Calendar of festivals

More than 300,000 people visit Shorinzan Daruma Temple in Takasaki, Japan, during the Daruma festival on Jan 6 and 7 to buy the round dolls for good luck in the new year.
More than 300,000 people visit Shorinzan Daruma Temple in Takasaki, Japan, during the Daruma festival on Jan 6 and 7 to buy the round dolls for good luck in the new year.PHOTO: JNTO

NASSAU, THE BAHAMAS

In the early hours of New Year's Day, from 2am all the way to 8 or 10am, the Junkanoo parade takes place on the streets of downtown Nassau, where costumed revellers sing and dance to the cheers of thousands of spectators.

The roots of the parade are uncertain and there is debate about the origins of its name, but it has been taking place in one form or another since the 18th century.

Some say the parade has its roots in Ghana and was brought to the British Caribbean by slaves. They were given three days off at Christmas to celebrate, which they did by dancing, singing, wearing costumes and masks and visiting their neighbours.

When slavery was abolished in 1834, the celebration turned into a parade.

Today, Junkanoo parades, which are held on Dec 26 and Jan 1, can be found all over the Bahamas, but the biggest and best attended is the one in the capital, Nassau, on Jan 1.

The parade can be highly competitive, with dancers spending the entire year designing and closely guarding their costumes and choreography in hopes of winning awards for best costume, performance, dancing and music.

When: Jan 1

Info: www.bahamas.co.uk/about/junkanoo/what-is-junkanoo


CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA

Every second day of the new year, more than 13,000 people dress as minstrels in brightly coloured costumes and paint their faces to sing, play music and dance with parasols from the Old City Hall in District Six through the Bo-Kaap neighbourhood and towards the Green Point Stadium.

The Cape Town Minstrel Carnival, also known as Tweede Nuwe Jaar, which is Afrikaans for "second new year", is Cape Town's biggest parade and a celebration of the city's Creole culture.

The festival has its roots in the slavery era, when slaves were given a day off to celebrate the new year.

After slavery was abolished in 1834, the festival continued. By the mid-19th century, people started to dress as minstrels - likely influenced by visiting minstrel shows from the United States - and sing and dance to the sounds of banjos, whistles and drums.

Organising the parade was made difficult in the later half of the 20th century and it was temporarily banned during the apartheid era of 1948 to 1994.

Today, the parade participants are typically from Afrikaans-speaking Cape coloured families who have managed to keep the traditions alive.

Many of the songs sung date back to the 1800s and the parade has come to symbolise the perseverance of the Cape coloured community.

When: Jan 2

Info: goto.capetown/home


TAKASAKI, JAPAN

For good luck in the new year, many Japanese head to temples to buy their good luck charm - a Fuku-Daruma, a round red doll modelled after Bodhidharma, the founder of the Zen sect of Buddhism.

They make a wish on the doll, then colour in its left pupil. When the wish comes true, the second pupil is coloured in, and at the end of the year, the doll is returned to the temple to be burned and a new doll is purchased.

The Daruma originated at the Shorinzan Daruma Temple in Takasaki, which can be visited all year round. The highlight of the year is Daruma Ichi, the Daruma festival which takes place on Jan 6 and 7, when more than 300,000 people visit the temple.

The festival also features Japan's largest and most famous Daruma Market, with hundreds of stalls selling Daruma dolls, trinkets, local crafts and delicacies.

When: Jan 6 and 7

Info: daruma.or.jp/eng


SAN SEBASTIAN, SPAIN

For 24 hours on Jan 20, the streets of San Sebastian echo with the sound of beating drums.

In honour of the city's patron saint and in memory of the Siege of San Sebastian in 1813, when the city was almost burned to the ground, the city flag is raised in the Plaza de la Constitucion at midnight. The drumming begins and does not stop until midnight the next day.

More than 125 drumming companies participate in the festival - each with 20 to 50 drummers, a brass band and flag bearers banging on their drums incessantly throughout the seaside resort city.

The locals - dressed as soldiers, chefs and in early 19th-century period costumes - often join in as well.

When: Jan 20

Info: www.sansebastianturismo.com/en

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 25, 2016, with the headline 'Agenda: Calendar of festivals'. Print Edition | Subscribe