We've all had this experience, haven't we? The encroaching, heavy and unbearable wait before something we've been looking forward to. An event perhaps, or Christmas, or a birthday or a concert by that one guy who only comes to your country once every 3 years. We count down the days in a bittersweet atmosphere of excitement and restlessness, with every day longer than the last until the big 'thing' happens.
So spare a thought for those poor souls who spend their years and even decades waiting for a certain special event which only happens once-a-decade, once-a-century or even once-a-millennium. From passion plays to interstellar movements, this is our list of event holidays centred around a truly exclusive and unique experience.
Total Solar Eclipse
Let's start small with a once-a-year event. Eclipses are one of the most recognised and obvious of all the astronomical phenomenon - when the moon passes around the earth, occasionally it will pass in front of the sun to bathe the parts of the earth below in darkness. This is called a solar eclipse. Far above the in the sky, the moon covers the sun with the solar light flashing around the sides and it is quite the sight to behold.
Solar eclipses can come in a number of forms depending on how much of the moon covers the sun. A partial eclipse happens when the moon and the sun are not exactly lined up, leaving the moon to only cover a small part of the sun. A total solar eclipse is when the entire sun is covered by the moon, leaving a black sphere in the sky surrounded by solar light. Finally, an annular solar eclipse is the rarest of all eclipses, and is what happens when the moon covers most of the sun, but not enough to prevent a sphere of light surrounding the dark.
This one makes our list because total solar eclipses only reveal themselves to some parts of the world at a time. The next one to hit the UK for example is in June 2021, and the next one this year can only be seen in certain parts of South America. These are highly anticipated by those with an interest in astronomy, and often enthusiasts will cross the world in pursuit of them.
Oberammeragau Passion Play
Moving onto a once-in-a-decade event, the Oberammergau Passion Play is our entry for this category. This thespian wonder takes place every ten years in a small village at the beating heart of German Bavaria.
Over 2,000 villagers form the cast, the production team and the stewards of the Oberammergau Passion Play which sees the story of Jesus Christ's capture, crucifixion and resurrection. It is performed to a cast in the tens of thousands and it is widely regarded as a centurial staple in the European cultural diet. Jean Paul Sartre mentioned it in his existential novel Nausea, guests as varied as Henry Ford, Angela Merkel, and Gustav Eiffel have counted among the royalty, celebrities and world figures who have attended.
The story of Oberammergau's Passion Play is one of the most interesting aspects of this phenomenon - this is after all, the oldest passion play in the world, dating all the way back to 1634. As the story goes, a black plague was ravaging Europe as well as some inhabitants in Oberammergau. In order to save the infected and the village, the villagers swore to God that if he would lift the disease from the town, then every ten years from that moment onward they would put on a play celebrating the son of God, Jesus Christ. Sure enough, the village was spared its grisly fate and to honour their side of the bargain, Oberammergau held the first ever Passion Play. Since then, the play has happened every ten years apart from a break for the Second World War. This fact alone, makes the Oberammergau Passion Play well-worth noting down on your calendar for 2020.
Far above us, deep in the darkest space of our solar system, a spectacular, spinning ball of fiery rock is circling the planets and sun on an odyssey with no certain beginning or end. Every time it swings by us above earth, our sky is lit up by a jetstream of pure white light as it barrels across the stars. It is a glorious sight to behold, inspiring a curious sense of wonder for those who see it and are reminded that we are part of the same universe as this celestial ghost.
But Halley's comet is in fact a rare visitor around these parts; the comet only graces our skies once every 75 years. This is our once-in-a-century event. The last time it did so was back in 1986, when several excellent pictures were captured by space-bound satellites and other monitoring equipment. The next time it passes by will be in the year 2061 where according to astronomers, it will be brighter than last time since it will be on the same side of earth as the sun. Because of its rarity, an average human will only be able to see the comet twice in their lifetime.
Halley's comet has been sighted frequently throughout human history. It was first mentioned in a Chinese chronicle, and its most famous appearance was above Britain before the Battle of Hastings in 1066. There are even some theories that the Star of Bethlehem which led the wise men was Halley's Comet!