USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘festival’
Festival
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

The Festival of Lights

Context & Analysis

The subject is from Ashland, Oregon—a relatively small town in Oregon that is an extremely tight-knit community. She expressed to me that Ashland has a rich tradition of festivals— the subject has a lot of pride for her town and it’s traditions and it’s interesting that this is a tradition that involved the entire town. I asked her to elaborate on a few of the festivals and she mentioned that her favorite is the Festival of Lights. The Festival of Lights takes the weekend following Thanksgiving which signifies the entry into the winter, or the ‘holiday season’. Despite not necessarily being a religious celebration, I find it interesting that the festival chooses to feature figures traditionally associated with Christmas (i.e. Santa, Mrs. Clause, etc.). Additionally, the fact that the subject can name the precise restaurants where the appearances take place underscores the small town’s community and the importance of the event to her.

Main Piece

“The Festival of Lights takes place at, like, night at, like, usually 7 or something like that—maybe not quite that late, yeah. Um, but there’s a parade and you go downtown and it’s the Friday after Thanksgiving every year, um, and, like, Santa comes down to the plaza and he goes up into the balcony of one of the restaurants called…I think it’s the Bookroom? Or maybe it’s Granite Tap House. I think it’s the book room [nods]. It’s gotta be the book room. Um, and he comes out on the balcony so does Mrs. Clause and one of the reindeer—‘cuz you know they’ve been, like, coming down the street—and they turn off all the lights in the town. And then they count down from ten…[she pauses for dramatic effect] and every single Christmas light lights up and my town becomes a winter wonderland [she smiles broadly]. Um, and then you can get hot chocolate afterwards and there’s caroling—people who like stand and sing carols and it is—ugh, it’s so much fun and so quintessential small town.”

Festival
Narrative
Rituals, festivals, holidays

The Shakespeare Festival

Context & Analysis

The subject is a theater major at USC and is very proud of her hometown of Ashland for hosting one of the most highly regarded theater festivals in the country. She described to me a lot of the inside details of the festival and elaborated on the different theaters and plays that have been featured. It’s clear from her narrative that she is extremely passionate and knowledgeable about the subject and the town itself, and it was interesting to hear the information from someone who is so involved in both aspects of the festival.

Main Piece

“Ok, so the Oregon Shakespeare Festival is a regional theater company—one of the most highly regarded theater companies on the west coast and in the US—like really spectacular—and it runs usually from February to November—it has three theaters. They do usually 12 plays between the three [theaters]. The one that has usually the most plays in it per season is usually the Angus Bomer Theater and they do all sorts of plays in there. They’ve done musicals, they do Shakespeare, they do new works in there, it’s just, um, whatever fits the space best…and then there’s the Elizabethan which is, like, the oldest theater there and that is their outdoor theater and they usually do between, like, three to four plays in there. Usually Shakespeare and a musical. I know this season it’s Oklahoma [the play]. But I’ve seen Richard III in there, Hamlet in there, it’s really nice but also it gets really cold. And then there’s the Thomas Theater which is, like, their new kind of ‘black box’ style theater where they can switch up the seating however they want to do it. They’ve done some Shakespeares in there—like last season they did Henry IV part one and part two. It’s just meant for smaller audiences. It brings tourists from like all around the world, sustains the economy of our town and is a really really good place for diversity. They’re really big on, like, being inclusive and diverse. In fact, their production of Oklahoma this year has same-sex couples and it should be really good! They’re very big on not only producing works by authors of color but also making sure people of color are cast and are on all of their teams.”

Childhood
Customs
Festival
Folk Beliefs
Life cycle
Musical
Old age
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Visiting Spirits and Dead Babies

After college, my mom lived in Japan 7 years. She taught English to get by and apprenticed as a potter to gain experience. Growing up, she told me tons and tons of stories from her time there. She’d speak fondly of their unusual ceremonies and traditions, and how, by the end of it, her host families said she was so in tune with the culture, that if they closed their eyes, they couldn’t tell she was a foreigner.

Driving home from lunch one sunny afternoon, I ask her and my dad if they have any stories about the inexplicable that I could use for my folklore project. My mom starts:

“In Japan, it’s a uh … a worshipping of dead ancestors day in August, Oh-Bon. They put out the dead people’s – the dead grandpa, the dead grandma, they put out their favorite food, and they put out chopsticks, and they will, you know, burn their favorite incense and they do all this so the dead can come and visit. They do this in their home. Every year, in August. It’s always in August. So it’s like Halloween, except it’s got a religious significance. It’s when the dead come back. They have festivals in town too, Oh-Bon-Matsi.

