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Festivals in Taiwan

Aboriginal Village
Lighting candles in Longshan Temple, Taipei
Barbecue - enjoyed at many festivals throughout the year!
Burning incense

While Taiwan may be inextricably linked to the Chinese Mainland for many people, there are many things which make this small island completely unique and a joy to visit. Not least of which is the variety of festivals celebrated across the island.

Taiwanese people celebrate many of the same festivals as their Chinese neighbours, with Chinese New Year (known locally as Spring Festival) being one of the most important times of the year on both sides of the Taiwan Strait. This is a time when families gather together to eat elaborately prepared feasts and exchange ‘hong bao' (small red envelopes containing ‘lucky money'). Spring Festival is rounded off with a spectacular lantern festival, where people gather in large numbers across the island to let off specially decorated paper lanterns into the sky.

Other Chinese festivals include the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival (based on an ancient romantic legend, now when people gather to admire the full moon and eat barbecue and moon cakes); Dragon Boat Festival (held around May/June in honour of the tragic end of the poet Qu Yuan, and featuring exciting dragon boat races across the country); and Tomb-Sweeping Festival (held around April, when families gather to clean and care for the graves of their ancestors and burn paper money).

However, it is the aboriginal culture which distinguishes Taiwan so much from the mainland. While the Chinese festivals are well-known and well-attended, there are many celebrations unique to the island's aboriginal tribes, some of which are little known about outside of their villages. The most important of these celebrations are the harvest festivals. Held at various times throughout the year for different tribes, these are often the most spectacular and easiest for tourists to visit, with colourful traditional costumes, singing and dancing, and ancient traditions still practised after generations. Some of the key aboriginal festivals include the Ami Harvest Festival, held by the Ami Tribe in August; and the Ear-shooting Festival, held by the Bunun in April/May and the Puyuma in December, and traditionally a test of archery skills. While these festivals in no way encourage big numbers of tourists, the Taiwanese are a welcoming people and individual travellers and small groups are likely to be welcomed with open arms.

Some of Taiwan's more unusual festivals can seem quite bizarre to the Western eye. Take the controversial Sanxia Festival for example, where farmers compete to see who can produce the largest pig. These pigs are then ‘sacrificed', decorated, and displayed for the crowds. This strange and often quite barbaric festival is just one example of how important ancient traditions still are in Taiwan even in the face of controversy as the country modernises.

Travelling during major festivals can occasionally be made difficult as many Taiwanese people will also be on the move. So if you are looking to coincide your visit with any of these festivals be sure to book well in advance! Get in touch to speak to one of our experts about your tailor-made tour to Taiwan.

Posted by Emily on 21 April 2016

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