Seville’s April Fair: Relive the Spanish Past

Seville’s April Fair: Relive the Spanish PastLa Feria de Abril or Seville’s April Fair is held in the city of Seville. Seville is more popular for its oranges and Islamic architecture. The Fair commences on a Tuesday at midnight two weeks after Easter and continues till the midnight of the following Sunday. The fair started off in 1847 as a cattle market and is now a colorful extravaganza attracting over a million visitors both local and foreign. This festival is mainly about ongoing flamenco performances, bull fights and a free supply of Tapas.

The main event takes place at Real de La Feria where a thousand marquees known as “casetes” in Spanish are setup. The “casetes” are tastefully decorated with multi colored paper lantern which present a pretty picture when lit up at night.

Seville’s April Fair: Relive the Spanish PastMost of the casetes are owned by local families, businesses, clubs, and societies and admission is strictly on invitation only. Here guests are entertained with food, Flamenco performances and free flowing “tapas” as Spanish drink. There are some public casetes as well set up by the city council. The ladies of Seville dressed in pretty flamenco outfits roam around the town and the men in their riding gear strut about on horses. Every day at noon, a procession, “Paseo de Caballos”, is taken out in which girls dressed as Flamenco dancers ride through the city in beautiful carriages. The bull fights take place later in the evening at Plaza de Toros de Masetranza. Other amusements, like rides and games for families, are also arranged in a ground adjacent to the main venue of the fair.

If you happen to be in Spain in April, do visit Seville and feel the real spirit of Spain.

Anastenaria

AnastenariaThe Anastenaria is another festival with deep pagan roots blended with Christian rituals. The Christian Orthodox festivals revolve around various Christian saints; the Anastenaria Festival is celebrated in some villages of Greece and Bulgaria to honor Saint Constantine and Saint Helen. A popular legend associated with its origin is that once the church caught fire with the saints trapped in it. Some brave locals on hearing the cries for help of the saints, rushed into the burning building to rescue the reverend saints. The blazing fire did not harm the locals and from that day onwards, a festival is held in which the devotees walk on burning coals.

Anastenaria is celebrated in May and dancing, music, animal sacrifice and walking on fire are the main rituals of the festival. The participants gather in a special building or a room called Konaki where the icons of the saints are placed along with other objects considered sacred. The festival commences with dancing; some devotees get so involved in the dancing that it seems as if they are in a trance. On the 21st of May, the participants march towards a holy well to be blessed by the holy water. Next ritual is the animal sacrifice; the meat is later distributed among the villagers. Then a bed of burning coals is prepared and devotees dance around it. Some of them even run barefoot on the hot coals carrying the icons. The festival lasts for three days and ends with a private fire walking ritual.

Songkran: The Buddhist New Year

Songkran: The Buddhist New YearSongkran is the Buddhist New Year celebrated in Thailand in the month of April. Thais have a unique way of celebrating this festival, they spray water everywhere and on everyone!

Songkran lasts for three days during which life comes to a standstill as all the businesses, government offices, schools etc are closed and those working in other cities return to their native towns to celebrate the New Year.

Songkran: The Buddhist New YearWater holds great significance and is considered a purifier which washes away misfortunes and bad luck. The houses are thoroughly cleaned before Songkran. People go to temples where the images of Buddha are bathed by pouring scented water from silver bowls. After that it is water splashing time as young, old, priests, policemen, locals and foreigners are sprayed with water. You can see people armed with water guns, spray guns, hoses, bottles etc throwing water on each other. This activity continues from dawn to dusk.

Songkran: The Buddhist New YearBesides merry making, there is a sober side to the festival as well. Thai youngsters sprinkle water onto the hands of their elders (parents and grandparents) as a mark of reverence. The elders in turn bless them and wish them prosperity and good health. Monks are also presented with new robes.

A Miss Songkran Beauty Contest and colorful parades are also a part of the festival.

Easter

Easter eggsEaster is the most important Christian festival of the year relating to the crucifixion and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Easter is a movable festival which occurs between 22nd March and 25th April as it is celebrated on the first Sunday that falls after the first full moon following the spring equinox. Easter marks the end of the Lent; a 40 day fasting period.

