The World Festival » Europe Discovery the world by Festival Tue, 14 Apr 2015 02:51:32 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Oktoberfest Wed, 22 Oct 2014 14:51:20 +0000 Oktoberfest is the world’s largest funfair held annually in Munich, Bavaria, Germany. It is a 16-day festival running from late September to the first weekend in October with more than 6 million people from around the world attending the event every year. Locally, it is often simply called Wiesn, after the colloquial name of the fairgrounds (Theresienwiese) themselves. The Oktoberfest is an important part of Bavarian culture, having been held since 1810. Other cities across the world also hold Oktoberfest celebrations, modeled after the original Munich event.
German dirndl in festival
The Munich Oktoberfest originally took place during the 16 days up to, and including, the first Sunday in October. In 1994, the schedule was modified in response to German reunification so that if the first Sunday in October falls on the 1st or 2nd, then the festival would go on until October 3 (German Unity Day). Thus, the festival is now 17 days when the first Sunday is October 2 and 18 days when it is October 1. In 2010, the festival lasted until the first Monday in October, to mark the anniversary of the event. The festival is held in an area named the Theresienwiese (field, or meadow, of Therese), often called Wiesn for short, located near Munich’s center. Large quantities of Oktoberfest Beer are consumed, with almost 7 million litres served during the 16 day festival in 2007. Visitors may also enjoy a mixture of attractions, such as amusement rides, sidestalls and games, as well as a wide variety of traditional food such as Hendl (roast chicken), Schweinebraten (roast pork), Schweinshaxe (grilled ham hock), Steckerlfisch (grilled fish on a stick), Würstl (sausages) along with Brezen (pretzel), Knödel (potato or bread dumplings), Käsespätzle (cheese noodles), Reiberdatschi (potato pancakes), Sauerkraut or Rotkohl/Blaukraut (red cabbage) along with such Bavarian delicacies as Obatzda (a spiced cheese-butter spread) and Weisswurst (a white sausage).

Swing ride

By 1960, the Oktoberfest had become a world-famous festival. Since then, foreigners began to picture Germans as wearing the Sennerhut, Lederhosen, and the girls in Dirndl.

Traditional visitors wear during the Oktoberfest Bavarian hats (Tirolerhüte), which contain a tuft of chamois hair (Gamsbart). Historically, in Bavaria chamois hair was highly valued and prized. The more tufts of chamois hair on one’s hat, the wealthier one was considered to be. Technology helping, this tradition ended with the appearance of chamois hair imitations on the market.

For them as well as for the general medical treatment of visitors the Bavarian branch of German Red Cross operates an aid facility and provides emergency medical care on the festival grounds, staffed with around 100 volunteer medics and doctors per day. They serve together with special detachments of Munich police, fire department and other municipal authorities in the service centre at the Behördenhof (authorities’ court), a large building specially built for the Oktoberfest at the east side of the Theresienwiese, just behind the tents. There is also a place for lost & found children, a lost property office, a security point for women and other public services.

Since the 1970s, local German gay organizations have organized “Gay Days” at Oktoberfest, which by the 21st century always began in the Bräurosl tent on the first Sunday.

To keep the Oktoberfest, and especially the beer tents, friendly for older people and families, the concept of the “quiet Oktoberfest” was developed in 2005. Until 6:00 pm, the tents only play quiet music, for example traditional wind music. Only after that will Schlager and pop music be played, which had led to more violence in earlier years. The music played in the afternoon is limited to 85 decibels. With these rules, the organisers of the Oktoberfest were able to curb the over-the-top party mentality and preserve the traditional beer tent atmosphere.

So much beer for all

Since 2005 the last travelling Enterprise ride of Germany, called Mondlift, is back on the Oktoberfest.

Starting in 2008, a new Bavarian law intended to ban smoking in all enclosed spaces that are open to the public, even at the Oktoberfest. Because of problems enforcing the anti-smoking law in the big tents there was an exception for the Oktoberfest 2008, although the sale of tobacco was not allowed. After heavy losses in the 2008 local elections with the smoke ban being a big issue in debates, the state’s ruling party meanwhile implemented special exemptions to beer tents and small pubs. The change in regulation is aimed in particular at large tents at the Oktoberfest: So, smoking in the tents is still legal, but the tents usually have non-smoking areas. The sale of tobacco in the tents is now legal, but it is abandoned by agreement. However, in early 2010 a referendum held in Bavaria as a result of a popular initiative re-instituted the original, strict, smoking ban of 2008; thus, no beer will be sold to people caught smoking in the tents The blanket smoking ban will not take effect until 2011, but all tents will institute the smoking ban this year as to do the “dry run” to identify any unforeseeable issues. The common issue when the smoking ban is in effect is the nauseating stench of stale beer spilled on the floor, which the smoking masked.

Beautiful lighting in the big-beer-festival of German people

2010 marked the 200th anniversary of Oktoberfest. For the anniversary, there was a horse race in historical costumes on opening day. A so-called “Historische Wiesn” (historical Oktoberfest) took place, starting one day earlier than usual on the southern part of the festival grounds. A specially brewed beer (solely available at the tents of the historical Oktoberfest), horse races, and a museum tent gave visitors an impression of how the event felt a century ago.

Oktoberfest inside

Most recently, in 2013, 6.4 million people visited Oktoberfest, and the festival served 6.7 million liters of beer.

Only beer conforming to the Reinheitsgebot, and brewed within the city limits of Munich, can be served at the Munich Oktoberfest. Beers meeting these criteria are designated Oktoberfest Beer.

The breweries that can produce Oktoberfest Beer under the criteria are:

Staatliches Hofbräu-München
Oktoberfest Beer is a registered trademark by the Club of Munich Brewers, which consists of the above six breweries.


Tips to Oktoberfest from Susi Mai

You’re walking out of a giant beer tent, it’s 11 p.m., you smell like beer, and your wallet’s empty. But you have a happy glow that can only mean one thing: you just had a good day at Oktoberfest.

Held annually in the heart of Munich, Germany for six nights, Oktoberfest turns into Europe’s biggest amusement park, featuring a strange combination of huge beer tents and wild rides.

Each year for the last 30 years, I’ve been making a pilgrimage to this fabulous wonderland of fun. At first I was in a pram, then (mostly) on my own two feet. I know this place like the back of my hand, so here’s my guide to what Oktoberfest is, why everyone should go, and how best to do it.

Man and beer


In my 30 years of attending Oktoberfest, there are a few key things I’ve learned. Here’s what you should know before you go:

1. Do not get on a roller coaster after 10 beers. It will end badly for you and the people around you. Get the rides out of your system before you start drinking.

