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All the world’s a celebration

Isobella Cantwell  |  18 August 2020

All around the world, people have found different ways to celebrate the things that are important to them. One of our young editors decided to explore some celebrations that might seem strange to us, but have a special significance for many people.

HOLI FESTIVAL – MATHURA, INDIA

This festival is broad in terms of celebrations and activities to partake in. Holi is also known as the festival of colours, getting its nickname due to the fact that people actually go around pelting each other with coloured powders.

The purpose of this Hindi festival, and the many celebrations that accompany it, is to express devotion to Lord Vishnu, god of preservation. Some other things featured throughout Holi are bonfires, various dancing groups, sacred performances, and persistent drum banging.

Colour and wonder

The world is a beautiful and wonderous place, but often we forget that in our day-to-day lives. Bringing a sense of colour and wonder to celebrations helps remind us of the gift that the world is to us. From fireworks and light shows, to dressing up in beautiful clothes and celebrating in beautiful temples and churches, colour and wonder are an important part of our cultural life.

Catholic churches can be colourful and wonderous places at times – filled with colourful art and singing. Different Catholic communities around the world have brought their own art and music to the faith, enriching people’s understanding and appreciation of the Gospel.

  • Why do you think colour and wonder are important parts of celebration?
  • Can you think of any other celebrations that incorporate colour, dance or art?
  • What role does colour and wonder play in your own celebrations and faith?

THE BABY JUMPING FESTIVAL – CASTRILLO DE MURCIA, SPAIN

On the surface, this custom might seem a little bizarre and dangerous. However, the tradition dates all the way back to 1620.

Believe it or not, the baby jumping festival is actually an imitation baptismal ceremony for newborn babies, and is considered to absolve them of sin and provide them with protection against illness and misfortune.

Taking place 60 days after Easter, babies who were born the year before are laid on mattresses in the street while costumed men leap over them.

Very similar to the way baptisms are performed in Australia, except not really.

Welcoming new life

The arrival of a new baby is a cause for celebration in cultures across the globe. There are many different ways of commemorating new births in different cultures, expressing people’s desire that the child will be healthy and live a happy and prosperous life.

In Catholicism, the sacrament of baptism is a way of welcoming new babies (and sometimes adults) into the community. Families have many different traditions around baptism – some have special gowns or religious items such as crosses or Bibles that are passed down through the generations. 

  • Can you think of any other cultural celebrations for newborns in other cultures?
  • What do you do to celebrate newborns in your family?

THE CHEUNG CHAU BUN FESTIVAL – HONG KONG, CHINA

This festival is also a religious tradition dating back to the 18th century. 

The eighth day of the fourth month on the Chinese calendar marks a special day, Buddha’s birthday. The festival itself runs from the fifth day to the ninth day of the month and includes parades, sacred performances, and other various activities as well as the main event: the bun scrambling competition.

Participants in this competition begin by standing at the bottom of huge bamboo towers studded with buns. When the signal is given, each contestant climbs as though their life depends on it. The goal in mind is to grab the highest bun possible, as it is believed to bring good fortune. You might be wondering what all the hype is around this but trust me, watching a man climb a ten-foot tall tower of buns is an intense, life-changing experience.

Food and faith

A good celebration isn’t complete without some food to share, but food can sometimes have a symbolic purpose in celebrations as well. Eating and sharing a particular meal at a certain time can remind people of a story or meaningful idea that brings them together as a family and community. The Jewish Passover meal is a celebration that marks a particularly important community event. Catholics would recognise how Easter eggs symbolise the new life of Easter.

  • Can you think of other food-related celebrations around the world?
  • What role does food play in your own celebrations and faith?

THE APACHE SUNRISE CEREMONY/NA’II’EES – ARIZONA, USA

Although it would be near about impossible for you to sit in on this experience, here’s a description of what happens. The ceremony is a rite of passage for young girls entering womanhood. One of the most physically and emotionally intense ceremonies still practised, it requires months of preparation and training.

During the four-day ceremony the girls must follow certain rules such as not washing or touching their skin. Over the course of the ceremony the girls are made to dance for hours on end without stopping; pray in silent, isolated places for extended periods of time; and at the beginning of the ceremony are coated with a yellow powder made from various grains. Just think about the itching (and no washing allowed).

On the last day, the girls must run, far and fast. This is done to honour the legend of the white-painted woman who was believed to have run so far east in old age that eventually she caught up with her younger self, merging, and becoming forever immortal.

Rites of initiation

Becoming an adult is an important landmark in a person’s life, and many cultures have traditional initiation rites and celebrations to mark that transition. In western culture, those traditional rites have largely been replaced by more secular ones – high school graduations, getting the keys to the car, starting university – but they are still meaningful moments in people’s lives.

  • Why do communities have rites of initiation?
  • Can you think of any other rites of initiation in different cultures around the world?
  • What rites of initiation do you have in your community?

 

 

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