The Roman Catholics offer special prayers in the church every Friday till Good Friday. As Jesus was crucified on Friday, it is a sad day for the Christians. A special mass is held on Friday at 3 pm sharp as Jesus Christ was crucified at this hour. A Special midnight Mass is also held on Saturday, the eve of Easter. In some churches, all candles are extinguished on Thursday and then on Easter eve, new candles are lit. The main candle called the Paschal candle is white in color with a red cross on it and signifies the presence of the Christ amongst the people. This candle is lit for a whole month and also on special occasions. People light their candles with it as well. Easter Sunday symbolizes the resurrection of Jesus and begins with special prayers in the church. For Christians too, it is a sign of a new beginning.

Easter candleThe day is then spent greeting and visiting friends and family and feasting. Easter eggs and Easter bunnies are some Easter traditions. Easter eggs represent a new life. Brightly colored eggs are hid all around the house and the garden for children to find. The eggs can be of chocolate or they may be an egg shaped container with goodies inside. Other traditional Easter foods are hot cross buns, roast duck or roast lamb.

Holi: The Festival of colors

Holi: The Festival of colorsThis festival of colors is celebrated by the Hindus all over the world. Holi is celebrated on the last full moon of the lunar month Phalguna which comes somewhere in February or March. Phalguna is the last month of the winter season as well and Holi is a way to welcome the spring season. However, Holi is mainly celebrated to mark the triumph of good over evil.

Although many legends are associated with its origin, the most popular one involves the demon king Hiranyakashyap, his daughter the she devil Holika and his son the pious Prahlad. Prahlad was a devotee of Lord Naarayana and had unshakeable faith in him. The demon king not happy with this situation ordered his daughter Holika to walk into a burning fire along with her brother. Holika cold not be harmed by fire but when she entered into it, contrary to everyone’s expectations, Holika was burnt to ashes while Prahlad escaped unscathed. Holi is celebrated to commemorate this victory of good over evil forces and a person’s ultimate faith in his Lord.

Holi: The Festival of colorsHoli celebrations kick off with the burning of the effigy of Holika over a huge pile of sticks collected for days on the eve of Holi. The next day, the day of Holi known as Dhuleti is a day of pure merrymaking and enjoyment. People of all ages from all walks of life throw colored powder and colored water on each other amidst the chants of Holi Hai. Singing, dancing and savoring especially made delicacies is another way to enjoy Holi.

Holi brings people together as not only Hindus but also members of other communities like Muslims and Christians take part in this joyous occasion as well.

Festival of Candelaria

festival of candelariaPuno is a quiet town in Peru better known for its scenic beauty. Puno rings with festivity, color and music as the town celebrates the Candelaria festival.

This colorful festival is a blend of Catholic and pagan customs. It is celebrated to honor the Virgin de la Candelaria (Virgin of Candles) in a traditional pre Columbian style. Town people along with 200 dancers and musicians dance along the streets of the town dressed in colorful costumes. The statue of the saint is carried through the town in a procession including priests and altar boys. The procession is doused with holy water as it passes by the cathedral. Spectacular parades, masks and fireworks are a regular feature of the 18 day festival.

festival of candelariaThe first nine days are spent decorating the church and arranging banquets and fireworks. The later celebrations are more influenced by pagan rituals and are related to the farming and mining activities of the town. The main dance of the festival is the Devil Dance or the Diablada. It is said that a group of miners trapped in cave created this dance and left themselves at the mercy of the Virgin of Candelaria. In the end, the celebrant head towards the graveyard to honor the dead.

Hadaka Masturi in Japan

Hadaka Masturi in JapanHadaka Masturi when translated in English means “naked festival”. If the word “naked” conjures all sorts of indecent images in your mind then you are in for a big disappointment. The naked festival in Japan has mostly male participants that too in loincloths. The festival takes place on the third Saturday in February in the Kannon-in Temple located in Saidai-Ji in Japan.

It is a kind of a religious festival in which thousands of men dressed to the minimum wrestle with each other in the freezing temperature for a pair of tiny sacred sticks called “Shingi”.

