Sunday, 19 June 2011

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Fasching (
Fasching,  the Roman Catholic Shrovetide carnival as celebrated in German-speaking countries. There are many regional differences concerning the name, duration, and activities of the carnival. It is known as Fasching in Bavaria and Austria, Fosnat in Franconia, Fasnet in Swabia, Fastnacht in Mainz and its environs, and Karneval in Cologne and the Rhineland. The beginning of the pre-Lenten season generally is considered to be Epiphany (January 6), but in Cologne, where the festivities are the most elaborate, the official beginning is marked on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of the year. Merrymaking may get underway on the Thursday before Lent, but the truly rambunctious revelry associated with Fasching usually reaches its high point during the three days preceding Ash Wednesday, culminating on Shrove Tuesday. The names of these final days also vary regionally.
Although the exact historical origins of Fasching are unclear, the observance of its rites is mentioned in Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Parzival (early 13th century). It was a festival that originated in the cities—most notably Mainz and Speyer—and was already established in Cologne by 1234. Traditionally, it was not only a feast before Lent but also a time during which the rules and order of daily life were subverted. This gave rise to such customs as handing over the keys of the city to a council of fools or ceremoniously letting women rule. It also inspired noisy costumed parades and masked balls; satirical and often impertinent plays, speeches, and newspaper columns; and generally excessive behaviour—all of which are still common elements of contemporary Fasching celebrations. After the Reformation, Protestant areas of Europe took exception to such Roman Catholic excesses, and carnival practices began to die out in them.

Mardi gras (
The terms "Mardi Gras" "Mardi Gras season", and "Carnival season" in English, refer to events of the Carnival celebrations, beginning on or after Epiphany and culminating on the day before Ash Wednesday. Mardi Gras is French for "Fat Tuesday" (in ethnic English tradition, Shrove Tuesday), referring to the practice of the last night of eating richer, fatty foods before the ritual fasting of the Lenten season, which begins on Ash Wednesday. Related popular practices are associated with celebrations before the fasting and religious obligations associated with the penitential season of Lent. Popular practices include wearing masks and costumes, overturning social conventions, dancing, sports competitions, parades, etc. Similar expressions to Mardi Gras appear in other European languages sharing the Christian tradition. In English, the day is called Shrove Tuesday, associated with the religious requirement for confession before Lent begins.
In many areas, the term "Mardi Gras" has come to mean the whole period of activity related to the celebratory events, beyond just the single day. In some US cities, it is now called "Mardi Gras Day" or "Fat Tuesday".The festival season varies from city to city, as some traditions consider Mardi Gras the entire period between Epiphany or Twelfth Night and Ash Wednesday. Others treat the final three-day period before Ash Wednesday as the Mardi Gras. In Mobile, Alabama, Mardi Gras-associated social events begin in November, followed by mystic society balls on Thanksgivingthen New Year's Eve, followed by parades and balls in January and February, celebrating up to midnight before Ash Wednesday. In earlier times parades were held on New Year's Day. Other cities famous for Mardi Gras celebrations include Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Barranquilla, Colombia, Sydney, Australia, Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, Quebec City, Canada; Mazatlán, Sinaloa in Mexico; and New Orleans, Louisiana, United States.
Carnival is an important celebration in Catholic European nations. In the United Kingdom and Ireland, the week before Ash Wednesday is called "shrovetide", ending on Shrove Tuesday. It has its popular celebratory aspects as well. Pancakes are a traditional food. Pancakes and related fried breads or pastries made with sugar, fat and eggs are also traditionally consumed at this time in many parts of Latin America and the Caribbean.