“It was a festival for dead children. And there was a river running through the town. Not dead babies but dead children. And, they… But. You know lanterns with lights in them? They’d float these lanterns with lights in them down the river and it was just gorgeous. Each lantern represented a dead child and they had this beautiful eerie music, just vocalizations for the occasion. Traditional Japanese instruments too. And incense burning. It was a very volcanic, sort of lunarscape in the far north. I can’t remember the name of the… the far north of Honshu. So you can look up ‘dead baby festival Honshu’ and figure it out.”

This is a very comforting view of the afterlife. It’s as if death is not the end, but merely a move to a different city. Growing up, she imparted this same sense of the dead on me. She’d always tell me not to fear death or the presence of ghosts, but to welcome them, as they were once in our shoes and only wanted to visit. The dead baby festival further illustrates their benevolent view of death. In America, when a child dies, we mourn and often times never speak of it. In Japan, it is tragic, however they still take time to celebrate their lives. No matter if that life was only for an instant.

 

Customs
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Holi, India

This story was collected from a friend, who was born and raised in New Delhi, India and is 20 years old. She told me about a family tradition surrounding Holi, the festival of colors celebrated in India.

 

The festival is usually celebrated it in the beginning of march. The night before the big day of Holi, there is a smaller festival called Holika Dahan. There was a kind in Hindu mythology character, Hiranyakashyap, who was so arrogant and self-centered that he wanted to be the only one worshiped by his kingdom, but his son, Prahlad, continued to worship lord Vishnu (one of the 3 gods in Hindu triumvirate) who is believed to be responsible for the upkeep of the universe. To teach the son a lesson, the king’s sister, Holika, tricks him into sitting on a pyre with her. Holika wore a fire resistant dress and hoped that Prahlad would die while she survived but as fate had it, the opposite happened. So for this festival, all the neighbors go to the common temple and they have and get a piece of the bonfire to put in their temples at home to commemorate the victory of evil over good no matter what the odds are.

 

She always looked forward to this because her mother, grandmother, grandfather, little brother and her would always go to the temple together to bring this piece of burning wood and she would get to pick it out of the fire. As a kid, that was really a rush, and it became one of her favorite family traditions.

 

I had heard about Holi before, and even been to Holi-themed events, but I had never heard about the story behind it or the temple ritual my friend described. I think it is a very nice way to bring families together and remind them of their religious backgrounds.

Festival
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Winchester Rubber Duckie Festival

What is being performed?
TA: I’m from Winchester, Massachusetts which is like 30 minutes from Boston and every year
we have a Rubber Duckie Festival that the whole town comes to.
AA: What’s the rubber duckie festival?
TA: I don’t even really know. But I’ve been going my whole life. Basically, though, it happens
every summer and every kid brings a rubber duckie and a crane drops all the rubber duckies
into the river and they race. The duckie that makes it to the end gets a cash prize but it’s really
hard and completely dependent on luck.
AA: What are you celebrating?
TA: It’s about summer. I’m not exactly sure if other places do this but the rubber duckies are
supposed to just be symbols of happiness.

Why do they know or like this piece? where/who did they learn it from? What does it mean to
them?
AA: When did you first discover this festival?
TA: When I was a little kid my parents took me. And then I kept coming back because my dance
class would always perform.
AA: Do you like the festival?
TA: When I was a kid it was super fun because I would want my duck to win but now it’s just a
time for me to catch up with my friends and do something for Winchester. For my incredibly
small town, it means the world.
Context of the performance- where do you perform it? History?
The Winchester Rubber Duckie Festival happens annually in June. It brings the entire
community out, features youth performers, and has live music. It is a way for Winchester to be
united for a day.

Reflection
I have never heard of this festival before but think it’s cool and wish my town did something like
that. Having the racing of the rubber duckies is a fun way to get even the littlest children
involved. I think this is something that only works super well in small towns like Winchester but
is a good idea in theory for all towns.