The local men gather in groups in garages. The groups of men consume large amount of Saki (Japanese wine) and jump up and down to keep themselves warm chanting “washoi”. They then jog around the neighborhood and are doused with ice cold water which is supposed to purify them. Chanting washoi, they proceed towards the main temple. When all of them gather at the shrine, two pieces of Shingi wood are dropped from the temple and men push, shove and trample each other to get to these Shingi. It is believed that anyone who catches the Shingi will be favored by the lady luck for the rest of the year. Another highlight of this festival is the food stalls and the taiko drumming.

This festival is mostly restricted to adult males; but separate events for young men and very rarely for women is also held.

The Amazing Abu Simbel Festival

abu simbel festivalThe Abu Simbel Temple in Egypt is a remarkable specimen of human intelligence. It was constructed during the reign of Ramses the second in the sandstone cliffs facing east. The temple was designed so that twice a year the inner sanctum was illuminated by the rays of the rising sun making the three statues inside to light up creating a life like image. The three statues are those of Ra, Amun and Ramses himself. The statue of Ptah, the God of darkness however remains unlit.

The two occasions on which the sun rays align with these magnificent statues to create the magical moment are Ramses accession to the throne (22nd February) and his birthday (22nd October).

The temple becomes crowded with tourists both local and foreign who gather before Dawn to watch this spectacular event which is worth waiting for. Music, dancing and food follows this spellbinding event but is no match for the mesmerizing scene witnessed inside the temple.

The construction of the Aswan Dam threatened the existence of the temple so the temple was dismantled and shifted 60 meters above its height and then put to gather again in the same relation with itself and the sun. This has caused the phenomenon to occur a day after it was actually planned.

The Abu Simbel festival celebrates human ingenuity and nature.

Sangha Day

Sangha Day

Buddhism with its very peaceful and soulful religious inclination has to offer various peaceful religious events throughout the year. Sangha day is one such religious day where the Magha Puja is done by believers of this religion.

The Sangha Day is also known as the Magha Puja Day and is the second most important event of the Buddhist calendar. The Sangha Day is celebrated to commemorate the unplanned gathering of around 1250 monks on a full moon night in Veluvana Vihara. Here the Buddha delivered a sermon in which he outlined a code of conduct for the monks.

Although widely believed that Sangha Day is mostly meant for monks and nuns, the Buddhist people all over the world celebrate it to reaffirm their obligations towards Buddhist beliefs and practices. The festival is given more importance in the west than in the east. It is celebrated on the full moon in November. The festivities include exchanging of gifts, lighting oil lamps, chanting, and meditations. Religious discussions and talks from senior citizens are also a feature of this festival. All of these are ways to reconfirm their Buddhist faith which is the essence of the festival.

Dating back to the history, Buddhism is full of such events. If you are interested in reading about these religious rituals, keep following us.

Eid-ul-Fitr

eid-ul-fitr-01Eid ul Fitr is the most awaited festival of the country. It is celebrated on the 1st of Shawal the 10th month of the Islamic lunar calendar. Eid ul Fitr is celebrated to commemorate the end of Ramadan. Ramadan the 9th Islamic month is the month of fasting. Muslims are directed not only to abstain from food and drink but also from sex, carnal thoughts, anger, lies, betrayal, deception and other weaknesses. Fasting is mainly to purify a person physically and spiritually. On the 29th of Ramadan, people gather on their roof tops to sight the moon. The sighting of the moon is followed by a burst of joy and festivity which lasts for three days. The cries of “Eid Mubarak” (Happy Eid) fill the air.

The night prior to Eid is called “chand raat”. It is specially enjoyed by the young people who rush to the malls for last minute shopping. Girls adorn their hands with beautiful henna patterns and buy glass bangles which match with their suits.

eid-ul-fitr-02On Eid morning, men go to the mosques to offer special Eid prayers. The women say their prayers at home. The women prepare special dishes like sweet vermicelli cooked in milk and dry fruits and spicy chick peas etc. Everybody dresses up in new clothes. The elders give eiddie a sum of money to the younger ones. Relatives, friends and neighbors visit each other.

The poor are not ignored on this joyful day. Most of the families give new clothes to their servants. The servants are also given eiddie. Money is given as charity through out the month of Ramadan to help the poor and the needy.

Eid ul Fitr is a very important day which brings happiness to all and is celebrated with fervor by all.

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