Travel Picks: Top 10 fire festivals around the world

Fri Nov 2, 2012 8:52am EDT
 
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LONDON (Reuters) - As clocks turn back, days get shorter, temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere plummet and 2012 draws to a close, there's no better time to strike a match and light those dark skies up with color. That's why online travel consultants Cheapflights.com (wwww.cheapflights.com) have come up with a list of Top 10 fire festivals around the world. Reuters has not endorsed this list: 1. Guy Fawkes Night (Bonfire Night) - England

"Remember, remember the fifth of November - gunpowder, treason and plot" goes the nursery rhyme, chanted in the run-up to Guy Fawkes Night (November 5). It goes back to 1605 when Guy Fawkes, one of the members of the Gunpowder Plot, was arrested while guarding explosives in the House of Lords, London. With the plot to blow up the House of Lords - and kill King James I - foiled, Londoners lit bonfires around the city in celebration.

The bonfire tradition continues to this day, and usually there's an effigy of Guy Fawkes placed at the center of it. One of the biggest celebrations is in the town of Lewes in Sussex where, in recent years, effigies of various current figures, including those from the UK banking world, have been burned. 2. Daizenji Tamataregu Shrine's "Oniyo" - Fukuoka, Japan

Fukuoka, capital of Fukuoka Prefecture on Kyushu Island, is one of Japan's largest cities and hosts one of its oldest fire festivals. Daizenji Tamataregu Shrine's "Oniyo" (Fire Festival) is a ceremony to drive away evil spirits that has been practiced for 1,600 years. It's held in early January each year. A "devil fire" that has been guarded at the temple is transferred - at around 9 p.m. on the seventh day (January 7) - to six massive torches measuring one meter in diameter and 15 meters long.

The torches are transported around the grounds of the shrine by a group of men in loincloths. It sounds like a potential health-and-safety issue, but it's considered to be good luck if embers or ash from the torches fall on them. 3. Jeongwol Daeboreum Deulbul Festival - Jeju, S. Korea

In early February, the Jeongwol Daeboreum Deulbul Festival takes place on the island of Jeju off the coast of South Korea. It's a fairly new festival, younger than 20 years old, but its origins go back to the time when families kept cows.

To keep the grass grazeable, farmers set fire to the fields in the mountains to destroy old grass and kill harmful insects. Today, a hilltop is set alight to pray for health and a good harvest in the coming year. There's a torchlight march, straw-rope making competition and deumdol (rock) lifting. 4. Diwali - India

The best-known Hindu festival is known as the "festival of lights." Diwali (or Deepavali) means "rows of lighted lamps" and, during this time, houses, shops and public places are decorated with diyas (small earthenware oil lamps), elaborate feasts are prepared and spectacular fireworks displays light up the skies.

The five-day festival (November 13-17 this year) celebrates the triumph of good over evil and is celebrated throughout India and around the world (in Singapore, Trinidad and Tobago, Mauritius, Myanmar and London among many others). 5. Samhain 2012 - Out of the Darkness - Altoona, Florida, USA   Continued...

 
People ignite fireworks during Diwali celebrations in the northern Indian city of Lucknow October 21, 2006. REUTERS/Pawan Kumar