Top festivals and events in Asia this month – December 2011

FROM jazz to giant floats and New Years celebrations there is plenty happening in Asia this month.

PENANG ISLAND JAZZ FESTIVAL
Dates: 1-4 December
Where: Penang, Malaysia
The superb backdrop for this fantastic music festival is the lovely island of Penang replete with mixed colonial heritage and Chinese and Malay influences. With live action on stage and plenty of workshops, forums, galleries and even photographic exhibitions the Penang Island Jazz Festival is a great reason to put Malaysia on your itinerary this month.

Chichibu Yomatsuri Float Festival, Japan

Chichibu Yomatsuri Float Festival, Japan. Pic: AP.

CHICHIBU YOMATSURI FLOAT FESTIVAL
Dates: 2-3 December
Where: Banba-machi, Chichibu, Saitama, Japan
This is one of Japan’s biggest float festivals with some weighing as much as 10-20 tons and featuring countless lanterns. It is celebrated at the Chichibu Shrine with lenty of music, excitement and fireworks.

SOUTH ASIAN BANDS FESTIVAL
Dates: 2-4 December
Where: New Delhi, India
Fifteen bands from nine South Asian countries will perform at this event in the Indian capital this year including India, Pakistan, Burma and Nepal. The festival aims to reach out to youth and build a consciousness of south Asian regional cultural themes.

PHUKET KING’S CUP REGATTA
Dates: 3-10 December
Where: Kata beach, Phuket, Thailand
This annual regatta is one of Asia’s largest and finest with a superb setting on the popular Thai resort island of Phuket. All the action takes place off Kata beach with yachts taking to the seas for plenty of action. Ceremonies, parties and other events are held in conjunction with the daily races so there’s much to see at sea and on shore.

Kata beach, Phuket, Thailand

Kata beach, Phuket, Thailand. Pic: AP.

HONG KONG INTERNATIONAL RACE
Dates: 11 December
Where: Sha Tin Racecourse, Hong Kong
For a bit of turf action, to lay your bets or admire the rich and well dressed, head to the Sha Tin Racecourse for one of the most important racing fixtures in the world with  combined prize money of almost US $8m.

47 SAMURAI
Dates: 14 December
Where: Tokyo, Japan
The parade of the 47 Ronin Samurai warriors is a re-enactment of the men who avenged their master’s death way back in 1703. Today it features folk dancing, floats and general merriment along the streets of Tokyo.

COCK CROW MASS
Dates: 16-25 December
Where: Philippines
In the Philippines Christmas goes for nine days and some have called it the longest in the world. The “misas del gallo” or mass at cock crow were started by the Spanish missionaries to attract people to church and impress on them the story of the Nativity. The tradition has continued and involves various special foods, lantern making, firecrackers and family celebrations.

WOODFORD FOLK FESTIVAL
Dates: 27 December – 1 January
Where: Woodford, Queensland, Australia
This annual music festival held in the small town of Woodford is considered one of the feature world folk festivals. It boasts a range of performances, music styles, workshops and other events that are held in venues across the site night and day. Over 100,000 attend the festival, many coming for the day and thousands of others camping for multiple days. The festival culminates in a spectacular ceremony on New Year’s Day.

Sydney, Australia

Sydney, Australia. Pic: AP.

NEW YEAR’S EVE
Dates: 31 December
Where: Sydney, Australia
Billed as the world’s New Year’s Eve capital Sydney packs quite a punch come the end of the year. Not only is it one of the first places to herald in the new year but 1.5 million people cram into the Sydney Harbour area  to enjoy the spectacular fireworks and a night of merriment.

NEW YEAR’S EVE
Dates: 30-31 December
Where: Japan
For a New Year’s Eve with a difference head to Japan for the fire watch – just don’t forget to rug up. The locals sip tea and huddle together for warmth so feel free to join in. The fire watch takes place on the last two days of the year when men will gather at the chokai hall, divide into teams and then set out carrying paper lanterns while others beat out a rhythm on a clapper.