11 Festivals in Xinjiang Autonomous Region

Published in People


 Corban Festival (Muslim People)

Corban Festival also known as Eid al-Adha or feast of the sacrifice, when Muslims slaughter lambs to feed the hungry.  It is an important annual traditional festival for Muslims, and is celebrated on Dec. 10th on the Islamic calendar, which is the beginning of Oct. on the western Gregorian calendar. Before Corban, People clean their houses, tidy their clothes. The first day of the festival people go to the mosques at sunrise, wearing their finest clothes, to attend the largest religious service of the year. People listen to imams or interpretations of the Koran, and the sounds of the prayers can be heard from the mosques.   The festival lasts for 5 days. Each family slaughters a sheep, camels, cows or oxen and families and friends gather together to enjoy the dishes together. There is a lot of joviality, singing, and mirth surrounding this festival.  Uhyghr people in Xinjiang hold large singing and dancing performances, and Kazakh, Kirgiz, Tajik, and Uzbek people hold various celebrations including horse racing and wrestling. It is a good chance for people to enjoy a family reunion, and entertain their friends.  


Grape Festival (Uygur People)

The Grape Festival is a chance to celebrate the harvest season. The festival has taken place since 1990, and includes singing, dancing, Silk Road tourism exhibitions, and fnformation on China’s grape cultivation.  Hundreds of varieties of grapes hang on the vines, and are ready for picking, drying, and processing. Expect plenty of cultural performances in the rural countryside. Turpan is an oasis town, covered in vine trellises, where every household has some business in grape growing, and the local markets are full of sweet dried raisins.


Eid ul-Fitr (Muslim People)

Eid ul-Fitr often called Fast Breaking Festival, is a three-day Muslim holiday that marks the end of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting. The festival lasts for three days. On the first morning, people gather together in the mosque to pray. They wear national costumes and butcher fat stocks and cook traditional snacks. 


Nowruz Festival

Nowruz Festival is celebrated as the traditional New Year for Uyghurs, Kazaks, Kirgiz, and Uzbeks in China’s Xinjiang region. It is celebrated around March 21st, which is the first day of spring, and the beginning of the year on the Iranian calendar.  This festival is celebrated in many countries like Iran, Afghanistan, Kurdish regions of Iraq, Turkey and central Asian countries.  It marks the beginning of the planting season. There are several traditional activities that the people take part in. In one activity, the head of the family waves burning pine and fir branches over the heads of the family.  There is a traditional Nowruz porridge, “Harach” that is made from many ingredients that is served at lunch.  There are many different traditional performances and celebrations that include singing, dancing, wrestling, and acrobatics. 


Falcon Cultural Festival

During falcon cultural festival, people ride horses and show off their hunting skills in Aki county in the Northwest of Xinjiang. The festival happens around March 21st. Krigiz herders come together to display their falcons and watch the falcons devour their prey. 


Nadam Festival

Nadam festival is a folk festival of the Mongolian ethnic group. It happens during July and August and is a 10 day traditional festival, where “nadam” means amusement and entertainment” The festival is celebrated in Bayanbulak prairie in the Mongolian Autonomous Prefecture of Bayingolin, northwest China’s Xinjiang region. The festival is celebrated in the middle of July. There are many activities including lassoing competitions, “dawaz” or tightrope walking”, wrestling, horse racing, and archery. The Bayanbulak grassland is the secon largest grassland in China. 


Ice and Snow Tourism Cultural Festival

Xinjiang has a wide range of winter tourism exhibits, because Xinjiang has a high quality of snow. There is great skiing. Tourists can try ancient skis made from sheep skin and wood. There has been a large development of tourism facilities in key scenic spots and ski resorts.  The Altay mountain regions include the stunning Kanas Lake, where animals and plants of South Siberia can be found. There is antique ice and snow entertainment.  Near Urumqi city, the capital of Xinjiang, the Tianshan mountains also include activities for the Ice and Snow Tourism Festival.  Around Urumqi there are almost 30 ski resorts, which can accommodate about 20,000 people a day. There are Ice sculptures and camel trains. 


Heavenly Horse Festival

The Heavenly Horse Festival is held in Ili, Xijiang, which is the Kazak Autonomous Prefecture. The festival lasts for about a month. During the festival people celebrate horse racing, horsemanship, archery, girl chasing, and  Ili is an incredible landscape with heavenly mountains, grasslands, forests, lakes, valleys, ancient ruins, and other incredible sites. hiking horse adventures. 