2. People are very open and welcoming about sharing their table with you. Be that same way when newbies approach your table.

Lovely waitress with her beer

3. Make friends with a server. Here’s why: When the tents are full, they close the doors. Bam. Nobody can enter until security decides enough people have left to let a few more in. The wait can be hours long, and you can’t drink beer while you wait. However, the wait staff can bring anyone into the tent and to their tables at any time. So on day one, when you’re being served by someone you like, talk to them, buy them a beer, and tip them well (which you should do on any account, since they work like animals, sometimes carrying up to 14 steins at once). Then ask if they’d be open to helping you come back into the tent next time; usually, you’ll get their number and then you’re golden. Now you won’t be faced with the dreaded closed doors, standing outside while everyone else is having a great old time inside.

4. Keep your calm. Almost everyone will be hammered, so don’t take it too seriously when people come across as disrespectful. It’s never a good idea to be confrontational when there are so many heavy beer steins around. If someone is being rowdy or aggressive, simply remove yourself from the situation. The good news is that for every roughneck there, there are at least 100 jolly folks waiting to cheer their mug with you and hug you while yelling “Prost!”

5. There’s no shame in drinking a Radler (half beer, half lemonade) every now and again to help you put on the brakes.

Lovely space in Oktoberfest


Oktoberfest began in 1810 as a wedding celebration for King Ludwig I and his bride Therese. The king was passionate about beer, so over the years, the annual party became where the heads of the German breweries would meet up to compare their goods.

The official test back then was to pour the beer onto a wooden bench, sit on it while wearing leather lederhosen for a few hours, then determine how sticky the leather was on the wood. The better the beer, the stickier the lederhosen.

Father and son


Each year, Oktoberfest begins with a huge parade consisting of marching bands and horse-drawn carriages piled high with barrels of beer. Other carriages bring in celebrities, politicians, and soccer players waving at the thousands who gather to watch this procession. The mayor of Munich is at the front of it all and gets to open the first barrel of beer and pour himself the first glass.

Big group in Oktoberfest


Hundreds of game stalls and fair rides—including huge roller coasters and a Ferris wheel—cover Theresienwiese. In the middle of all that are the beer tents, 14 big ones and 21 small ones, all offering booze and delicacies. The big tents hold 15,000 people each and on weekends, get packed just 30 minutes after the doors open at noon.

Each tent has its own vibe, so it’s fun to move around and explore different ones. Almost 80 percent of Oktoberfest attendees are from Bavaria, giving it an authentic, local feel, though some tents, especially the Hofbrau one, have more of an international scene.

In the tents, you have to be at a table to get served. You’ll end up best friends with the other people at your table, so move around a bit to find where suits your style. Once you get settled in, a waitress will slam a fresh mug of golden goodness on your table. The German word for it is “Mass.” The price for a Mass is fixed—depending on the tent, around $13. Each tent features live music and as the day goes on, the crowd gets rowdy and starts dancing on the benches.


Oktoberfest’s music is called blassbusik, which means “blow music,” owing to the fact that the instruments involved are wind ones, mainly trumpets and accordions. Inside the tents, the bands play a mix of German songs and modern English classics. It’s all great sing-along fare, and even though the same 30 songs seem to be on repeat, they get better the longer you stay in the tent.

The Accordionist


German food is hearty and delicious, and at Oktoberfest the gastronomy is considered some of the year’s finest.

There’s lots of meat: roasted pig, chicken, lamb, ox, duck, and beef, accompanied by dumplings, potato salad, and giant pretzels. Obviously, most of the animals listed above can also be consumed in sausage form. Wouldn’t be Germany otherwise.
Lovely Waitress with her beer in Munich Oktoberfest

There are plenty of other treats on offer too: cotton candy, roasted almonds, as well as small cocktail bars serving Prosecco and Caipirinhas.

Beautiful girls serve beer in festival


Ah, the beer. The big breweries here are names known all around the world, including Lowenbrau and Hofbrau. (The smaller tents, which tend to be quieter, host microbreweries.) These big brands usually crank out a special Oktoberfest beer that’s tastier and stronger than their normal fare. The strongest beer is the Augustiner, but my favorite remains good old HB, right at table 10 in Block B just in front of the band.


German traditional clothing is referred to as tracht and is considered formalwear. It’s really only common in southern Bavaria but has spilled over into the Alps, including Austria and Switzerland. Men wear lederhosen, or leather pants, along with a checkered shirt, wool socks, leather shoes called haferlschuhe, and a hat with a feather. Ladies wear a dress called a dirndl, which consists of a low-necked blouse, a structured bodice and skirt, and an apron tied onto the front—the apron is there to keep the skirt clean but can also signal if someone is single. A bow tied on the left of the apron means you’re available; tie it on the right and you’re saying you’re off the market.

Beautiful lady in German dirndl


Leaving Oktoberfest can be just as tricky as getting in. The last beer is poured by 11 p.m., though the food stalls stay open longer so you don’t go home hungry.

Regardless of what state you’re in, the candy apple is your savior. I always eat one on my way home—it helps a lot with the hangover. There are other yummy things out there but trust me when I tell you that the apple is the way to go.

If you can avoid “the hill,” do, but if you really feel like you won’t be able to get yourself home, park there first. It’s where people pass out for a few hours before continuing their journey home, and is right behind the HB tent—and the police station. It can be quite entertaining, so you might want to check it out.

The fact that Oktoberfest shuts down before midnight makes it tempting to hit up some of Munich’s nightlife, which during the weeks of the fest, is as out of control as O-fest itself. I usually steer clear of the afterparty scene because, honestly, 11 hours of drinking is enough for me. If you do decide to keep it going, though, just latch on to the nearest group of locals and go for it.

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Venice Carnival Thu, 02 Oct 2014 04:48:14 +0000 Venice Carnevale is Italy’s top carnival or mardi gras celebration. Carnevale season lasts several weeks, culminating on the day of Carnival or Shrove Tuesday. During carnival season, Venice is filled with costumed characters, entertainment, and food stalls. It’s definitely a fun time to visit.
A couple in Carnival Venice Carnival 2015

A Lady mark Venice Carnival 2015

White in red Venice Carnival 2015

White mark Venice Carnival 2015

Beautiful girl in Carnival of Venice Venice Carnival 2015
The Venice Carnival is the most internationally known festival celebrated in Venice, Italy, as well as being one of the oldest. This congregation of masked people, called Venice Carnival, began in the 15th century, but the tradition can be traced back to the beginning of the 14th Century.

Amazon mask for Carnival

During those years one of the first laws made by the Serenissima was that masks cannot be used around the city at night.
Later, Venice Carnival attracted foreigners – including princes – from all over Europe, who came to enjoy the wild festivities while spending fortunes.