Festival
general
Rituals, festivals, holidays

The Governors Ball Music Festival

‘My friend Rachel first told me about this music festival. She told me about how her sister had been to several festivals and told her to go experience a music festival. Music festivals our way to bond with friends and having experience of listening to so many musicians over the course of 1 to 5 days and even longer. These festivals in food live music of all sorts, however their specialties amongst different festivals. Every festival has food and beverage lineups, musical lineup, special festival vendors such as flower crowns and sponsored booths by big companies. I have found it so fun To experience festivals with my friends because we all enjoy the same music and get to experience it live with thousands of other people. There are so many different elements to a festival including learning music before (if you want to). Our first music festival was the Governor’s Ball music festival in New York City, our hometown. We wanted to go to a festival that was close to home in case anything were to happen and also because we love the musicians playing. We realized upon arriving that it was a festival where pictures were being taken left and right, and we got to experience the festival life. Festival life usually entails consuming illegal substances and reminiscing about the Woodstock days. While there are many more regulations at festivals nowadays, it still was done by most festival goers. There festivals all over the world that pertain to many different events, such as Oktoberfest in Germany and the flying lantern Festival is in Asia. In America there is a huge interest in music festival is because of the experience link to it. While the Governors Ball is one of the most popular festivals to attend, There are so many other festivals to experience in the future.

Bibliography

Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Jewish Festival/Ritual: Non-Traditional Passover/Seder

Main Piece: Jewish Festival/Ritual

“My family hosts Passover dinner every year, but our celebration of the holiday is nontraditional in that we perform only a 10 minute seder. When we begin the seder, we always start with a reading of the Haggadah, which recounts the story of the Jews’ exodus from Egypt and helps us to remember the suffering the Jews experienced as slaves and their happiness and celebration upon being freed. The leader of the seder, my mother, starts of the reading of the Haggadah and then each person around the table reads the paragraph following the previous. The Hebrew prayers we recite together, and upon reciting the prayer for wine, we drink our cup of wine or grape juice. To remember our ancestors tears, we take bitter greens, which are parsley, and dip them in salt water. To remember our ancestors’ hard labor and the bricks Pharaoh forced them to build, we break the matzah and create small matzah sandwiches by adding charoset, a chunky mixture of apples, matzah, and nuts, and horseradish. Before we finish reading the Haggadah, we stop to eat dinner which always starts with matzah ball soup and then we move onto the main courses. In my family, we make some of the same dishes every year, including my aunt’s arugula salad with lemon vinaigrette and pine nuts, beef brisket, and kugel, a sweet-tasting baked noodle casserole. After everyone finishes eating, we finish reading the Haggadah and then prepare dessert. It is during this time too that one of the men in the household, usually my dad, would hide the afikomen, a wrapped-up piece of broken matzah that is to be hidden and searched for by the children of the house those younger than 13 years old, but we don’t do this anymore since there are no more children in our family. Our Passover ends with dessert. Because we are forbidden on Passover to eat foods containing grains like wheat, oat, barley, spelt, etc., we have flourless desserts, including spongecake, fresh fruit, macaroons, chocolate, and flourless cookies.”

Background Information:

-Why does informant know this piece?

The informant is Jewish, and the Seder festival has been celebrated in her family for generations.

- Where did they learn this piece?

She learned about these traditions because she participates in this festival every year

- What does it mean to them?

This event is a way for her distant family to meet up each year.

Context:

- Where? The Seder happens at the dinner table in the informant’s home.

- When? The Seder tradition happens on Passover, which often falls near Christian Easter.

- Why? The Seder serves as a reminder of the Jewish people being freed from Egyptian slavery.

Personal Thoughts:

This year, my friend invited me to attend the Seder at her house. It was a very warm and pleasant experience. According to her, the Seder that happens at her house is very relaxed compared to a traditional Seder which can last up to four hours or more depending on how religious the family celebrating it is. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and I think this tradition of bringing the family together and eating a ritualized meal is very important for the preservation of Jewish culture.

Festival
Folk Dance
Kinesthetic
Musical
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Clicking Sticks: A Folk Dance

This is like a dance slash game -um- it’s from like Indian Hindu culture actually like it used to be Hindu, but it’s kind of becoming more of like an Indian thing now -um- and basically you have these sticks. Each person has like two sticks; They’re called Raas (pronounced “Ross”) R-A-A-S -um- and like you, you just go around like hitting your sticks with other people’s sticks and it’s like you, you just like dance around all night like hitting sticks with other sticks and like you’ll make like patterns with your friends and like different complex like dances.

 So like if I have these two sticks and you have yours we could be like 1, 2, 3, turn (gesturing to alternating sides with each count and then spinning around with sticks touching your partners) and then there’s like two lines and they go like opposite ways and like so like I’ll go like… so we both move to our, our left so like after we, I hit your stick three times and turn or whatever then I’ll go to like the person next to you and we’ll do the same thing and we’ll keep going. It’s kinda like a circuit kind of.