International Folk Dance Festival 

Xinjiang International Folk Dance festival happens in mid-July. The festival has attracted more than 2,000 dancers from home and abroad to share their talents with the people of Xinjiang. The festival lasts 17 days and holds 80 performances by 30 professional dance groups. 


Aqin Aytis festival 

The Aqin Aytis festival in Fuyun county occurs at the end of September. There are many traditional arts and crafts displayed by the Kazak ethnic group. There are various traditional folk sports displayed, including camel racing. There is also a poetry storytelling contest. 


Baroti Festival

Baroti Festival is also known as the Lantern Festival, which is an annual religious festival of the Islamic Tajik people.  Families make special lanterns coated with butter or sheep fat and the families sit around the lantern together in the evening when it gets dark. Everyone in the family lights their own torches and says prayers. There is a large banquet to enjoy. And in the evening a celestial lantern is hung under the roof of the house. Throughout the night, people dance and sing under the torches. 



Hoi An Tailor Made Suits, Spas, and Historical tour

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I got a couple of suits tailored for my conferences, speeches, and acting gigs that I have in Beijing. Getting things tailor made is a sure luxury, and in Hoi An it is a competitive industry. Tailoring is one of their biggest skills, and there are so many shops selling essentially the same thing with different quality fabrics. I ordered two business dresses and two full suits, which set me back around $240 dollars. I ordered extremely simple common things which I needed and nothing more. There are options to buy wool jackets, full ball gowns or wedding dresses, or anything designer that you'd like. The prices are cheaper than you'd get anywhere else, and shopping around to different shops reveals different price and quality. I chose mid-range tailors, but my brother chose a higher class place called Chic Couture, a 22 year old business, which was off the main street a bit. Their shop and their work was extremely high quality. I was really impressed. I wished I had gotten my stuff made there. 

One day we went to a spa, and there are also many spas in Hoi An. It was a three hour treatment for around $40. I got an aromatherapy massage, salt scrub, aloe wrap, manicure and pedicure. It was great. I especially liked the Vietnamese small talk among the ladies in the spa during the massage, which of course I couldn't understand, but was sweet in a way to hear. For the first time, I got my fingernails and toenails painted by someone else, which says a lot considering I never get manicure or pedicure.  My brother and his friends like drinking at the clubs for foreigners and backpackers, which was fun. 

We went on a walking tour through some of the old houses and temples in the area. We talked to one Vietnamese man whose family had lived there for 4 generations, and they maintained the house perfectly. I did the normal walking tour of the area that I found in Lonely planet. The lanterns were lining the streets. We did a cooking class with Red Bridge cooking school and learned how to make spring roll wraps, eggplant in a clay pot, green papaya salad, and a few other things.  We took a boat ride to the school which was up the river. One of the houses I went into had chairs lined with abalone. It seemed that once you walk into the homes there is an altar above the door, and another altar by the door. There were ladies selling doughuts, but I didn't notice many street vendors. A majority of the places cater to western tourists or higher class tourists, with English on all of the menus and everything. It was "upscale shopping boutique" Vietnamese cuisine. Although reasonably priced it is very classy. We drank wine from Argentina, and enjoyed a very classy time. 



Halong Bay Cruise, Caving, and Kayaking

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We took the bus the next morning to the Halong bay cruise, and after 3 hours we arrive to the boat harbor to wait for our transfer to the cruise ship, Paloma. Paloma was a mid-sized custom wooden cruise boat which could probably hold nearly 20 people at once. These types of mid-sized cruise boats are considered higher priced and more comfortable than the junks. It's best to book in advance for a cruise boat if you'd like a comfortable experience. I was impressed with the custom asian style designs on the inside, the red hardwood walls and old photographs of Vietnam on the walls. Halong bay at first sight is stunning, and the photographs are equally as incredible. The limestone karst formations jutting out of the water covered in jungle plants and hissing with crickets. We went kayaking on our first day out to sea and saw hawks, got our arms moving and blood circulating. 


We also kayaked through one of the fishing villages, which was an incredible place. It was full of small stilt houses. Unfortunately, the fishing villages of Halong Bay will be relocated to a spot on the land, and this was the last year they'd be staying there due to a village vote. It seemed to be a hard life for them on the water in very small houses. I saw many children playing in the boats. Offshore there were larger fishing vessels stationed nearby, which is likely where the villagers work for a living and money. I doubt any small fishing operation would be able to compete with the huge vessels nearby. I saw at least two and our boat didn't even move very far. I'm shocked they still fish in Halong bay after the huge influx of tourism to the area must provide huge amounts of income to the area at large, but apparently not much of it trickels to the local community as we would think. I didn't see any mansions out on the water in the fishing village. 