During the Carnival period Venice offered numerous possibilities for spending money. The choices were various, with activities such as gambling dens, brothels, theatres, cafés, wine shops (licensed and illicit) and restaurants, as well as booths where one could see exotic animals, ropewalkers and jugglers.

The streets of Venice Carnival were full of people in masks, and no differentiation could be made between nobility and the common people. Generally, the costume worn was a cloak with a long-nosed mask. Also popular were masked couples, where a man and a woman would dress as allegorical characters.

Venice Carnival 2015

Venice street

Carnival of Venice 2013

Couple in Bridge

Violet Mark Carnival 2015

The Red

In the squares street-artists and singers entertain with songs and music from their guitars, the guests of the Venice Carnival.

The Venice Carnival dissacratory nature reached its bottom when, during its last days, some masked people started to disturb the building of the preaching pulpits that were under construction for the religious traditions of Lent.

Beginning on S. Stefano Day (26th December) costumes were permitted through the entire period of the Venice Carnival (excluding the Festa delle Marie) which ends at the beginning of Lent. While the Doges reigned, costumes were also allowed from Ascension Day to 10th June, as well as for public banquets and other celebrations. However, they were not allowed to be worn from 5th October to 16th December.
Hiding personal identities was accepted by the “moral in kidding” of the aristocracy as well as by the interclassism Venice was founding its integrity of people on.

There is not much left today of the historical tradition of the Venice Carnival.

In the late 1970’s a popular spirit of Venice Carnival bloomed wild, young masked gangs started to throw weethstraw and eggs to not masqued people and spontaneous bands were playing everywhere around Venice; soon the aggressivity dimmed and city authorities began what is now a celebration of the Carnival, mainly for tourists. Unlike many Venetian celebrations that remain almost unknown to the public, Venice Carnival seems to be thriving as much as it ever did.

There are many enterteinments and interesting performances, aside of the real parties in Venetian taste that are often hidden for the large public, which is morelike to enjoy the Venice Carnival on the road.

Similar marks

Venice Queens


Many boad in Venice river

Violet girl

Black and White mark in Venice Carnival


The Queen

Pay-for-the-party and souvenir shops are yet the easiest track for the tourists, but many curious meeting and experiences are as well available around, in Venice Carnival time.

The Venice Carnival is anyway an adventure worth to be experienced; better if you can do it with a native friend!

Types of Marks
Several distinct styles of mask are worn in the Venice Carnival, some with identifying names. People with different occupations wore different masks.

The bauta (sometimes referred as baùtta) is a mask, today often heavily gilded though originally simple stark white, which is designed to comfortably cover the entire face; this traditional grotesque piece of art was characterized by the inclusion of an over-prominent nose, a thick supraorbital ridge, a projecting “chin line”, and no mouth. The mask’s beak-like chin is designed to enable the wearer to talk, eat, and drink without having to remove it, thereby preserving the wearer’s anonymity. The bauta was often accompanied by a red or black cape and a tricorn.

In the 18th century, together with a black cape called a “tabarro”, the bauta had become a standardized society mask and disguise regulated by the Venetian government.[12] It was obligatory to wear it at certain political decision-making events when all citizens were required to act anonymously as peers. Only citizens (i.e., men) had the right to use the bauta. Its role was similar to the anonymizing processes invented to guarantee general, direct, free, equal and secret ballots in modern democracies. Also, the bearing of weapons along with the mask was specifically prohibited by law and enforceable by the Venetian police.

Given this history and its grotesque design elements, the bauta was usually worn by men, but many paintings done in the 18th century also depict women wearing this mask and tricorn hat. The Ridotto and The Apple

Seller by Pietro Longhi are two examples of this from the 1750s.

The Columbina (also known as Columbine and as a Columbino) is a half-mask, only covering the wearer’s eyes, nose, and upper cheeks. It is often highly decorated with gold, silver, crystals and feathers. It is held up to the face by a baton or is tied with ribbon as with most other Venetian masks. The Columbina mask is named after a stock character in the Commedia dell’arte: Columbina was a maidservent and soubrette who was an adored part of the Italian theatre for generations. It is said it was designed for an actress because she did not wish to have her beautiful face covered completely. In fact, the Columbina is entirely a modern creation.

There are no historic paintings depicting its use on the stage or in social life.

While both men and women now wear this mask, it began as a woman’s analog to the bauta.

Medico della peste (The Plague Doctor)
The Medico della peste, with its long beak, is one of the most bizarre and recognisable of the Venetian masks, though it did not start out as carnival mask at all but as a method of preventing the spread of disease. The striking design originates from 17th-century French physician Charles de Lorme who adopted the mask together with other sanitary precautions while treating plague victims. The mask is often white, consisting of a hollow beak and round eyeholes covered with crystal discs, creating a bespectacled effect. Its use as a carnival mask is entirely a modern convention, and today these masks are often much more decorative.

The plague doctors who followed De Lorme’s example wore the usual black hat and long black cloak as well as the mask, white gloves and a stick (so as to be able to move patients without having to come into physical contact with them). They hoped these precautions would prevent them contracting the disease. Those who wear the plague doctor mask often also wear the associated clothing of the plague doctor. The popularity of the Medico della peste among carnival celebrants can be seen as a memento mori.

Moretta / Servetta muta
The moretta (meaning dark one lady) or servetta muta (meaning mute servant woman) was a small strapless black velvet oval mask with wide eyeholes and no lips or mouth worn by patrician women. It derived from the visard mask invented in France in the sixteenth century, but differed in not having a hole to speak through. The mask was only just large enough to conceal a woman’s identity and was held in place by the wearer biting on a button or bit (the women wearing this mask were unable to speak, hence muta) and was sometimes finished off with a veil. The Rhinocerous by Pietro Longhi depicts this mask in use in 1751. It fell into disuse about 1760.

Volto (Larva)
The volto (Italian for face) or larva (meaning ghost in Latin) is the iconic modern Venetian mask: it is often stark white though also frequently gilded and decorated, and is commonly worn with a tricorn and cloak. It is secured in the back with a ribbon. Unlike the moretta muta, the volto covers the entire face including the whole of the chin and extending back to just before the ears and upwards to the top of the forehead; also unlike the moretta muta, it depicts simple facial features like the nose and lips. Unlike the bauta, the volto cannot be worn while eating and drinking because the coverage of the chin and cheeks is too complete (although the jaw on some original commedia masks was hinged, this is not a commedia mask and so is never hinged—the mouth is always completely closed).
The Venice Carnival in street

A purple couple Venice Carnival 2015

Venice Carnival 2015

Organce Dress and mark

Nice couple in Carnival of Venice

Golden mark

Another classic character from the Italian stage, Pantalone, meaning he who wears the pants or father figure in Italian, is usually represented as a sad old man with an oversized nose like the beak of a crow with high brows and slanted eyes (meant to signify intelligence on the stage). Like other commedia masks, Pantalone is also a half mask.