Obon (
Obon is one of the most important Japanese traditions. People believe that their ancestors' spirits come back to their homes to be reunited with their family during Obon and pray for the spirits. For the reason, Obon is an important family gathering time, and many people return to their hometowns.
Obon was originally celebrated around the 15th day of the seventh month in the lunar calendar. Obon periods are nowadays different in various regions of Japan. In most regions, Obon is celebrated around August 15th, and it typically begins 13th and ends 16th of August. In some areas in Tokyo, Obon is celebrated around July 15th, and it is still celebrated on the 15th day of the seventh month in the lunar calendar in many areas in Okinawa.
Japanese people clean their houses and place a variety of food offerings such as vegetables and fruits to the spirits of ancestors in front of a butsudan (Buddhist altar). Chochin lanterns and arrangements of flower are usually placed by the butsudan.
On the first day of Obon, chochin lanterns are lit inside houses, and people go to their family's grave to call their ancestors' spirits back home. It's called mukae-bon. In some regions, fires called mukae-bi are lit at the entrances of houses to guide the spirits. On the last day, people bring the ancestor's spirits back to the grave, hanging chochin painted with the family crest to guide the spirits. It's called okuri-bon. In some regions, fires called okuri-bi are lit at entrances of houses to send the ancestors' spirits. During Obon, the smell of senko (Japanese incense sticks) fills Japanese houses and cemeteries.
Toro Nagashi (floating lanterns) is a tradition often observed during Obon. People send off their ancestors' spirits with the lanterns, lit by a candle inside and floated down a river to the ocean. Also, Bon Odori (folk dance) is widely practiced on Obon nights. Styles of dance vary from area to area, but usually Japanese taiko drums keep the rhythms. People go to their neighborhood Bon Odori held at parks, gardens, shrines, or temples, wearing yukata (summer kimono) and dance around a yagura stage. Anyone can participate in Bon Odori, so join the circle and imitate what others are doing.
Top Obon Events in Japan
Obon is not a Japanese national holiday, but many people take vacations during this time so that they can visit their hometowns. Especially, mid August is the peak travel season like Golden Week in Japan. Airports, train stations, and highways are jammed with travelers.

Inti raymi (
The Inti Raymi ("Festival of the Sun") was a religious ceremony of the Inca Empire in honor of the god Inti, one of the most venerated gods in Inca religion. According to chronicler Garcilaso de la Vega, Sapa Inca Pachacuti created the Inti Raymi to celebrate the winter solstice and a new year in the Andes of the Southern Hemisphere. Since 1944, a theatrical representation of the Inti Raymi has been taking place at Sacsayhuamán (two km. from Cusco) on June 24 of each year, attracting thousands of tourists and local visitors.
During the Inca Empire, the Inti Raymi was the most important of four ceremonies celebrated in Cusco, as related by Inca Garcilaso de la Vega. The celebration took place in the Haukaypata or the main plaza in the city. The ceremony was also said to indicate the mythical origin of the Incas, lasting nine days of colorful dances and processions, as well as animal sacrifices to ensure a good cropping season. The last Inti Raymi with the Inca Emperor's presence was carried out in 1535, after which the Spanish conquest and the Catholic Church suppressed it. Some natives participated in similar ceremonies in the years after, but it was completely prohibited in 1572 by the Viceroy Francisco de Toledo, who claimed it was a pagan ceremony opposed to the Catholic faith.
In 1944, a historical reconstruction of the Inti Raymi was directed by Faustino Espinoza Navarro and indigenous actors. The first reconstruction was largely based on the chronicles of Garcilaso de la Vega and only referred to the religious ceremony.

Songkran (
The Songkran festival (Thai: from Sanskrit saṃkrānti, "astrological passage") is celebrated in Thailand as the traditional New Year's Day from 13 to 15 April. It coincides with the New Year of many calendars of South and Southeast Asia.
The date of the festival was originally set by astrological calculation, but it is now fixed. If these days fall on a weekend, the missed days off are taken on the weekdays immediately following. If they fall in the middle of the week, many Thai take off from the previous Friday until the following Monday. Songkran falls in the hottest time of the year in Thailand, at the end of the dry season. Until 1888 the Thai New Year was the beginning of the year in Thailand; thereafter 1 April was used until 1940. 1 January is now the beginning of the year. The traditional Thai New Year has been a national holiday since then.
Songkran has traditionally been celebrated as the New Year for many centuries, and is believed to have been adapted from an Indian festival. It is now observed nationwide, even in the far south. However, the most famous Songkran celebrations are still in the northern city of Chiang Mai, where it continues for six days and even longer. It has also become a party for foreigners and an additional reason for many to visit Thailand for immersion in another culture.

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