Masked dance during Hemis Festival (Shutterstock.com)
Dedicated to Guru Rinpoche – the founder of Tibetan Buddhism – this spectacular festival goes up a notch or two in the Year of the Monkey. Why? Because the guru was born under that Chinese astrological sign.
As well as the usual vibrant costumes, music and dance, visitors to the Hemis Gompa monastery can expect a two-storey high depiction of Padmasambhava, opulently embellished with pearls and semi-precious stones.
Monkey God (Shutterstock.com)
The mischievous Monkey God has long been revered in Chinese culture, having been a companion of the legendary monk Xuanzang on a perilous journey to India to bring Buddhist scriptures back to China. His deeds are celebrated in this festival held each year on the 16th day of the eighth lunar month.
In days of old, Buddhist monks would celebrate the day by walking across hot coals and climbing ladders made from knives to portray the difficult path the Monkey God took to enlightenment. These days however, pilgrims simply burn incense and paper offerings in the Monkey God Temple at Po Tat Estate in Sau Mau Ping in Kowloon.
Monkeys clambering on tower of food (Shutterstock.com)
Arguably the world’s best-known monkey festival, this annual event is held amongst the Khmer ruins in Lopburi – 90 kilometres north of Bangkok.
Local caterers prepare a banquet of sticky rice, tropical fruit salad and an egg-yolk dessert called thong yod and set it out before the 2,000-plus long tailed macaques that live in the town. Much mayhem ensues, and while the food is scattered high and wide by the monkeys, it is all gone by the end of the day.
Celebrated on 14 December, this unofficial holiday started as a joke amongst art students at Michigan State University. It has since grown into an international event designed draw attention to issues related to all simians, including medical research, animal rights, and evolution. You can even get a Hallmark card to send.
A popular way to celebrate the day is to hold a costume party where guests dress up as monkeys. The day is celebrated in many zoos around the world too. Lahore Zoo holds art competitions and educational events. Tallin Zoo raises money for monkey-related charities by auctioning artwork created by chimpanzees.
Main image: Monkey sitting on a temple (Shutterstock.com)
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