Arlecchino, meaning harlequin in Italian, is a zanni character of the commedia. He is meant to be a kind of “noble savage”, devoid of reason and full of emotion, a peasant, a servant, even a slave. His originally wooden and later leather half-mask painted black depicts him as having a short, blunt, ape-like nose, a set of wide, round, arching eyebrows, a rounded beard, and always a “bump” upon his forehead meant to signify a devil’s horn. He is a theatrical counterpoint to and often servant of Pantalone, and the two characters often appeared together on the stage.

The Zanni character is another classic of the stage. His mask is a half mask in leather, showing him with low forehead, bulging eyebrows and an long nose with a reverse curve towards the end. It is said that the longer his nose, the more stupid he is. The low forehead is also seen as a sign of stupidity.

The mascherari (or mask-makers) had their own statute dated 10 April 1436. They belonged to the fringe of painters and were helped in their task by sign-painters who drew faces onto plaster in a range of different shapes and paying extreme attention to detail.

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Concurs de Castells Thu, 18 Sep 2014 07:43:13 +0000 You’ve seen buildings constructed by people, but have you seen them constructed of people? Every other October, men and women climb on top of each other’s shoulders as part of the Concurs de Castells (human towers competition) in Tarragona, Spain. It’s the ultimate exhibition of teamwork as large groups of everyday people from the ages of 5 to 95 work together to build a living human structure. Watching the castellers climb to create towers reaching upwards of 9 stories high will take your breath away—a mix of fear and excitement.

amazing human tower



Concurs de Castells fesivals human

How It’s Done: The Building Blocks

This cultural sport dates back to the end of the 18th century in nearby Valls, when the traditional Valencian dance took off in an upward direction. It took more than 100 years to break the 8-story level, and once it did the sport literally soared.




Concurs de Castells fesivals

Forming a Human Tower


Dress is a vital element to the competition. Members of each team all wear the same bright primary color with a black sash (faixa) that holds it all together. Despite just looking good, the faixa provides crucial back support, and the length is equal to one’s position in the tower. Shorter faixa (2m-wide) are reserved for the light and nimble tower-climbers, while faixa of up to 12 meters long provide the ground-level team members with extra support. Wrapping the faixa is a pre-game ritual and a serious undertaking. Climbers go barefoot to help with agility and to go easy on the rungs of the human ladder.

Human Towers Are Built In

Human Towers Are Built In The 22nd Tarragona Castells Competition

Unlike human pyramids, human tower-building is a dance, based on order, method and ritual. It requires força, equilibri, valor i seny (strength, balance, courage and common sense). The base (pinya ) is usually made up of the strongest men, who also act as a safety net if the castell collapses. Arms are locked to create a strong foundation, and once it’s been created, a signal strikes and a band plays the traditional song Toc de Castells , so starting the construction of the tower.

The dismantling of the tower can often be the most dangerous part, and although accidents are rare, there have been fatalities.



Spain Human Tower

As the tower grows, the castellers shrink in size until only the youngest and lightest remain. While the pinya is meticulously formed over time, the dance quickens as the tower grows to limit the exposure to danger and bearing of weight. Special crash helmets have been designed for the children, with a soft outside to protect their human safety net. The child crown of the tower is called the enxaneta , or rider. When the enxaneta reaches the apex of the tower, he or she raises four fingers (representing the Catalan flag) and then climbs down the other side. The dismantling of the tower can often be the most dangerous part, and although accidents are rare, there have been fatalities.

Rules and History

The 32 participating teams are judged on their three best attempts out of five. There are many different constructions, and each team is given points based on difficulty, height, and following protocol.

man in festival

Spain Human Tower

Concurs de Castells was recently recognized by UNESCO as one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity, and is more popular than ever. Tickets must be purchased to be among the 6,000 spectators. In addition to the pillars of people, the festival puts local cultural and entertainment on display with a parade of dance, music, concerts, fireworks, and street performances.

500 Climb Over Each Other to Form



The championship competition happens every 2 years (on even-numbered years), with the next held in 2014. If you’re visiting during on odd-numbered year or at another time, it’s possible to see the castellers at other festivals. Barcelona’s annual Les Festes De La Merce is held around September 24th and is a great option that includes other cultural events. In Tarragona, the annual Santa Tecla festival features the castellers and a special ritual of the moving pillars. This competition takes place at the Plaça de la Font around September 23rd. In late October, Valls, home of the castellers, holds back-to-back festivals.

No country has a more diverse collection of festivals than Spain, and Concurs de Castells is one of my favorites. The friendly Catalan people know how to throw a party and create a spectacle, and after watching the video linked below, I guarantee you’ll want to see this miraculous human experience in person. I’d recommend renting a house in Tarragona for a month so you can experience the series of Catalan festivals, with the highlight being Concurs de Castells. I’ve heard people say they were “standing on the shoulders of giants” when describing their ancestors, but at this festival people take that phrase literally.

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Maslenitsa Festival Sun, 17 Aug 2014 15:19:00 +0000 Maslenitsa (Russian: Ма́сленица, Ukrainian: Масниця, Belarusian: Масьленіца, Maślenica, also known as Butter Week, Crepe week, or Cheesefare Week), is an Eastern Slavic religious and folk holiday. It is celebrated during the last week before Great Lent—that is, the eighth week before Eastern Orthodox Pascha (Easter). Maslenitsa corresponds to the Western Christian Carnival, except that Orthodox Lent begins on a Monday instead of a Wednesday, and the Orthodox date of Easter can differ greatly from the Western Christian date.

Maslenitsa has its origins in both pagan and Christian traditions. In Slavic mythology, Maslenitsa is a celebration of the imminent end of the winter.
Maslenitsa Festival Pancake

Russian Festival Maslenitsa
On the Christian side, Maslenitsa is the last week before the onset of Great Lent. During the week of Maslenitsa, meat is already forbidden to Orthodox Christians, and it is the last week during which milk, cheese and other dairy products are permitted, leading to its name of “Cheese-fare week” (Russian: сыропустная неделя) or “Crepe week”. During Lent, meat, fish, dairy products and eggs are forbidden. Furthermore, Lent also excludes parties, secular music, dancing and other distractions from the spiritual life. Thus, Maslenitsa represents the last chance to partake of dairy products and those social activities that are not appropriate during the more prayerful, sober and introspective Lenten season.

