Let’s talk about about kite-flying around the world! First, a look at the history of kites, then 10 of the biggest kite festivals around the world, plus books and crafts for kids! Get outside and fly a kite today!!!
Although the history of kites has been debated, there is evidence of kite flying in China from more than 2000 years ago! There is one Chinese legend that suggests that a peasant’s straw hat flew off his head, but followed him in the air attached to a thread from his clothing- perhaps the first inspiration for kites?
It is also said that General Han Hsin flew a kite for the walls of a city he was attacking, to measure the tunnel his troops needed to build. Kite flying spread by traders from China to Korea and then to India. Monks used bamboo and silk kites for religious and ceremonial purposes, sending messages and prayers to the spirit world.
By 1295, Marco Polo documented their construction and how to fly kites, and interest spread for hundreds of years. During the 18th century, kites started to be used in the field of science. For example, in 1748 a Scottish meteorologist measured air temperature at 3000 feet from a kite, and in 1752 Ben Franklin conducted his experiment to prove lightning was indeed electricity.
Nowadays, kite flying festivals are held around the world. In Asia, there are often “kite fights,” where participants attempt to cut their competitor’s kites down. For example, in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In Indonesia, India, Vietnam, and China kite flying is both sport and recreation. In other countries, kite flying is children’s play like during the New Year holidays and the Boys’ Festival in May in Japan, or in Brazil or Colombia for fun. In Chile, kites are popular for Independence Day, and in Guyana at Easter time.
10 Big Kite Festivals Around the World:
1. Festival of the Winds: Australia’s Largest Kite-Flying Festival
The Festival of the Winds is held annually in September in Sydney, at Bondi Beach. Everyone is invited to bring their kites to fly and mingle with the experts at this family-friendly celebration.
Kites in Sidney, Australia. Photo by: Brian Giesen, CC use
2. Hamamatsu Giant Kite Festival, Japan
The unique, giant kites of Japan are rectangular, and sometimes as large as 3.5 meters by 3.5 meters! The Hamamatsu Giant Kite Festival started in the 16th Century when large kites were flown in celebration of the birth of a baby son to the Lord of Hamamatsu Castle. Spectators watch as the kite fliers use friction to cut the twine of their opponents.
Kite Flying in Japan. Photo by: Shizuoka Prefectural Tourism Association, CC use
3. Portsmouth (UK) International Kite Festival
The festival has thousands of stunning and colorful kites including, including demonstrations of the art of kite flying and kite making reflecting the tradition of kites around the world, with many kites in the sky and on the ground for visitors to enjoy and admire. These include beautiful single line kites – intricately appliquéd or painted with magnificent designs, amazing cellular kites – flying miracles of structural engineering, awe inspiring 3D soft kites in a magical range of shapes and sizes and skillfully flown kites performing excellent tricks and routines to music.
4. The Kites of Sumpango, Guatemala
These huge (15-20 meters wide!) circular kites have been flown as part of the Barrilete Festival on All Saints Day, in both Santiago Sacatepequez and Sumpango, Guatemala. The Mayans fly the kites to ward off bad spirits after Día de los Muertos, the day in which the deceased visit the human world.
The circular kites in Guatemala. Photo by: Joelsyok, CC use
5. The International Kite Festival, India
According to the Indian calendar, the festival of Uttarayan marks the day when winter begins to turn into summer. This holiday announces to farmers that the sun is back and that harvest season is approaching. Many cities in Gujarat organize kite competition between their citizens where the people all compete with each other.
6. Bali Kite Festival, Indonesia
Hundreds of teams from Indonesia and around the world compete in this huge kite festival. Traditional Balinese kites are gigantic, measuring up to 4 by 10 meters, with others trailing 100 meter long tail! Some kites even have a vibrating bow that called a ‘guwang,’ whose humming can be heard from the ground.
Long Indonesian kites. Photo by: Chie, CC use
7. Cape Town International Kite Festival, South Africa
With 20,000 visitors and hundreds of kites of all shapes and sizes, the Cape Town International Kite Festival is the largest kite festival in Africa!
8. The Zilker Kite Festival, US
Founded in 1929, it was designed to ignite creativity in children. The ABC Kite Fest (aka the Zilker Kite Festival, after the park in which it’s held) is a beloved, family-friendly tradition: activities for all ages, traditional kite flying contest and showcase, a fun run and MossFest, and a children’s music concert.
9. Cervia (Italy) International Kite Festival
What makes the Cervia Festival unique is the showing of extremely artistic kites from around the world: figures, animals, characters, and fantasy flying over the beach.
10. Weifang (China) International Kite Festival
Weifang, Shandong, China is known as the kite capital of the world, and people consider it to the the birthplace of kites! While in Weifang, you can visit the largest kite museum in the world, and a kite factory. Enjoy the traditional kite designs like the centipede and dragon, that are made using ancient methods of kite-making.
Books about Kite Flying
I’ve put these in order of readers’ ages, starting with picture books and moving to chapter books. The settings are in parentheses after the title and author.
Picture Books about Kite Flying
Damien and the Dragon Kite, by Raymond Macalino (kite festival)
In the Wind, by Elizabeth Spurr (AA/US)
Kite Flying, by Grace Lin (Chinese-American family)
Dragon Kite of the Autumn Moon, by Valerie Reddix (Taiwan)
Nu Dang and his kite, by Jacqueline Ayer (Thailand)
Kabir and the Kite by Kali Kalam (India)
The Kite, by Luis Garay (Nicaragua)
Kiko the Short-Tailed Kite, by Meredith W. Newton-Halstead (Japan)
King for a Day, by Rukhsana Khan (Pakistan: main character is in wheelchair 🙂
The Kite Festival, by Leyla Torres (Colombia)
Henry and the Kite Dragon, by Bruce Edward Hall (US/Chinatown)
Francisco’s Kite/ Las Cometas de Francisco, by Alicia Klepis (US/El Salvador- bilingual)
The Emperor and the Kite, by Jane Yolen (China)
The Kite that Bridged Two Nations: Homan Walsh and the First Niagara Suspension Bridge, by Alexis O’Neill. (US/ Canada)
Dragonfly Kites, by Tomson Highway (Canada/Cree- bilingual)
Red Kite, Blue Kite, by Ji-li Jiang. (China)
Kites, by DEMI (China)
The Kite Fighters, by Linda Sue Park (Korea) ** this is the only multicultural chapter book I could find for kids about kites!
Kite Making and Kite Flying for Kids!
6 Foot Rokkaku Kite Plans: The Rokkaku is probably one of the most versatile kites any kiter could have in their kite bag. Rokkaku are probably most commonly used for kite battles
I hope you love this post about kite flying around the world! I think kites are one of the topics that can introduce kids to the idea that we are all connected. Cultures around the globe enjoy this outdoor sport, even if we each make our kites a little differently.