Tag Archives: #festival



A, 19, is an Indian student at USC. He has lived in India for 12 years of his life. Both his mom’s and his dad’s sides of the family practice Hinduism. He then explained the traditions, rituals, and celebrations that are practiced in Pujas for certain Gods during their respective festivals.


Most Hindu households reserve a room or space in a room for a ritual that can be practiced daily or for special occasions. A puja involves placing idols or photos of gods that a Hindu family may specifically worship. These idols or pictures are decorated with garlands of flowers, and colored powders of red and yellow are dabbed onto the heads of these gods. A sweet dish is traditionally made that is emblematic of the festival or that the god enjoys. A lamp or ‘dia’ is placed on a special silver dish along with some rice and colored powders. This plate is then rotated near the idol, with the fire signifying our communication with God, while songs are sung in either regional languages or Sanskrit, and a small bell is rung. In the end, we pray to these gods, place our hands near the lamp for a second, and then place the warmth on our faces. We take a piece of the sweet dish with our right hand, as is customary, as the left hand is seen as dirty.


Puja, a ceremonial worshiping ritual, is usually performed by offering fruit or flowers to a Hindu deity that is represented by an idol or image. This ritual is practiced to reinforce a connection with a God and show appreciation for said deity. The word Puja derives from the Dravidian word for flower Pu, explaining the use of floral garlands in said celebration. In this celebration, flowers are meant to procure health, wealth, and prosperity. Pujas can be held throughout the year but are more prevalent during March and October/November; this is because of the cyclical calendar that is symbolic of the stages of life. The seasons of Spring and Fall (March and October/November) are very representative of the transitions between life and death. Many other cultures around the world celebrate similar dates, like easter and All Souls Day. Overall, puja is a ritual of offering to a God in Hindu mythology.

Chinese Lunar New Year


A, 18, is a student at USC. He is a French citizen of Chinese descent; he told me about how his family celebrated Lunar New Year when he visited China. He told me he grew up in France, so he seldom celebrated this tradition, only when he was in China back when he was young.  


Chinese Lunar New Year is celebrated on the second new moon after the winter solstice, so it’s usually around the end of January or the beginning of February. Every Lunar New Year is about a different zodiac animal, this is the year of the rabbit (2023). We usually wear red or red clothes and use traditional Chinese red paper lamps. We also put up fish posters to symbolize wealth in China, we put them on walls and doors to bring good fortune. We eat dumplings and blow-up firecrackers and fireworks.


Chinese Lunar New Year is a very common celebration among the Chinese diaspora throughout the world. It celebrates the New Year, and just like many other cultures, it lines up with the life cycle calendar beginning with spring (birth) and ending in winter (death). It is a liminal time between two cycles, so it is a magical time outside of the norm filled with superstitions, feasts, and celebrations. This festival is annually celebrated, as one might assume by its name; however, contrastively to the Solar year and Gregorian Calendar, this festival aligns with the Lunar Calendar, which is why it is on a different day every year. The rituals and superstitions that are celebrated during this festival often are practiced to bring good luck; similar to most cultures around the world that also have “good fortune” superstitions during their new year celebrations as well.

Mardi Gras

Text (festival)

“A week-long festival celebrating New Orlean’s culture and heritage.”


My informant has lived in Louisiana for 4 years and attended the Mardi Gras festival two times.

Q: “What exactly is Mardi Gras?”

A: “The celebration originated in New Orleans and people travel from all across the country to celebrate Mardi Gras here in New Orleans. Basically, it’s a week-long festival/series of parades that happens at the beginning of January lasting until Fat Tuesday right before Ash Wednesday.”

Q: “What is the significance of the celebration?”

A: “It’s essentially a ‘last hoorah’ before lent so it’s the last time you indulge, drinking, eating sweets, especially king’s cake, before you give it up for lent.”


Mardi Gras is a French phrase meaning “Fat Tuesday” translated into English. This comes from the custom of using up all of the fats in the home before lent in preparation for fasting and abstinence. Important families will create floats and dress up in extravagant glittery costumes driving the float around the city throwing out beads, coconuts, candy, etc. There is jazz music, performers, and people in costumes. New Orleans has a lot of French culture stemming from the Louisiana Purchase which gave the United States new land, including New Orleans. People typically dress up in the Mardi Gras colors of purple, gold, and green. People not coming from “important” New Orleans families will typically just wear comfortable clothes aligning with the Mardi Gras colors and walking shoes as they’ll be outside walking a lot. Different parades are happening throughout the week at different times and the streets are filled with people in celebration. The celebration marks the beginning of Lent, a yearly 40-day fasting period leading up to easter. This is exemplary of the connection between festivals and yearly cycles/the calendar as well as religious folklore. Festivals are often symbolic of cyclical time and the calendar year as Lent is a practice occurring yearly in Christian communities and the festival serves as an opportunity to commemorate and celebrate Christian practices and beliefs. Larry Danielson, a religious folklorist explores these themes of religious rituals and practices including communal groups participating in religious originating festivals representative of shared belief. Mardi Gras specifically has Catholic roots and people use festivals as a way to come together and provide a more deep appreciation and nuanced understanding of religious tradition.

