Attending festivals is a fantastic way to experience a new place in a different light. There are several hundred festivals around the world that celebrate culture, music, food, history, religion or simply fun and festivity. Only a few of them incorporate the use of boats, but surely it is fun to go festive while afloat.
Here are some of the famous boating festivals around the world:
1. Dragon Boat Festival, China
There are many Dragon Boat Festivals in countries of the East and the West, but this event originated in China. The Dragon Boat Festival is also known in the country as Tuen Ng, Zhongxiao or Duanwu Festival, and it occurs on the fifth day of the fifth month of the traditional Chinese calendar.
This traditional celebration is meant to prevent evil or disease and promote health and well-being. The main event, obviously, is the dragon boat race. Boats used are made of teak wood and are brightly decorated, with the front end shaped like the head of an open-mouthed dragon and the back like a scaly tail. The boats, with varying sizes and designs, will travel through rowing with up to 80 people per boat. The first team to grab a flag at the end is the winner.
Other activities include preparing and eating zongzi, a sticky rice treat wrapped in bamboo leaves, and drinking realgar wine. Participants also hang up icons of a mythic guardian figure named Zhong Kui, along with calamus and mugwort. They also take long walks wearing perfumed medicine bags. In addition, they also write spells and play games, such as making an egg stand at exactly noon, wherein people who succeed will receive luck the next year.
2. Regata Storica, Italy
When you think of Venice, Italy, most probably you imagine gondolas being rowed at the majestic Grand Canal. The most important boating event in the beautiful Italian city is the Regata Storica, which is made up of four different races. It takes place during the first Sunday of September every year. The festival is a recreation of Venice’s maritime past, with gondolas styled the traditional Venetian way and participants wearing their 16th-century costumes.
The earliest record of regatta dates back to the 13th century. In 1899, the then-mayor of Venice, Count Filippo Grimani, named the event “Regata Storica,” or the Historical Regatta. Races begin with a procession of bissone, a fleet of traditional parade boats. Originally, noblemen armed with bows aboard the bissone and would shoot terracotta at rowdy people from the crowd to clear the canal for racers. Nowadays, they are unarmed and serves only a ceremonial function.
The most popular race in the Regata Storica is the gondolini regatta, where two oarsmen per gondola race from the starting line against dozens of other competitors to the finish line. Spectators cheer the gondoliers, and the juncture where the paleto is placed is where the crowd cheers wildly. The paleto is the turning post standing in the middle of the Grand Canal that marks the finish line.
3. Kerala Boat Festival, India
The Kerala Boat Festival, also known as the Vallam Kali, is a traditional boat race popular in India and the biggest in the state of Kerala. It’s a form of canoe racing that uses paddled longboats. This boat racing event is held to mark the harvest festival Onam in autumn.
The event showcases the culture of the state and brings out integration, team spirit and good relations of the people. The major event in the festival is the Chundan Vallam race, or commonly known to tourists as the Snake Boat Race. Meanwhile, the Nehru Trophy Boat Race is the biggest of the boat festivals where thousands of people look forward to seeing the event. Participants decorate their boats on their own and try to row to their fullest to win the race.
Other types of boats that participate in the event include Kochu Vallam, Churulan Vallam, Iruttukuthy Vallam, Odi Vallam, Vadakkanody Vallam, and Veppu Vallam.
4. Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival, Burma
One of the largest Buddhist festivals in Burma, the Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival is held in and around the villages near Inle Lake. It is held from the first day of the waxing moon to the third day after the full moon of Thadingyut, which is from September to October. An elaborate barge is towed by traditional longboats manned by hundreds of rowers rowing in unison, making an impressive procession on the water.
The festival lasts for more than 20 days as four out of five revered Buddha images are paraded in the lake through the barge. Rowing competitions are also held throughout the festival.
5. MyState Australian Wooden Boat Festival, Australia
MyState Australian Wooden Boat Festival is an award-winning celebration and one of the world’s most anticipated maritime events. The four-day festival, which takes place in Hobart, Australia, is conducted every two years, bringing together the biggest and most beautiful collection of wooden boats in the Southern hemisphere.
The festival opens with the glorious Parade of Sail on a Friday afternoon and continues until Monday through the long weekend. Participants go to the festival to see hundreds of wooden boats – classic sailboats, magnificent tall ships, rugged boats, and detailed models – and get to talk to the builders, owners, sailors and craftspeople who practice their traditional skills every day. More than 80 exhibitors of rare maritime kit and boat building displays can be found.
Along the exhibits, the festival delivers live entertainment, music, local food, demonstrations, and displays. Spectators can visit the Australian National Maritime Museum International Wooden Boat Symposium, Maritime Marketplace, the Children’s Circus School, Blundstone Shipwright’s Village, the Tasmanian Fishing Industry Display and many more.
6. Qintong Boat Festival, China
The Qintong Boat Festival attracts over 300,000 spectators annually and is becoming a notable tourist destination in China. Held in Qingming, China at around April 4 to 6 every year, the festival showcases intangible cultural heritage of the Chinese people in the place and in its nearby towns and villages.
The traditional gathering dates back over 800 years when villagers rode boats on rivers to pay respect to soldiers who fought in wars against their enemies. Nowadays, it’s an entertainment evening party with theatrical performances, dragon and lion dances, and other folk dances staged right on board the boats. Audiences gather along the banks and cheer for participants standing on colorfully-decorated canoes and boats.