The most characteristic food of Maslenitsa is bliny (pancakes or crepes). Round and golden, they are made from the rich foods still allowed by the Orthodox tradition that week: butter, eggs and milk. During pagan times, the round and golden shape and color signified praise to the Sun because of pancakes’ resemblance to it.

Russian Festival Maslenitsa

Russian Festival Maslenitsa

Russian Festival Maslenitsa

Maslenitsa activities also include snowball fights, sledding, riding on swings and plenty of sleigh rides. In some regions, each day of Maslenitsa had its traditional activity: one day for sleigh-riding, another for the sons-in-law to visit their parents-in-law, another day for visiting the godparents, etc. The mascot of the celebration is usually a brightly dressed straw effigy of Maslenitsa, formerly known as Kostroma.

As the culmination of the celebration, on Sunday evening, Lady Maslenitsa is stripped of her finery and put to the flames of a bonfire. Any remaining blintzes are also thrown on the fire and Lady Maslenitsa’s ashes are buried in the snow (to “fertilize the crops”).

Sunday of Forgiveness
The last day of Cheesefare Week is called “Forgiveness Sunday”, indicating the desire for God’s forgiveness that lies at the heart of Great Lent. At Vespers on Sunday evening, all the people make a poklon (bow) before one another and ask forgiveness, and thus Great Lent begins in the spirit of reconciliation and Christian love. Another name for Forgiveness Sunday is “Cheesefare Sunday,” because for devout Orthodox Christians, it is the last day on which dairy products may be consumed until Easter. Fish, wine and olive oil will also be forbidden on most days of Great Lent. The day following Cheesefare Sunday is called Clean Monday, because everyone has confessed their sins, asked forgiveness, and begun Great Lent with a clean slate.

Modern times
During Soviet times, Maslenitsa, like all the other religious holidays,officially, was not celebrated. However, it was widely observed in families without its religious significance, just as an opportunity to prepare crepes with all sorts of fillings and coverings and to eat and share them with friends. After the start of perestroika, the outdoor celebrations resumed, although they were seen by some as an artificial restoration of a dead tradition. Although many Russians have returned to practicing Christianity, the tradition is still being revived.

Many countries with a significant number of Russian immigrants consider Maslenitsa a suitable occasion to celebrate Russian culture, although the celebrations are usually reduced to one day and may not coincide with the exact date of the religious celebrations.

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Las Fallas Festival Tue, 29 Jul 2014 13:51:38 +0000 The Falles, or Fallas is a traditional celebration held in commemoration of Saint Joseph in the city of Valencia, in Spain. The term Falles refers to both the celebration and the monuments created during the celebration. A number of towns in the Valencian Community have similar celebrations inspired by the original one in Valencia.

Each neighbourhood of the city has an organized group of people, the Casal faller, that works all year long holding fundraising parties and dinners, usually featuring the famous dish, paella, a specialty of the region. Each casal faller produces a construction known as a falla which is eventually burnt. A casal faller is also known as a comissió fallera.
Les Fallas

Les Fallas
The name of the festival is the plural of the Valencian word falla. The word’s derivation is as follows:
Latin fax “torch” → Latin facvla (diminutive) → Vulgar Latin *facla → Valencian falla.

Falles and ninots
Formerly, much time would be spent by the Casal faller preparing the ninots (Valencian for puppets or dolls). During the four days leading up to 19 March, each group takes its ninot out for a grand parade, and then mounts it, each on its own elaborate firecracker-filled cardboard and paper-mâché artistic monument in a street of the given neighbourhood. This whole assembly is a falla.

The ninots and their falles are constructed according to an agreed upon theme that has traditionally been, and continues to be, a satirical jab at anything or anyone who draws the attention of the critical eyes of the falleros—the celebrants themselves. In modern times, the whole two week long festival has spawned a huge local industry, to the point that an entire suburban area has been designated the City of Falles – Ciutat fallera. Here, crews of artists and artisans, sculptors, painters, and many others all spend months producing elaborate constructions of paper and wax, wood and styrofoam tableaux towering up to five stories, composed of fanciful figures in outrageous poses arranged in gravity-defying architecture. Each of them is produced at the direction of one of the many individual neighbourhood Casals fallers who vie with each other to attract the best artists, and then to create the most outrageous monument to their target. There are more than 500 different falles in Valencia, including those of other towns in the Valencian Community.

Les Fallas

Les Fallas
During Falles, many people wear their casal faller dress in regional and historical costumes from different eras of Valencia’s history; the dolçaina and tabalet (a kind of Valencian drum) are frequently heard, as most of the different casals fallers have their own traditional bands.

Although the Falles is a very traditional event and many participants dress in medieval clothing, the ninots for 2005 included such modern characters as Shrek and George W. Bush, and the 2012 Falles included characters like Barack Obama and Lady Gaga.

Events during Falles
The five days and nights of Falles are a continuous party. There are a multitude of processions: historical, religious, and comedic. Crowds in the restaurants spill out into the streets. Explosions can be heard all day long and sporadically through the night. Foreigners may be surprised to see everyone from small children to elderly gentlemen throwing fireworks and noisemakers in the streets, which are littered with pyrotechnical debris. The timing of the events is fixed and they fall on the same date every year, though there has been discussion about holding some events on the weekend preceding the Falles, to take greater advantage of the tourist potential of the festival or changing the end date in years where it is due to occur in midweek.

Each day of Falles begins at 8:00 am with La Despertà (“the wake-up call”). Brass bands appear from the casals and begin to march down every street playing lively music. Close behind them are the fallers, throwing large firecrackers in the street as they go.

The Mascletà, an explosive barrage of coordinated firecracker and fireworks displays, takes place in each neighbourhood at 2:00 pm every day of the festival; the main event is the municipal Mascletà in the Plaça de l’Ajuntament where the pyrotechnicians compete for the honor of providing the final Mascletà of the fiestas (on 19 March). At 2:00 pm the clock chimes and the Fallera Mayor (dressed in her fallera finery) will call from the balcony of City Hall, Senyor pirotècnic, pot començar la mascletà! (“Mr. Pyrotechnic, you may commence the Mascletà!”), and the Mascletà begins.

The Mascletà is almost unique to the Valencian Community, hugely popular with the Valencian people and found in very few other places in the world. Smaller neighbourhoods often hold their own mascletà for saint’s days, weddings and other celebrations.

The day of the 15th all of the falles infantils are to be finished being constructed and later that night all of the falles majors (major Falles) are to be completed. If not, they face disqualification.

