Festivals have long played a major role in Taiwanese society, and in recent years they’ve become one of the drivers of the island’s tourist industry. There are sound historical reasons for this: Long before Taiwan became the affluent society it is today, events like gods’ birthdays and pilgrimages were colorful distractions from daily life. For ordinary people until well after World War II, festivals and family events like weddings were the only opportunities they had to feast, relax and travel to the next town. For Taiwan’s aboriginal minority, festivals are a way of expressing and consolidating their identity, as well as a source of tourist dollars.
Some of Taiwan’s annual celebrations, such as Lantern Festival, build on customs brought by migrants from the Chinese mainland. Others emerged as a result of the island’s unique historical path and are unknown outside Taiwan; the Song Jiang Battle Array is a good example. Some, like Tainan’s Qixi Coming-of-Age Ceremony, are held in just one part of Taiwan. Others, such as the Mazu birthday celebrations that kick off at Dajia’s Jenn Lann Temple and the once-every-three-years boat-burning at Donggang, are simply the biggest and best editions of rituals held in multiple locations. Yanshui’s Beehive Fireworks Festival is as thrilling as it is unique.