Festivals are a great exposition of a country’s culture. They celebrate religion, history, and tradition, and display artistic aspects of cultures including music, costumes, and art. Attending a cultural festival is an immersive experience in any country, and an enriching aspect to travelling. Festivals can be found all over the world, from Mardi Gras in New Orleans to Carnival in Brazil. When you’re volunteering abroad with Volunteer Invest, you may even find that your trip coincides with a festival. Here are a few below!
Festivals in Ghana celebrate various things, including religion, history, and culturally important factors like hunger, migration, and harvesting crops. Festivals in Ghana are often celebrated by certain tribes or groups in different parts of the country. For example, the Bakatue Festival is celebrated the first Tuesday of every July by the Elmina people of Central Ghana to mark the beginning of the fishing season. The Elmina people have a sacred festival of food, there is royal processions of the Elmina royal family and chiefs, and declarations to the ocean. After another procession involving traditional music, all fish caught by a net during the ceremony are offered as a symbol to thank the gods.
Volunteers at Becky’s Home may be able to catch the Fetu Afahye festival in the Cape Coast region of Ghana if they are there the first Saturday of September. The origin of the festival is rooted in a disease that once plagued the area; the people prayed to the gods to help rid them of the disease, and now hold the festival annually to prevent another illness from affecting the people. After weeks of religious ceremonies, the festival cumulates on the first Saturday of September with a procession, drumming, dancing, and pouring libations to bring a peaceful and prosperous year. Traditional clothing, music, and dancing are also part of the festival.
India is known for its colorful and exciting festivals, marked by music, dancing, food, and extravagant displays. One of the most famous of these is Diwali. Diwali is the Hindu festival of lights, celebrated annually in October, spiritually symbolizing the victory of light over darkness, good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance. The Hindu goddess Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, is celebrated. People celebrate with their best clothes, prayers to Lakshmi, fireworks, a family feast, and a gift exchange. The holiday is celebrated all over India, making it easy to attend for anyone visiting India in October.
Another major festival in India is Holi, also known as the “festival of colours” or the “festival of love”. Celebrated in March, this festival celebrates the victory of good over evil, the end of winter, a time to renew relationships, and a celebration of thanksgiving. They begin with religious ceremonies to the Hindu god Vishnu the night before in front of a bonfire. The next morning, the colour festival occurs, where people cover anyone and everyone with colour. It features music, dance, and traditional food and drinks. In the evening, people dress up and visit family and friends to celebrate the holiday.
South Africa has many historic, traditional festivals. They also offer some more modern festivals. One of the largest is Klein Karoo Nationale Kunstefees, or KKNK. This festival, held in Oudtshoom, is an Afrikaans arts festival, featuring both performing and visual arts. Started in 1994, it features over 1,000 arts every year in late March or early April. It is an incredible display of Afrikaans art, particularly stage productions.
Another great festival to showcase South African art is the Durban International Film Festival, which showcases the best South African films of the year. It also features workshops, seminars, and discussions about the film industry. It even features a special award in partnership with Amnesty International called the Amnesty Internal Durban Human Rights Award to recognize films that have a significant impact on human rights. Durban is also located near Operation Bobbi Bear, a bonus for volunteers!
So now that you know a little more about the incredible cultures and festivals in these countries, what are you waiting for?
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