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WAKAKUSA YAMAYAKI

January 25, Nara, Japan Wakakusa Yamayaki is an exciting ritual where the dry grass on the Wakakusa hill is set ablaze.

One of Japan's most stunning festivals, the purification ritual starts around 5.30pm, followed by a fireworks display. Then the monks, dressed as warriors, blast the conch shells and ignite the dead grass at the base of Wakakusa hill. One hour later, the whole 342-metre hill is engulfed in flames. The blazing fire along with the illuminated night sky cast a magic spell on the viewers. Be prepared for crowds - more than 100,000 people gather to view Wakakusa hill on fire. The festival takes place every year on the fourth Saturday in January, but may be delayed to the following Saturday if the weather is bad.

FEAST OF THE BLACK NAZARENE

January 9, Manila, the Philippines

The feast of the Black Nazarene, the life size image of "black" Jesus Christ carrying a cross, is one of the most spectacular religious events in the Philippines. Legend has it that the statue was brought to Manila by a Spanish priest in 1607 aboard a ship which caught fire. The image was burnt but the people decided to preserve and honour it. Since then, miraculous things happened to those who touch the image. On the feast day, thousands of pilgrims come to Manila to be part of the procession of the Black Nazarene with the hope that touching the wooden statue will cure their illnesses and cast away bad luck.

HARBIN ICE AND SNOW FESTIVAL

January 5 to February 28, Harbin, China

Every winter, ice sculpture experts, artists and fans from around the world gather in Harbin to participate in ice sculpting competition and witness the beauty of the snow world. The inspiration for the ice and snow sculptures is usually derived from traditional Chinese fairy tales and world famous architectures such as the Great Wall. The Harbin Ice and Snow Festival coincides with the Harbin Ice and Snow Sculpture Competition and the Ice Lantern Festival. The Ice and Snow World is lit up at night using laser, neon and conventional spot lighting, transforming Zhaolin Park into a glittering wonderland constructed entirely from ice.

TWELFTH NIGHT

January 5, London, England

Twelfth Night is an annual seasonal celebration held in the Bankside area of London. Braving the cold, singing loudly and saying "wassail" are all parts of the fun at the Twelfth Night celebrations performed by the Lions Part theatre group. A green man emerging from the River Thames is central to the celebrations marking the New Year. The lucky pair who finds a bean or a pea in their cake at the end of the play is crowned King and Queen for the day. Then the procession is formed through the streets heading to the pub, George Inn, where people relax and drink mulled wine.

PROCESSION OF THE THREE KINGS

January 5 to 6, Madrid, Spain

The Procession of the Three Kings or Cabalgata de los Reyes Magos is a popular tradition throughout Spain. For the last few years, some half a million people have turned out at the event in Madrid. The Procession of the Three Kings, accompanied by helpers and 30 carriages loaded with sweets wind their way through Madrid’s streets. The kings and the helpers greet the crowds with handfuls of sweets. Tons of theatrical activities await at the final destination.

TUNARAMA

January 24 to 27, Port Lincoln, Australia

Tossing the tuna at the slippery competition Tunarama in Port Lincoln attracts 25,000 to 45,000 people each year. The nine-kilo-tunas are each specially frozen to aid grip and flight. The Tunarama competitors have to hoist the fish by a rope tied to them and spin them in hammer-style before letting the fish fly. Apart from tuna-tossing, the Tunarama festival also features competitions, parties and processions.


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