Durgashtmi – Ghost Festival

There is a festival in India called Durgaashtmi, and what happens is that ghost enter the human body – ghosts like past spirits. They enter the body because maybe they haven’t gone to heaven or something like that. Like they haven’t found piece in their life or death. On the festival day these spirits want to show that they are still around and need peace, so their enter some women’s bodies, and these women become uncontrollable. So people say that they have supernatural powers or force or energy and totally become crazy. That happens in India – you can watch videos and stuff. Sometimes they chain these kind of people up. So all these Indian priests come and try to provide peace to the spirits by saying mantras in Sanskrit. And basically these mantras are supposed to get the ghost out of their body. Many priests believe the ghosts are a ghost of this goddess called Durga. She is considered to be a mother figure that’s super angry that won’t go out off your body. Some people also die from this process because they get so crazy and start to drink blood and stuff. It’s a very weird festival, at the end of the day they try to get the ghosts to quit the bodies of the people and the people aren’t dead yet.

Context: [informant] The main aim of the festival is to provide peace to the spirits and get them out of the world of the living. And this is of course scary also, because if Google Durgaashmi ghost you can find that girls are really.. I don’t know… like there are really ghosts coming in the bodies.

Thoughts: Seemingly possessed people are a phenomenon all over the world, and I think it can be looked at from many different lenses. Psychologists might call it psychosis, and religious people might call it possession. Regardless, it is very interesting that India has created a festival around 

Sufism: Qalander and the Tradition of Jhuley Lal

Context: Some research showed that other sources spell Qalander and Jhuley Lal differently than informant JL, a former federal senator from Pakistan, did. This may be because of translation to the romanized alphabet, but the different spellings are Qalandar and Jhulelal. Regardless, Qalander is a Sufi, likely referring to Lal Shahbaz Qalandar, who lived in the 12th century and was buried in Sindh, which JL notes is his former country. Below, JL relays his knowledge of Qalander and his annual tradition of dancing. 

Main Piece: Transcript:

JL: One of the Sufis, his past name is “Qalander”, who is a very popular sufi. He also has an annual event, and his event is also marked by dancing… Even though he is a Muslim Sufi, most of his followers are Hindus because they believe that this Sufi is a reincarnation of a Hindu god… called Jhuley Lal. The word Jhuley means in the local language “the rocking” like dancing… and Lal actually is the red color. He used to wear red dresses always and he always used to dance going around in circles. And that is why people go in his tradition, and they all dance and most of them also wear red clothes. So you have a Muslim Sufi who is a reincarnation of a Hindu god. And there were people in millions even coming from across the border who are Hindus, and of course you also have Muslims. It is also in my former country, it is in the province of Sindh… His shrine is in a city, where you have the annual event where people will go and dance…

JL: So what happens is when the region was locked by terrorists for a time, who were hardcore islamists, they wanted to put a stop to this dancing, as you can understand you have man and woman rocking together at the shrine. Maybe 10 to 15 years back, the terrorists had actually planted a bomb in the shrine… and the bomb exploded and about 150 people died. And they thought that by doing that they would put a stop to all these followers coming to the shrine… And the tradition was that every morning at 4am they would ring the bell. And right after that explosion which probably took place at night, on the dot at 4am the caretaker of the shrine rang the bell and people came back to the courtyards and started dancing and nobody was afraid, so the tradition continued. 

I continued to ask JL about the strength of the belief in Sufism (for more, see Sufism: Festivals). He told me that, for the Sufist’s belief, so long as you were dancing and following the tradition of the Sufi, nothing bad would happen to you. The tradition of Jhuley Lal was so strong that not even a murderous bombing would stop the followers from dressing in red and dancing in the courtyard. 

Thoughts: Sufism is a firm belief system whose followers believe in devoutly in the hope that it will bring them good fortune. Even through death and tragedy, their devotion to Sufism did not waver, and I think that makes Sufism and its festivals powerful traditions. There’s certainly something to be said here about Sufis as role models for a population. The community of Sufists believe in these Sufis because of their positive qualities, and they practice traditions like dancing in red dresses so that they can imitate those positive qualities and find good fortune.