This article was written for The Three Tomatoes site with interesting info and events for women in the NY and LA areas. Subscribe for great fun and good information.
If you choose to go on a tour that includes a festival, there are positives and negatives. Positives is you will see local people in their most colorful and joyous. In Pushkar in India, you witness weddings, dances, tribal clothes and jewelry, camel and other races. In Sicily in December, you will join a procession with lighted candles, brass bands and clergy to walk to the Basilica in Palermo. In both situations you will witness events that are exciting and often evolved from ancient times. The Feast of the Immaculate Conception in Sicily, like many street processions, evolved from the Roman Saturnalia. Pushkar Camel Market evolved from the need for tribal people to trade both products, animals and marriages annually in a central spot.
Negatives are you need to book early and be flexible. Securing hotel space is always hard during special events, and being flexible in crowded situations a requirement. Hotels can overbook and last minute people will not get a spot- especially true at Pushkar where our group stays in luxury tented camps. Another negative is that you need to learn how to photograph people discretely. To do this, learn your smart phone’s photographic apps and turn off the volume so no one can hear a click. On many smart phone cameras, you can put on the camera app, hold down the clicker and release to take photographs quietly. (This is the reverse of what you normally do which is click not hold down the aperture button).
In both cases, if you are nervous in crowds, even friendly non pushing crowds, think about not attending that event. We have divided up the main India trip and Pushkar add on this year for those with less time less money.
Here are some other festivals you might consider attending:
Christmas Markets all over Europe. These are held for approximately 4 weeks before Christmas. They are in town squares, sometimes with standing heaters and often with colorful stalls selling crafts, food, hats, and ornaments. Many river cruises as well as our Sicily trip will include these for the food, music, fun and shopping of local arts and crafts. Most are in Germany but have expanded all over W. and E. Europe; in E. Europe, goods are much cheaper and many hand made: bone and fur is common. We have two Christmas Markets trips, one on AMA Waterways and one to Sicily.
Carnival I do not recommend that solo women go to Rio for this extravaganza, but Carnival is also held in Venice, on many Caribbean Islands and elsewhere. In Venice you will find those amazing masks in store windows and on people in the streets. Food is seasonal and you will need to check closings. Fritelle, or fritters, with or without pastry-cream filling are the most common sweet associated with Venetian carnevale. Savory foods served during this period tend toward pasta such as gnocchi and lasagna.
Fantasy Fest in Key West. FL is over Halloween and you will laugh your head off with the costumes and ‘fashion shows’ both gay and straight. It is almost impossible to get reservations at hotels in Key West as the island is small; try a B&B but book early on. Expect crowds and the most outrageous and suggestive outfits.
Day of the Dead, Mexico is a celebration not a mourning day. Our group went to Patzcuaro and its island for this festival years ago. 100,000 people line the banks of the lake then go to a central island to decorate the graves of their ancestors. Music, festivities and fascinating sights accompany this ritual. Skeletons are everywhere made of sugar, wood, wire etc; in today’s world they are created using computers or dressed in modern clothes.