Yeah and it’s like it’s around the time so that this whole um dance party thing is called garba -um-… G-A-R-B-A. Um- so -um- yeah and it’s usually in like October November it’s like uhh fall harvest type of thing. Yeah. 

The Informant, one of my classmates, shared the dance of Raas after discussion section. The dance is commonly performed during the Navratri festival alongside a similar and simpler folk dance called Garba. The festival is celebrated to pay respect to the Mother Goddess of the Hindu religion, Shakti. The performance of the dance celebrates the nine incarnations of the goddess.

The Informant told me that she doesn’t remember a time where she didn’t take part in the festivities of Navratri, including the folk dances of Raas and Garba. They’re a part of her life. She doesn’t know who taught them to her or when she first danced. One of the Informant’s favorite parts of the dance is the color. She said it reminds her of Holi, the famous Indian “festival of colors” in which people smear each other with color. By the end, everyone is a vibrant hue. In Navratri, the people begin the festival wearing colorful and vibrant Garba garbs. The dance is rather simple. There are no official steps, but performers click sticks to keep rhythm.

Raas was a traditionally male dominated dance, but has become more inclusive over the years. The two things prominent in Raas are vigor and force, however, a one of passion instead of violence. Raas and Garba are both fast-paced energy-filled dances comprised of two circles, one rotating clockwise and the other counterclockwise.

I loved this account of some of the folk dances cherished in India, but I loved the backstory even more. The fact that these dances have been a part of her life so long that she can’t remember a time that they weren’t present is, in my belief, a true marker of a folk dance that is massively culturally important.  This act is a merging of three areas of folklore. The dance itself, the festival at which it’s performed, and the mythology it celebrates.

For more information on Raas, Garba, and the Navratri festival, see here.

Festival
general

The Festival of Flowers in Colombia

In Medellin, Colombia, our biggest festival and celebration is the Festival of Flowers, a yearly festival that celebrates our beautiful variety of flowers. We come together as a people and witness the flower growing families parading their latest designs as they carry them on their backs through the streets. It’s a breathtaking sight and something I’ll never quite forget. I’ve asked my grandmother, a native from Medellin who has spent her whole life there about her insights on the celebration.

A note: An Antioqueño or Paisa is a person from our region in the North of Colombia, high up in the Andes Range.

Below is a verbatim transcription first in Spanish, and then fully translated to English:

“El festival de las flores…pues el festival siempre se celebra en Augusto. El siete de Augusto. Ya están organizando el del año próximo. Entonces te voy a decir del festival de las flores. El antioqueño ácido muy negociante siempre, mi amor. El que el vende, lo produce. Ai aquí cerca a Medellín un pueblito muy frío, muy frío que se llama Santa Elena. Aya desde muchos años se cultivan las flores, y las señoras ricas aquí en Medellín le busca tener floreros con flores muy hermosas. Aya se cultivan flores de todos tipos muy hermosas, finas, como las rosas, orcidias, romelias, pero también flores más baratitas, las margaritas, los camelias, las flores menos elegantes, menos caras. Entonces, el señor cultivaba las flores, y las esposas y las niñas se venían a Medellín para venderlas y habían barrios más ricos como tu conoces aquí en Medellín como por ejemplo laureles y el poblado, la gente son muy ricas.

Entonces las que venían con las orcidias, la flor nacional de Colombia, las rosas que son hermosas aquí, las romelias, las flores más elegantes de vendían en el poblado y las señoras las compraban por que ellas no tenían probeñnas de plata. Pero las otras florecitas al fin se hicieron las más populares, porque ya la gente no tenían tanta plata entonces esas flores ya se vendían muchas aquí en el centro, en el verinque, en la media, en barrios menos ricos.

Se volvió una industria grandísima. Entonces el campesino sembraba una quadrita de tierra al año, y ya después podía sembrar dos o tres. Y se volvió tan importante sembrar flores que de volvió un negocio tan importante como vender frutas o pedalear carros. Entonces esta feria de las flores se originó a por ay cuarenta o cincuenta años. Pero las flores han sido desde ase muchos años un patrimonio antioqueño en casi todos los pueblos, pero mucho más en este porque la gente de especializaron. Por ejemplo las margaritas, las naturales, eran solamente blancas y amarillas. Pero el antioqueño se inventó la forma de ser las margaritas moradas, azules, o verdes. Entonces eso les aumentaban mucho el negocio.

