Finding Festivals When Cruising
By Sheryl Shard, copyright 2015. All rights reserved.
Happy Easter! The end of winter and the coming of spring is an event celebrated by most cultures in many splendid ways around the world. Paul and I have been fortunate to participate in quite a few of these celebrations in the Caribbean, Mediterranean and Scandinavia throughout our 25 years of cruising aboard sailboats. We have had fun filming and writing about the experiences to help you plan your own cruising adventures…
Fun Festivals All Year Long
We often plan our sailing voyages to arrive in places in time to participate in local festivals. And not just in the spring. There are amazing festivals around the world in places you can sail to all year long! Festivals and feasts are a great venue to meet local people since everyone is out and in a festive mood. As a result they are often more open to chatting and usually proud to explain their traditions. There is always lots to do and photograph at festivals including tasting new foods, watching parades, playing games and practicing the local language if different from your own. Take into consideration the best time for sailing in these places first and then look to see what events are going on during those times.
Easter procession in Malta
What are our favourites? The most memorable spring celebrations for us have been Easter ceremonies in Malta, which is located in the central Mediterranean, and the festival of Smell the Breeze in Egypt, both of which we filmed for the Distant Shores sailing adventure TV series. Many festivals in Spain and Greece as well as Caribbean Carnival are tops on our list too. Check out past Newsletters under the category Festivals.
Last spring we had a special Easter experience at the small island of South Caicos in the Turks and Caicos after a 5-day passage from the British Virgin Islands. We arrived and cleared in on Good Friday and had our papers stamped by the Customs and Immigration officials at the local church where they were directing the youth group reenactment of the Easter story! We were welcomed in and had a memorable weekend with the people there. (See newsletter 21/04/14.)
How to Find Festivals when Planning Your Cruise
You can find out what local events are taking place before sailing there from tourist board websites and travel guides, sailing blogs and Facebook Groups about various destinations and watching travel shows as part of your research.
Easter Week in Malta
The Maltese are enthusiastic Christians. St. Paul was shipwrecked here as documented in the Acts of the Apostles 27:39 to 28:10 so the Maltese are amongst the first Christians and proud of the tradition. They celebrate religious events with great passion and ceremony. The events leading up to Easter are especially colourful and dramatic - candlelit night processions, astonishing acts of penance such as dragging chains through the streets on Good Friday, reenactments of the Easter story and processions of great splendour. We filmed Easter Week in Malta for episode #56 in Distant Shores season 5 (more info here) before sailing to Italy. Here's an excerpt from the show to give you the idea of what you can experience if you sail there…
Sham El Nissem (Smell the Breeze) in Egypt
This festival in Egypy dates back to the 3rd millennium BC and is now a National Holiday celebrated by both Christians and Muslims on the day after Orthodox Christian Easter. The name Sham el Nessim also has ancient Egyptian roots meaning "renewal of life" but with the adoption of Arabic language, the term “Shemu” in ancient Egyptian morphed into “Sham el Nissem” or literally "Smelling the Breeze" and that is exactly how Egyptians celebrate this popular festival. There are colourful parades and everyone spends the day outside enjoying picnics with friends and family. The food is traditional - a) eggs decorated the night before as a family event symbolizing life (did you know it was the ancient Egyptians that started the tradition of decorating eggs?) b) onions to ward off evil spirits and 3) salted mullet fish honoured as a symbol of prosperity. This fish is extremely stinky and the Egyptians pride themselves as the only people with the stomachs to eat it. We joined in the Sham el Nissem festivities when sailing up the Suez Canal from the Red Sea and filmed it for episode #50 in Distant Shores season 4 along with four other episodes about boating in Egypt.
There are great festivals going on at all times of the year and planning to be in a cruising destination when they occur can add greatly to your cruising experience.
What festivals have you attended while sailing and would recommend to other sailors or travellers? We welcome your comments below…
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Sheryl and Paul Shard have been cruising internationally for 25 years. They are sailing authors, instructors/consultants and the fun-loving hosts of the Distant Shores sailing adventure TV series (AWE TV, Vimeo on Demand). The Distant Shores series profiles the world's best sailing destinations and provides insights into the joys and challenges of living aboard a cruising sailboat. The shows are also available on DVD and as HD downloads.
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