Fiji might be famous for its idyllic white sand beaches and glistening waters, but venture off the sun lounger and you'll discover a rich culture and some of the friendliest folks in the South Pacific. If you're a culture seeker who likes the sound of dancing to traditional music, eating authentic food and learning about ancient customs, you might want to consider aligning your Fiji adventure with one of these popular festivals.
1. Hibiscus Festival
The Hibiscus Festival is a nine-day event held in Suva on the main island of Viti Levu every August. Running for more than 50 years, this community celebration brings together traditional music, food stalls, float parades, sporting activities, dance competitions and more. The highlight is the crowning of the ‘Hibiscus Queen’ – the island’s much-anticipated beauty pageant.
2. Bula Festival
Bula Festival also takes place on Viti Levu, but on the western side in Nadi. Bula means ‘welcome’ or ‘hello’ in Fijian, and this festival is a great introduction to Fijian culture where visitors are encouraged to join in the festivities. Expect vibrant floats, delicious food, lively music and a beauty parade culminating with the crowning of 'Miss Bula'.
3. South Indian Fire Walking Festival
Fijian society is multicultural with a large percentage of the population being of Indian descent. This dazzling festival takes place in July or August at the Mariamma Temple near Suva and attracts big crowds from the Hindu community. The tradition of walking across a pit of hot coals is believed to cultivate a sense of self-discipline and spiritual cleansing.
To prepare for the ceremony, devotees enter a 10-day period of isolation and abstinence to meditate and worship the goddess Maha Devi. Priests then pierce the fire walkers' tongues and cheeks with skewers and smear turmeric on their faces before they dance to the temple to walk over hot coals.
4. Lautoka Sugar Festival
With a booming sugar cane industry, this week-long festival in Lautoka, also known as Sugar City, is a chance for the community to get together and celebrate the trade. Join locals for a typical Fijian celebration with dancing, singing, rides, sporting activities and beauty pageants – including the crowning of 'Lady Sugar' and 'Mr Sugar King'.
Holi is one of the biggest (and most colourful!) events for Indo-Fijians. Also known as the Festival of Love, Holi celebrates the triumph of good over evil. Join locals and decorate the streets (and each other) with brightly coloured powders. Red symbolises love and fertility; blue represents Krishna, a Hindu God; green represents new beginnings; and yellow represents turmeric, a powder native to India.
6. Fiji Day
Fiji gained independence on 10 October 1970 after more than 90 years of British colonial rule. The nation has a public holiday known as Fiji Day to commemorate the occasion, as well as a full week of festivities leading up to the event, including street parties, military parades and cultural ceremonies.
7. Friendly North Festival
Held in Labasa, Friendly North Festival is a charity event that has been running for over 40 years to help improve the town's community services. Watch vibrant street parades, eat tasty local fare and learn about the local culture at this week-long event. As a small town that doesn't attract as many tourists, it's also a great way to support locals.
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