Agenda: Quebec City, Canada

Snow tubing at the Carnaval de Quebec, a winter festival which has been held in the Canadian city since 1894.
Snow tubing at the Carnaval de Quebec, a winter festival which has been held in the Canadian city since 1894.PHOTO: CARNAVAL DE QUEBEC


Fancy a snowball fight in your bathing suit? Want to feel the ice crack under your feet as you push and paddle a canoe on the frozen St Lawrence River? Head to Quebec, where the locals embrace their frigid, white winters with their annual Carnaval de Quebec.

Musical performances, themed dinners, night parades, snow sculptures, snowshoe races, an ice palace and snow slides are just some of the activities that take place during the two-week festival, which has been held in the snow-covered city since 1894.

When: Jan 29 to Feb 14



With costumes and parades worthy of Mardi Gras, the week-long Ati-Atihan festival is one of the Philippines' most vibrant.

It has its roots in the 13th century when, according to legend, a group of Malay chieftains fleeing Borneo landed on Panay island in the Philippines. In exchange for land to settle, the chieftains traded gold, cloth and jewellery with the Ati, the island's dark-skinned indigenous population.

To show their thanks for the food and land given to them, the chieftains held a feast with song and dance and painted their faces black in honour of their hosts.

Later, Spanish missionaries gave the festival a Christian twist and today, Ati-Atihan is held in honour of the Santo Nino (infant Jesus).

The highlight of the festival - which features musical and dance performances, competitions and street bazaars - is its last day, a Sunday, when the Santo Nino icon from Kalibo Cathedral is carried in a procession to Pastrana Park, where an open-air mass is held.

Afterwards, thousands of people in elaborate tribal garb with faces painted black carry torches and images of Santo Nino through the city.

When: Jan 8 to 17



Home to a camel breeding farm and India's National Research Centre on Camel, Bikaner in Rajasthan hosts a Camel Festival every year.

The two-day festival starts with a camel pageant, followed by camel races, with camel rides, tug-of-war and camel haircut competitions in between.

At night, festivalgoers are treated to fireworks and traditional dances, such as Bikaner's famous fire dances - during which local men dance on hot coals before putting the coals in their mouth and "spitting fire" - which can be seen only at the camel festival.

When: Jan 22



Every year, thousands of cowboys descend on Elko, Nevada, a city that is a seven-hour drive north of Las Vegas. This is no rodeo, though. These cowboys are poets, musicians and folklorists who have been meeting at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko to share their poetry through performances, open mikes and workshops since 1985.

When: Jan 25 to 30



For hundreds of years, the Shetland Islands - Britain's northernmost islands - were ruled by Vikings who colonised them in the eighth century. Although they were handed over to Scotland in the 15th century, Viking pride remains strong in the local population and to celebrate their Nordic heritage, the locals organise Up Helly Aa, a Viking fire festival, every year.

Each year, a Guizer Jarl or chief is selected from the local population, a high honour as the man will choose and lead the festival's theme, preparation and costume design with the help of his handpicked Viking squad. They spend a full year preparing for the big event.

Then, on the last Tuesday in January, the Guizer Jarl stands in a traditional Viking longboat with a dragon's head, which has been specially carved for the day, and leads hundreds of costumed warriors decked in faux Viking armour on a march through the town. Each man bears a torch which is launched into the wooden boat at the end of the procession, setting it aflame.

After the boat burns, the locals head to nearby Viking halls to continue festivities with food and drink and dance well past sunrise into the next day, a public holiday.

When: Jan 26


Lydia Vasko

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 27, 2015, with the headline 'Agenda: Quebec City, Canada'. Print Edition | Subscribe