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Celebrate Good Times: The Biggest Cultural Festivals Around Asia

Asia plays host to a huge variety of cultural festivities and celebrations, from city-wide water fights to lantern-lit skies and (nearly) everything in between. So mark your calendars for these exciting events taking place in the region in 2018 and beyond.


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Festivals in 2018

Dragon Boat Festival

The Dragon Boat Festival is said to originate in honour of Qu Yuan of the Zhou dynasty, who perished after falling out of favour with the king of the Chu state. Local citizens rushed out in boats to retrieve his body, throwing rice into the sea to encourage fish to leave his body at peace. Flash forward two millennia, and the day has turned into an enormous sporting competition, with a strong participation among expat communities. This year, it falls on June 18.

When: June 18, 2018
Where it’s celebrated: Hong Kong, China, and Taiwan

Read more! Discover the Story Behind the Dragon Boat Festival and find out Where to Watch the Dragon Boat Races in Hong Kong.

Hungry Ghosts Festival

This Taoist festival is held at the end of the ghost month, a time when ancestors and ghosts are said to roam the human realm. Paper joss offerings and incense are burnt to appease the roaming spirits who inhabit the land for over a fortnight. In 2018, the Hungry Ghosts Festival falls on August 25.

When: August 25, 2018
Where it’s celebrated: Hong Kong, and China

Mid-Autumn Festival

The Mid-Autumn harvest festivals take place on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month, on a full moon. In 2018, the festival takes place on September 24. It’s widely celebrated across Asia, and has been near-synonymous with the mooncake delicacy (a small pastry with a red bean or lotus paste, traditionally finished with an egg yolk in the centre) that is eaten and gifted during this time.

When: September 24, 2018
Where it’s celebrated: Hong Kong, China, Vietnam, and Singapore

Diwali

The Hindu festival of light is celebrated every autumn across India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Singapore, among other nations. Falling on October 18 in 2018, the festivities can last up to five days, and are signalled by the decoration of homes with candles and lights, and the consumption of mithai desserts.

When: October 18, 2018
Where it’s celebrated: Singapore, Malaysia, and India

Loi Krathong

Loi Krathong (known as the Floating Basket festival) is celebrated across Thailand and in nearby Laos. It sees thousands of people take to the riverside to set handmade containers made from leaves and flowers afloat. The parcels often contain edible offerings and a single candle. The festival takes place on a full moon during the 12th month of the lunar calendar. In 2018, it falls on November 23.

When: November 23, 2018
Where it’s celebrated: Thailand


Festivals in 2019

Thaipusam

Predominantly observed by the Tamil community, Thaipusam commemorates the victory of Parvati vanquishing the demonic Soorapadman. It’s commonly celebrated with large-scale processions of worshippers with spiked body piercings. In 2019, Thaipusam takes place on January 21.

When: January 21, 2019
Where it’s celebrated: Singapore, Malaysia, and India

Chinese New Year

Widely celebrated across Asia, Chinese New Year’s Day falls on February 5 in 2019. This year, we ushered in the era of man’s best friend, while 2019 will welcome the Year of the Pig.

When: February 5, 2019
Where it’s celebrated:
Hong Kong, China, Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Indonesia

Holi

The Hindu festival of colours has become synonymous with the vibrantly coloured powdered paint that is thrown as the celebrations are taken to the streets. Originating in India, Holi is now celebrated the world over. In 2019, the festivals take place on March 20.

When: March 20, 2019
Where it’s celebrated:
India

Songkran

The Thai New Year is celebrated with a little less spark, but no less fervour. Signalling the start of spring, crowds take to the streets across Thailand on New Year’s Day (April 13) for a nationwide water fight.  Balloons, water guns, buckets, and a range of other vessels are deployed, with the biggest festival celebrations taking place in Chiang Mai and Bangkok. This is the perfect time to visit for those looking for a party, but if you’re not keen to partake then it’s best to avoid.

When: April 13, 2019
Where it’s celebrated: Thailand

Ramadan

Ramadan takes place during the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and is widely regarded as one of the pillars of the Islamic faith. For 30 days, observers fast from sunrise to sunset, with late-night feasts and Ramadan-specific food and snacks eaten throughout the month. The month culminates in Eid al-Fitr, an annual celebration marking the end of the fasting period. In 2019, it will likely feel between May 5 to June 4.

When: May 5 to June 4, 2019
Where it’s celebrated: 
Singapore and Malaysia


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