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Experience these festivals for free


Experience these festivals for free

story by: Anna Sarjeant

You don’t need to spend top dollar to experience the world’s most impressive festivals. Here are three that are free...

Día de Muertos
Mexico City
Never has there been so much life amongst death, because your senses – all five of them – will never feel quite as alive as they do at Día de Muertos, the Day of the Dead. It’s November 2nd and death is dancing through the streets of Mexico City to the rhythm of a thousand warm-blooded ghosts. Between the hoards and harrow­ing masks, burnt-orange marigolds line the facades of colonial buildings and suited men link arms with ladies dressed as the ‘Elegant Skull’, their skin painted white and a skeletal grin on their face. Heading for Zócalo square, revellers celebrate the age-old Aztec belief that the dead come back to earth for just one day a year. Amidst floats and flamboyance, top-hatted skeletons jostle with sugar skull faces, all vying for space amongst the macabre. The bars are thumping and the scent of tequila dances atop the pulse of a relentless beating drum; the dead are officially alive.

Kuala Lumpur
The squeamish should look away now. A festival of faith and penance, the annual Hindu holiday of Thaipusam sees thousands of devotees follow the procession of a silver chariot from the city of Kuala Lumpur to the Batu Caves temple. Dedicated to the Hindu deity Lord Murugan, many devotees affirm their faith by piercing their bodies with hooks, skewers and spears, including kavadi, which is an elaborately decorated frame weighing up to 100kg and – brace yourself – affixed to an individual’s flesh by sharp metal spikes. Onlookers who can stomach it, will be entranced by the participant’s endurance, lucid dancing and intense celebrations. Just beware of the person next to you, they are likely to explode into an erratic dance move at any given chance. Held in the last week of January (or the first of February depending on the Hindu calendar), this carnival-like festival is a positive celebration of both cultural and religious identity.

Holi Festival of Colours
Big colourful smiles, maniacal grins and childish shrieks that resonate from both the young and the old, Mumbai’s ordinarily manic streets have reached fever pitch. It’s Holi Festival and the predominately Hindu population are firing a rainbow of colour bombs across their suburbs. Marking the start of spring, Holi is the Hindu celebration of colour, friendship and love, so you’ll find similar levels of mayhem throughout India and much of Nepal. Visitors are whole-heart­edly invited to partake, so arm up and follow suit. Load up the water guns and stuff your pockets with a dozen colour-bursting grenades; you’re going to war, albeit a fun one. You’d be wise to make allies with the children, they may look innocent but those smil­ing eyes mask mischievous intent. And that’s because there’s nothing more satisfying than colour-bombing an unsuspecting bystander.

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