Entonces cada vez el campesino sabía más de esas flores, muchas variedades de esas flores se hicieron porque el antioqueño las creo, por eso se volvió una industria fuerte, por eso se ha echo famoso, y en esos últimos cincuenta años se han volvió una exhibición con esos silleteros.

ENGLISH:

“So the festival of flowers. Well, the festival is always celebrated in August. The 7th of August. They are already organizing the festival for next year. So I am going to tell you about the festival of flowers. The antioqueño has always been very business savy, my love. What he sells, he made himself. Here, near Medellin, there is a town that is very very cold called Santa Elena. There, for many years, they’ve been cultivating flowers. And the rich women of Medellin look to have big bouquets of flowers with beautiful lush flowers. There they cultivate flowers of all types, beautiful, fine flowers. Roses, Romelias, Orchids, but also cheaper flowers, Daisys, Camellias, less elegant ones that cost less. So there in Santa Elena, the men cultivate the flowers and the women and their children come into Medellin to sell them. There were richer neighborhoods like you know, such as Laurels and the town center, where the people are very rich. That’s where you buy the nice flowers. There they had the orchids, the national flower of Colombia, also the fine roses which are incredible here. The Romelias, too, the most beautiful flowers of all kinds. And the rich women would come and buy them because they had no money problems.

But in the end it was the cheaper flowers that became most popular because Colombia fell on hard times and no one had any money, so those cheaper flowers sold very well in the city center, in all of the neighborhoods with less money. The flower industry became huge. So at first the country fellow would plant one plot of flowers and then year on year it would grow, he would have two or three plots of flowers. It became so important a business that one could make more money selling flowers than selling fruit or driving around a cart.

So this festival of flowers of ours really became well established about forty, fifty years ago. But flowers have been an important facet to us antioqueños in almost ever town for a very long time, but most especially here because the people really specialized in it. For example, daisies, the natural ones, were only white and yellow. Yet the paisa came up with a method of cultivation that allowed for purple, blue, and green daisies. So these new flowers really led to quite a growth in flower production and selling.

So every time the paisa knew more about those flowers, new varieties arose, each special and cultivated by those countrymen. That’s why it became a strong industry. That’s why it’s world famous. And in those last fifty years it’s become that famous exhibition with those displays on the cultivator’s backs.

Analysis: this is a very interesting story that captures a lot of the shifting dynamics in Colombian society as well as economic disparities. This festival truly is the biggest celebration we have in Medellin and it was lovely to hear my grandmother’s thoughts on it. It has quickly become a major cultural symbol for us paisas.

Customs
general
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Raksha Bandhan – India

My informant is half Indian and Caucasian. She considers herself not “very Indian” but explained to me one Indian festival that her family used to celebrate every year:

“So in India we have a holiday called Raksha bandhan where it’s basically just celebrating the brother and sister bond. Or basically any male or female bond—it can be cousins too in a family. What basically happens is the sister or girl cousin ties like a little bracelet—a little hand-made bracelet—on the brother or the male cousin. That’s like a little show of love. And then in return the brother or the male cousin gives a gift or money to the sister or girl cousin. So we always loved celebrating it because my cousin gets like a little crappy bracelet but me and my sister get cash in return. It’s a great holiday.”

 

Hahah that’s amazing. When you guys do this, is there a certain date that you do it to celebrate or is it just whenever?

 

“There is a certain day. I’m not really sure, but I’m pretty sure it’s sometime in August”

 

Do you guys celebrate every year?

 

“We usually do it every year.”

 

And do you guys still do it?

 

“Uhm we still do it. But I don’t have any brothers so we always do it with my cousins. But honestly this year we didn’t do it cause I think they’re tired of getting ripped off hahah. And there’s more girls in our family than guys, so it’s kind of sad cause they’re giving so much money away to all the girls in the family. The guys literally just… it’s not even a….it’s thread. Like what you would use thread—that’s how thin the bracelet is. We just tie it on them. But it was really cute cause my guy cousins, I have one that is older than us but two that are 7 and 10. They were just… you can just tell on their face that they were so confused like ‘What? This is a rip off’.”

 

After some research, I found that Raksha Bandhan is a festival that celebrates the bond between a brother or sister or any brother-sister type of relationship. According to the Hindu calendar, the festival is recognized on the full moon in the month of Shravan, which is August. The bracelet—called Rakhi— that is tied onto the boy’s wrist symbolizes the girl’s sisterly love for them. The boy is supposed to offer them gifts in return along with a vow promising them protection. This festival seems to stem from the idea that women are spiritually superior and require physical protection whereas men are physically superior and need spiritual protection.

[geolocation]