In this event, the flower offering, each falla casal takes an offering of flowers to the Virgin Mary as Our Lady of the Abandoned. This occurs all day during 17–18 March. A statue of the Virgin Mary and its large pedestal are then covered with all the flowers.

Les Fallas

Les Fallas
On the nights of the 15, 16, 17, and 18th there are firework displays in the old riverbed in Valencia. Each night is progressively grander and the last is called La Nit del Foc (the Night of Fire).

On the final evening of Falles, at 7pm on March 19, a parade known in Spanish as the Cabalgata del Fuego (the Fire Parade) takes place along Colon street and Porta de la Mar square. This spectacular celebration of fire, the symbol of the fiesta’s spirit, is the grand finale of Falles and a colourful, noisy event featuring exhibitions of the varied rites and displays from around the world which use fire; it incorporates floats, giant mechanisms, people in costumes, rockets, gunpowder, street performances and music.

On the final night of Falles, around midnight on March 19, these falles are burnt as huge bonfires. This is known as La Cremà (the Burning), the climax of the whole event, and the reason why the constructions are called falles (“torches”). Traditionally, the falla in the Plaça de l’Ajuntament is burned last.

Many neighbourhoods have a falla infantil (a children’s falla, smaller and without satirical themes), which is held a few metres away from the main one. This is burnt first, at 10:00 pm. The main neighbourhood falles are burnt closer to midnight; the burning of the falles in the city centre often starts later. For example, in 2005, the fire brigade delayed the burning of the Egyptian funeral falla in Carrer del Convent de Jerusalem until 1:30 am, when they were sure all safety concerns were addressed.

Each falla is laden with fireworks which are lit first. The construction itself is lit either after or during the explosion of these fireworks. Falles burn quite quickly, and the heat given off is felt by all around. The heat from the larger ones often drives the crowd back a couple of metres, even though they are already behind barriers that the fire brigade has set several metres from the construction. In narrower streets, the heat scorches the surrounding buildings, and the firemen douse the façades, window blinds, street signs, etc. with their hoses to stop them catching fire or melting, from the beginning of the cremà until it cools down.

Away from the falles, people frolic in the streets, the whole city resembling an open-air dance party, except that instead of music there is the incessant (and occasionally deafening) sound of people throwing fireworks around randomly. There are stalls selling products such as the typical fried snacks porres, xurros and bunyols, as well as roasted chestnuts or trinkets.

While the smaller fallas dotted around the streets are burned at approximately the same time as each other, the last falla to be burned is the main one, which is saved until last so that everybody can watch it. This main falla is found outside the ayuntamiento – the town hall. People arrive a few hours before the scheduled burning time to get a front row view.

Les Fallas

Les Fallas
There are different speculations regarding the origin of the Falles festival. One suggests that the Falles started in the Middle Ages, when artisans disposed of the broken artifacts and pieces of wood they saved during the winter by burning them to celebrate the spring equinox. Valencian carpenters used planks of wood called parots to hang their candles on during the winter, as these were needed to provide light for the carpenters to work by. With the coming of the spring, they were no longer necessary, so they were burned. Over time, and with the intervention of the Church, the date of the burning of these parots was made to coincide with the celebration of the festival of Saint Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters.

This tradition continued to evolve. The parot was dressed with clothing so that it looked like a person; features identifiable with some well-known person from the neighbourhood were often added as well. To collect these materials, children went from house to house asking for una estoreta velleta (an old rug) to add to the parot. This became a popular song that the children sang as they gathered all sorts of old flammable furniture and utensils to burn in the bonfire with the parot. These parots were the first ninots. With time, people of the neighbourhoods organized the building of the falles and the typically intricate constructions, including their various figures, were born.

Until the beginning of the twentieth century, the falles were tall boxes with three or four wax dolls dressed in fabric clothing. This changed when the creators began to use cardboard. The fabrication of the falles continues to evolve in modern times, when the largest displays are made of polystyrene and soft cork easily molded with hot saws. These techniques have allowed the creation of falles over 30 metres high.

The origin of the pagan festival is similar to that of the Bonfires of Saint John celebrated in the Alicante region, in the sense that both came from the Latin habit of lighting fires to welcome spring. But in Valencia, this ancient tradition led to the burning of accumulated waste at the end of winter, particular wood, on the day of Saint Joseph, as was fitting. Given the reputed humorous character of Valencians, it was natural that they began to burn figurines depicting people and events of the past year. The burning symbolised liberation from servitude to the memory of these events or else represented humorous and often critical commentary on them. The festival thus evolved a more satirical and ironic character, and the wooden castoffs gradually came to be assembled into progressively more elaborate ‘monuments’ that were designed and painted in advance.

During the early 20th century and especially during the Spanish Civil War, the monuments became more anti-clerical in nature and were often highly critical of the local or national governments, which in fact tried to ban the Falles many times, without success. Under the dictatorship of Franco the celebration lost much of its satirical nature because of government censorship, but the monuments were among the few fervent public expressions allowed then, and they could be made freely in Valencia. During this period, many religious customs such as the offering of flowers to Our Lady of the Forsaken were taken up, which today are essential parts of the festival, even though unrelated to the original purpose of the celebration, and somewhat antithetical in spirit.

With the restoration of democracy and the end of government censorship, the critical falles reappeared, and obscene satirical ones with them. Despite thirty years of freedom of expression, the world view of the fallero can still be socially conservative, is often sexist and may involve some of the amoralism of Valencian politics. This has sometimes led to criticism by certain cultural critics, environmentalists, and progressives. Yet there are celebrants of all ideologies and factions, and they have different interpretations of the spirit of the celebration. In fact, recent initiatives such as the pilota championships, literary competitions and other events show a culturally vibrant city that yet relies on its ancient traditions to express its singular identity, even those as seemingly frivolous as the Falles festival

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Guy Fawkes Night Fri, 25 Jul 2014 11:56:33 +0000 Guy Fawkes Night, also known as Guy Fawkes Day, Bonfire Night and Firework Night, is an annual commemoration observed on 5 November, primarily in Great Britain. Its history begins with the events of 5 November 1605, when Guy Fawkes, a member of the Gunpowder Plot, was arrested while guarding explosives the plotters had placed beneath the House of Lords. Celebrating the fact that King James I had survived the attempt on his life, people lit bonfires around London, and months later the introduction of the Observance of 5th November Act enforced an annual public day of thanksgiving for the plot’s failure.

