world. Over the course of its four days, festival-goers get treated to such a diverse selection of musical styles they’ll feel like they’ve been on an international tour of tunes.

LIKE WHAT?

Here’s a sample of the eclectic acts that have previously been on show: Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Peter Gabriel, Gil Scott Heron, Fat Freddy’s Drop, Miriam Makeba, and the Master Drummers of Burundi. There’s dance, rock, pop, jazz, folk, country, classical and genres that you’ve never even heard of before. The whole melange of musical tastes combines to create a warm and inclusive vibe of festival revellers who are open-minded and ready for the next big world-music thing.

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