26 January


The place to be on Australia Day will be Sydney, where the harbour will be packed with boats for as far as the eye can see. The biggest event will be the Harris Tall Ship Race, which is expected to finish around 1.30pm, as the vessels pass under Sydney harbour bridge. If that isn't enough, at 2pm the Historic Fleet Parade - commemorating the first settlers - is expected to arrive in the harbour.

20 January - 2 February


The Trujillo festival is an occasion to celebrate the national art of Marinera dancing, a complex and sexually charged dance which varies subtly from region to region. The main attraction of the festival is that it brings together the whole range of regional costumes, melodies and movements in one place.

29 January


A Buddhist fair at the Takahata Fudoson temple in Hino, just outside Tokyo, revolves around the sale of small dolls, which are thought to bring luck. When new, the dolls have unpainted eyes: the trick is to colour in one eye and make a wish. When the wish comes true, you paint in the other. The dolls are modelled on the image of a legendary monk who originally brought Buddhism to China from India.

Shetland Isles

A festival which started with the old Norse settlers, the mid-winter "Up Helly Aa" festival will be setting the town of Lerwick alight. Come evening, a galley will be lifted by villagers dressed as Vikings and carrying burning torches. Taken from the harbour, the galley is set down and burnt as the village Vikings throw their torches on to it. If you want some post-galley-burning action get on the guest list for one of the town parties, which are by invitation only.

31 January


The Thaitusam festival is an awesome display of mind over matter where entranced Hindu devotees walk for 3km carrying a huge metal disc called a Kavadis. The walk starts at the Perumal temple on Serangoon Road in the Little India and Arab quarter. If you want to see devotees take the strain, position yourself outside the Sri-Thanday-Utapani temple on Tank road, where the walk finishes.

31 January


Marking the end of nine days of devotions, the Festival of the Immaculate Conception sees the faithful of the Yucatan celebrate in style. A pig's head, decorated in flowers, will form part of the feast to mark the end of the devotions, around which there is general merriment and dancing.

29-31 January


Quebecois go mad in the snow at the Quebec Winter Carnival, held over three consecutive weekends. The world's third largest carnival after the Rio de Janeiro and New Orleans festivals, the climax is marked by a parade of floats though the city, accompanied by marching bands and majorettes.