With only about 3 months left of 2017, it’s time to see what free festivals 2018 has in store for us. Because you know how it is with booking a place to stay during such events. By the time you’re browsing for rooms all the cheaper ones are gone!
For today’s piece, we’ve decided to explore some lesser known (but equally entertaining) fairs. Sure, you can go the conventional route and visit the Rio Carnival, Oktoberfest or festivals across India or Melbourne; but why not do something different for a change? No admission fees are charged for these festivals so you are (quite literally) free to experience the magic yourself!
The first of the free festivals for today can be a bit spooky. Every February, in the week leading up to Ash Wednesday, townspeople from Mohács dress up in various monsters from local folklore. They then parade the town while playing folk music as a celebration of life (i.e. the end of winter). Besides attending the traditional music and dancing, you have the opportunity to sip spiced wines and Hungarian pálinka.
And, of course, participate in the merriment of the people vying for control over who can make the most noise. At the end of the festival, the townspeople gather around in the center for the main event: lighting a straw-made man in a bonfire and dancing the kolo in a circle around the spectacle.
If you want something completely different that will blow your mind, the Up Helly Aa processions in Scotland will do just that. They are held on the last Tuesday in January every year. Just as in the case of Busójárás, Up Helly Aa is meant to mark the end of winter (or the Yule season).
What happens is a bunch of people dressed up in a variety of (mostly historical) costumes parade the streets of various towns in Shetland, carrying torches and… a replica of a Viking longship. Why? Well, after they reach their destination, they form a circle around the longship and everybody sings “Up Helly Aa.” After this is over, the “squads” use their torches to set fire to the ship before continuing their journey to every party in the vicinity, until morning.
While the previous two free festivals celebrated the end of winter, Juhannus marks the beginning of the “true” Finnish summer. It is held between the 20th and 26th of June and is essentially a Midsummer festival, common in Northern European countries and other cultures.
Since people seem to enjoy lighting things on fire on these occasions, we can tell you right away that bonfires are lit by the water during Juhannus as well. There are plenty of open-air dance festivals being held all around the country, with bonfires of their own. Of course, everybody has a grand time with barbecues and may drink just a little bit too much vodka while telling wonderful stories.
Also known as Sânziene, the Drăgaica is a yearly festival held in Eastern and Southern Romanian regions ( the main event in Buzău), between the 10th and 24th of June. Normally, it is a midsummer-type agrarian festival based on many old mythical rites.
Young women wear cute flower crowns, down a traditional garment and dance around in a circle. A bonfire (yes) is sometimes lit as it is said to banish evil spirits. Of course, the traditional is combined with the modern nowadays. So, along with the folk dance numbers, you will find plentiful carousels, bumper cars, and food + gift stands for your merriment.
Here we have one of those free festivals that actually aren’t honoring humans, but rather the macaques that have a long history of co-existing with the Thai locals. After all, they are believed to bring good luck and fortune to the population. Held in Lopburi on the last Sunday in November, mounds of food are gathered just for this special occasion.
You can watch the nimble monkeys feast on the offerings, and then proceed to have their siesta on the tree-tops when their bellies are full. As one would expect though, most of the offerings will end up in food fights between the monkeys, which can be pretty entertaining in itself.
Be careful not to get tangled up in the mess, however, and stay relaxed! The animals may be peaceful otherwise, but staring them in the eye means you’re “challenging” them. A calm attitude goes a long way. Oh, and do be wary of the little rascals. They tend to have pick-pocketing tendencies, even with locals!
Last on our list of free festivals (but certainly not least), we have a special one for people who just love wine so much. Namely, the Haro Wine Festival held on June 29th, coinciding with the day of San Pedro. So why is this wine festival different from any others?
Well, it starts off fairly normally at first. The townspeople carry wine with them in all sorts of containers (from bottles to jugs) and follow the mayor of the town which leads them on horseback. There is a mass shortly after, along with a few old traditions of the town. Nothing out of the ordinary up until this point.
When you finally head over to the mountain outside of town, that’s when the fun truly begins. There is a literal “battle of the wine” (La Batalia del Vino in Spanish) that takes place, whereby people sprinkle themselves with… you guessed it. Remember the jugs and bottles of wine people were carrying? They use them to fight with wine! Some people get “creative” and bring super-soakers filled with vino.
Just be wary of the relatively cold temperatures near the mountain. The battle is really quite “ruthless” and nobody will spare you just because you’re shivering. If you can’t handle the wine, don’t whine!