Within a few decades Gunpowder Treason Day, as it was known, became the predominant English state commemoration, but as it carried strong religious overtones it also became a focus for anti-Catholic sentiment. Puritans delivered sermons regarding the perceived dangers of popery, while during increasingly raucous celebrations common folk burnt effigies of popular hate-figures, such as the pope. Towards the end of the 18th century reports appear of children begging for money with effigies of Guy Fawkes and 5 November gradually became known as Guy Fawkes Day. Towns such as Lewes and Guildford were in the 19th century scenes of increasingly violent class-based confrontations, fostering traditions those towns celebrate still, albeit peaceably. In the 1850s changing attitudes eventually resulted in the toning down of much of the day’s anti-Catholic rhetoric, and the Observance of 5th November Act was repealed in 1859. Eventually, the violence was dealt with, and by the 20th century Guy Fawkes Day had become an enjoyable social commemoration, although lacking much of its original focus. The present-day Guy Fawkes Night is usually celebrated at large organised events, centred on a bonfire and extravagant firework displays.

Settlers exported Guy Fawkes Night to overseas colonies, including some in North America, where it was known as Pope Day. Those festivities died out with the onset of the American Revolution. Claims that Guy Fawkes Night was a Protestant replacement for older customs like Samhain are disputed, although another old celebration, Halloween, has lately increased in popularity, and according to some writers, may threaten the continued observance of 5 November.

Guy Fawkes Night

Origins and history in England
Guy Fawkes Night originates from the Gunpowder Plot of 1605, a failed conspiracy by a group of provincial English Catholics to assassinate the Protestant King James I of England and replace him with a Catholic head of state. In the immediate aftermath of the 5 November arrest of Guy Fawkes, caught guarding a cache of explosives placed beneath the House of Lords, James’s Council allowed the public to celebrate the king’s survival with bonfires, so long as they were “without any danger or disorder”. This made 1605 the first year the plot’s failure was celebrated. The following January, days before the surviving conspirators were executed, Parliament passed the Observance of 5th November Act, commonly known as the “Thanksgiving Act”. It was proposed by a Puritan Member of Parliament, Edward Montagu, who suggested that the king’s apparent deliverance by divine intervention deserved some measure of official recognition, and kept 5 November free as a day of thanksgiving while in theory making attendance at Church mandatory. A new form of service was also added to the Church of England’s Book of Common Prayer, for use on that date.

Little is known about the earliest celebrations. In settlements such as Carlisle, Norwich and Nottingham, corporations provided music and artillery salutes. Canterbury celebrated 5 November 1607 with 106 pounds of gunpowder and 14 pounds of match, and three years later food and drink was provided for local dignitaries, as well as music, explosions and a parade by the local militia. Even less is known of how the occasion was first commemorated by the general public, although records indicate that in Protestant Dorchester a sermon was read, the church bells rung, and bonfires and fireworks lit.

Early significance
According to historian and author Antonia Fraser, a study of the earliest sermons preached demonstrates an anti-Catholic concentration “mystical in its fervour”. Delivering one of five 5 November sermons printed in A Mappe of Rome in 1612, Thomas Taylor spoke of the “generality of his [a papist’s] cruelty,” which had been “almost without bounds”. Such messages were also spread in printed works like Francis Herring’s Pietas Pontifica (republished in 1610 as Popish Piety), and John Rhode’s A Brief Summe of the Treason intended against the King & State, which in 1606 sought to educate “the simple and ignorant … that they be not seduced any longer by papists”. By the 1620s the Fifth was honoured in market towns and villages across the country, though it was some years before it was commemorated throughout England. Gunpowder Treason Day, as it was then known, became the predominant English state commemoration. Some parishes made the day a festive occasion, with public drinking and solemn processions. Concerned though about James’s pro-Spanish foreign policy, the decline of international Protestantism, and Catholicism in general, Protestant clergymen who recognised the day’s significance called for more dignified and profound thanksgivings each 5 November.

What unity English Protestants had shared in the plot’s immediate aftermath began to fade when in 1625 James’s son, the future Charles I, married the Catholic Henrietta Maria of France. Puritans reacted to the marriage by issuing a new prayer to warn against rebellion and Catholicism, and on 5 November that year, effigies of the pope and the devil were burnt, the earliest such report of this practice and the beginning of centuries of tradition. During Charles’s reign Gunpowder Treason Day became increasingly partisan. Between 1629 and 1640 he ruled without Parliament, and he seemed to support Arminianism, regarded by Puritans like Henry Burton as a step toward Catholicism. By 1636, under the leadership of the Arminian Archbishop of Canterbury William Laud, the English church was trying to use 5 November to denounce all seditious practices, and not just popery. Puritans went on the defensive, some pressing for further reformation of the Church.

Bonfire Night, as it was occasionally known, assumed a new fervour during the events leading up to the English Interregnum. Although Royalists disputed their interpretations, Parliamentarians began to uncover or fear new Catholic plots. Preaching before the House of Commons on 5 November 1644, Charles Herle claimed that Papists were tunnelling “from Oxford, Rome, Hell, to Westminster, and there to blow up, if possible, the better foundations of your houses, their liberties and privileges”. A display in 1647 at Lincoln’s Inn Fields commemorated “God’s great mercy in delivering this kingdom from the hellish plots of papists”, and included fireballs burning in the water (symbolising a Catholic association with “infernal spirits”) and fireboxes, their many rockets suggestive of “popish spirits coming from below” to enact plots against the king. Effigies of Fawkes and the pope were present, the latter represented by Pluto, Roman god of the underworld.

Guy Fawkes Night

Following Charles I’s execution in 1649, the country’s new republican regime remained undecided on how to treat 5 November. Unlike the old system of religious feasts and State anniversaries, it survived, but as a celebration of parliamentary government and Protestantism, and not of monarchy. Commonly the day was still marked by bonfires and miniature explosives, but formal celebrations resumed only with the Restoration, when Charles II became king. Courtiers, High Anglicans and Tories followed the official line, that the event marked God’s preservation of the English throne, but generally the celebrations became more diverse. By 1670 London apprentices had turned 5 November into a fire festival, attacking not only popery but also “sobriety and good order”, demanding money from coach occupants for alcohol and bonfires. The burning of effigies, largely unknown to the Jacobeans, continued in 1673 when Charles’s brother, the Duke of York, converted to Catholicism. In response, accompanied by a procession of about 1,000 people, the apprentices fired an effigy of the Whore of Babylon, bedecked with a range of papal symbols. Similar scenes occurred over the following few years. In 1677 elements of Elizabeth I’s Accession Day celebration of 17 November were incorporated into the Fifth, with the burning of large bonfires, a large effigy of the pope—his belly filled with live cats “who squalled most hideously as soon as they felt the fire”—and two effigies of devils “whispering in his ear”. Two years later, as the exclusion crisis was reaching its zenith, an observer noted the “many bonfires and burning of popes as has ever been seen”. Violent scenes in 1682 forced London’s militia into action, and to prevent any repetition the following year a proclamation was issued, banning bonfires and fireworks.