Around 4pm, we returned to our cruise ship to have a rest or swim before our sunset sangria party on the ship's upper deck. We relaxed eating fruits and watching the sunset over the bay. We then learned how to make spring rolls. Erica ended up winning a prize, which was a free drink. We then headed to dinner. Somewhere along the lines, we managed to completely go overboard with the food restricted diets. I'm vegetarian, Erica is gluten free, and Stephanie is no seafood (was at first no egg). None the less, the kitchen staff accommodates all of our requests. Although, my biggest complaint was they served a desert instead of an entree for my vegetarian request, but in all the food was more than enough and we all gorged ourselves completely. During the dinner, the chef put on a small show about rock steaming the shrimp. 


Our young 23 year old guide helped us navigate the waters and up to a cave, which we attempted to go through the cave but got stuck due to the weight of our kayaks.  Our kayaks struggled to make through the passageway because of the low tide. My brother got out of the cave and attempted to push the kayak with me in it and cut his food on the rocks and almost lost his flip flop sandal.We had to pull the kayaks through a small cave opening. Once inside we saw corals in a small enclosed bay,  Covered in mussles and covered in corals. There were oysters spitting up into the air. The dark red corals and there were smaller blue and purple ones as well. There were monkies jumping and eating berries off of the trees above the water. We watched them for nearly 10 minutes before the forest became silent and we were set to make our way back out of the cave. It was more difficult on the way out because the water was flowing into the cave against the direction of our boats, so this time I hopped out in wearing my vibram foot watershoes that are so popular nowadays, and I pulled my brother in the kayak through the cave. Everything was going great until I reached a perilous point in the journey where the cave was dark and I was up to my waist in water. The guide was behind me also struggling to exit the cave. At one point I tried to hop back into the kayak out of fear or falling into some dark abyss, and so we started paddling as hard as we could but we were going backwards out back into the bay again. I had to get us through the cave somehow, and my brother in his flip flops wasn't getting out of the kayak again. So I jumped out and pulled us through the cave up to my waist in water, through the dark cave probably filled with bats and snakes or something, and got us out to the other side again.   It's definitely recommended that you wear watershoes or tight fitting sandals n the kayaking tours because if the tide is low it will be difficult to get through the caves. 


That evening, we enjoy another fantastic sangria sunset party, and my brother takes to squid fishing. He manages to catch one, and not only that, but he caught the biggest one of the night, with his only rival being a smaller one caught by a Korean lady. While we were "fishing for squid" one night during our cruise, there was a conspicuous boat trawling around the area where our boat was parked. It smelled like nasty diesel. I had a feeling it was trawling for shrimp, and due to my overeducation at one point it was simply there to eliminate the jellyfish there so the tourists could swim. It makes me sad that so many tourists want to come here and then expect to eat lots of seafoods during their cruise. Being a vegetarian is so hard hanging out with normal westerners. I usually feel like no one understands why anyone would be a vegetarian, and I'm often surprised no one knows about overfishing or the environmental consequences of food choices; what to speak of the health reasons for vegetarianism including eating the antibiotics found in fish from Asia, or other toxins found in bottom feeding fish and shrimps. There were huge fish recalls in the US from imported fish and shrimp from Asia, particularly China due to antibiotics and other toxins found in the foods. Overfishing will kill the oceans as soon as 2050 some people predict. The oceans are fished to probably 50%, and around 90% of the big fish are already gone. Marine conservation should be a huge priority here, but it's not. I was shocked.  I've become so jaded that I've been a vegetarian since I was 12 years old that I often will taste or sample meat to see what is the big deal. I didn't even like half of the seafood I tried on the cruise. It didn't even taste great. Some of the local fishers I saw at the Amazing cave selling shrimps, cuttlefish, etc to the other villagers. They had around 20-30 of each kind of fish or shrimp, which isn't a lot. The huge fishing boats off the shore are no doubt to feed all of Hanoi, which is a large city with a diet mostly of seafoods. Vietnam has very few vegetarians. On the cruise, one of the days they fed me 80% potatoes, French fries, potato curry, sweet potato balls, and then a squash dish. Two out of 3 nights I got served a dessert for an entree because the young 25 year old chef had no idea how to prepare anything vegetarian as a replacement. 

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