What Is a Hibiscus Festival?

C. Mitchell

A hibiscus festival is any sort of community gathering or party planned to coincide with the blossoming of the hibiscus flower. Most hibiscus festivals were originally designed to celebrate the flower’s blooming, and with it the arrival of summer. A hibiscus festival today is likely to have little to do with the flower or the celebrating changing seasons, however. Festivals typically center more on activities, often incorporating days of street fairs, live entertainment, community competitions, and food vendors.

Hibiscus leaves can be made into tea.
Hibiscus leaves can be made into tea.

The hibiscus flower is a tropical flower that blooms for most of the year in warmer climates, but typically emerges in the spring and is particularly vibrant and fragrant in the heat of the summer. Some of the earliest examples of hibiscus festival events were designed to celebrate the beauty of the blooms and to welcome the change of seasons. Indigenous peoples and early settlers all over the world hosted community gatherings for such things as weather shifts and seasonal changes, and the first hibiscus festivals fit within this model.

Hibiscus festivals originally celebrated the blossoming of the hibiscus flower, which signalled the arrival of summer.
Hibiscus festivals originally celebrated the blossoming of the hibiscus flower, which signalled the arrival of summer.

Modern festivals retain the community celebration spirit, but have largely moved away from celebrating nature, seasons, or even the flowers specifically. In most cases, the only connection that modern hibiscus festivals have to the tropical hibiscus tree or flower is the name and the calendar period. Just the same, it is unusual to see a hibiscus festival in a setting where the flowers do not naturally grow. Two of the world’s largest hibiscus festival events happen each year in Vero Beach, Florida and Suva, Fiji.

Each of these cities’ festivals are large-scale events that often draw major crowds. Streets are often shut down for days on end to enable entertainers, food vendors, and carnival entertainment. Community events like charity races, auctions, beauty pageants, and cooking or horticulture expositions may be part of the festivities, as well. In most cases, a hibiscus festival is a place for the community to gather as well as a way to draw in business from surrounding areas.

There is no set formula for what a hibiscus festival must contain. The Florida and Fiji festivals last for many days and offer an expansive calendar of events, but this is not required. A school or church group may sponsor a hibiscus festival that is designed to last for but a day, for instance. Private organizations, too, can throw similarly named events for employees, clients, or local communities. Really, all that is required for a festival to be a specifically hibiscus festival is use of the hibiscus name and, usually, some reference to the ornamental shrub in advertising or decorations.

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