Fireworks were also banned under James II, who became king in 1685. Attempts by the government to tone down Gunpowder Treason Day celebrations were, however, largely unsuccessful, and some reacted to a ban on bonfires in London (born from a fear of more burnings of the pope’s effigy) by placing candles in their windows, “as a witness against Catholicism”. When James was deposed in 1688 by William of Orange—who importantly, landed in England on 5 November—the day’s events turned also to the celebration of freedom and religion, with elements of anti-Jacobitism. While the earlier ban on bonfires was politically motivated, a ban on fireworks was maintained for safety reasons, “much mischief having been done by squibs”.

Guy Fawkes

Guy Fawkes

Guy Fawkes Day
William’s birthday fell on 4 November, and for orthodox Whigs the two days therefore became an important double anniversary. William ordered that the thanksgiving service for 5 November be amended to include thanks for his “happy arrival” and “the Deliverance of our Church and Nation”. In the 1690s he re-established Protestant rule in Ireland, and the Fifth, occasionally marked by the ringing of church bells and civic dinners, was consequently eclipsed by his birthday commemorations. From the 19th century, 5 November celebrations there became sectarian in nature. Its celebration in Northern Ireland remains controversial, unlike in Scotland, where bonfires continue to be lit in various Caledonian cities. In England though, as one of 49 official holidays, for the ruling class 5 November became overshadowed by events such as the birthdays of Admiral Edward Vernon, or John Wilkes, and under George II and George III, with the exception of the Jacobite Rising of 1745, it was largely “a polite entertainment rather than an occasion for vitriolic thanksgiving”. For the lower classes, however, the anniversary was a chance to pit disorder against order, a pretext for violence and uncontrolled revelry. At some point, for reasons that are unclear, it became customary to burn Guy Fawkes in effigy, rather than the pope. Gradually, Gunpowder Treason Day became Guy Fawkes Day. In 1790 The Times reported instances of children “…begging for money for Guy Faux”, and a report of 4 November 1802 described how “a set of idle fellows … with some horrid figure dressed up as a Guy Faux” were convicted of begging and receiving money, and committed to prison as “idle and disorderly persons”. The Fifth became “a polysemous occasion, replete with polyvalent cross-referencing, meaning all things to all men”. Lower class rioting continued, with reports in Lewes of annual rioting, intimidation of “respectable householders” and the rolling through the streets of lit tar barrels. In Guildford, gangs of revellers who called themselves “guys” terrorised the local population; proceedings were concerned more with the settling of old arguments and general mayhem, than any historical reminiscences. Similar problems arose in Exeter, originally the scene of more traditional celebrations. In 1831 an effigy was burnt of the new Bishop of Exeter Henry Phillpotts, a High Church Anglican and High Tory who opposed Parliamentary reform, and who was also suspected of being involved in “creeping popery”. A local ban on fireworks in 1843 was largely ignored, and attempts by the authorities to suppress the celebrations resulted in violent protests and several injured constables.

On several occasions during the 19th century The Times reported that the tradition was in decline, being “of late years almost forgotten”, but in the opinion of historian David Cressy, such reports reflected “other Victorian trends”, including a lessening of Protestant religious zeal—not general observance of the Fifth. Civil unrest brought about by the union of the Kingdoms of Great Britain and Ireland in 1800 resulted in Parliament passing the Roman Catholic Relief Act 1829, which afforded Catholics greater civil rights, continuing the process of Catholic Emancipation in the two kingdoms. The traditional denunciations of Catholicism had been in decline since the early 18th century,and were thought by many, including Queen Victoria, to be outdated, but the pope’s restoration in 1850 of the English Catholic hierarchy gave renewed significance to 5 November, as demonstrated by the burnings of effigies of the new Catholic Archbishop of Westminster Nicholas Wiseman, and the pope. At Farringdon Market 14 effigies were processed from the Strand and over Westminster Bridge to Southwark, while extensive demonstrations were held throughout the suburbs of London. Effigies of the 12 new English Catholic bishops were paraded through Exeter, already the scene of severe public disorder on each anniversary of the Fifth. Gradually, however, such scenes became less popular. With little resistance in Parliament, the thanksgiving prayer of 5 November contained in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer was abolished, and in March 1859 the Anniversary Days Observance Act repealed the Observance of 5th November Act. As the authorities dealt with the worst excesses, public decorum was gradually restored. The sale of fireworks was restricted, and the Guildford “guys” were neutralized in 1865, although this was too late for one constable, who died of his wounds. Violence continued in Exeter for some years, peaking in 1867, when incensed by rising food prices and banned from firing their customary bonfire, a mob was twice in one night driven from Cathedral Close by armed infantry. Further riots occurred in 1879, but there were no more bonfires in Cathedral Close after 1894. Elsewhere, sporadic instances of public disorder persisted late into the 20th century, accompanied by large numbers of firework-related accidents, but a national Firework Code and improved public safety has in most cases brought an end to such things.

Songs, Guys and decline
One notable aspect of the Victorians’ commemoration of Guy Fawkes Night was its move away from the centres of communities, to their margins. Gathering wood for the bonfire increasingly became the province of working-class children, who solicited combustible materials, money, food and drink from wealthier neighbours, often with the aid of songs. Most opened with the familiar “Remember, remember, the fifth of November, Gunpowder Treason and Plot”. The earliest recorded rhyme, from 1742, is reproduced below alongside one bearing similarities to most Guy Fawkes Night ditties, recorded in 1903 at Charlton on Otmoor:

Don’t you Remember,
The Fifth of November,
‘Twas Gunpowder Treason Day,
I let off my gun,
And made’em all run.
And Stole all their Bonfire away. (1742)

The fifth of November, since I can remember,
Was Guy Faux, Poke him in the eye,
Shove him up the chimney-pot, and there let him die.
A stick and a stake, for King George’s sake,
If you don’t give me one, I’ll take two,
The better for me, and the worse for you,
Ricket-a-racket your hedges shall go. (1903)

Organised entertainments also became popular in the late 19th century, and 20th-century pyrotechnic manufacturers renamed Guy Fawkes Day as Firework Night. Sales of fireworks dwindled somewhat during the First World War, but resumed in the following peace. At the start of the Second World War celebrations were again suspended, resuming in November 1945. For many families, Guy Fawkes Night became a domestic celebration, and children often congregated on street corners, accompanied by their own effigy of Guy Fawkes. This was sometimes ornately dressed and sometimes a barely recognisable bundle of rags stuffed with whatever filling was suitable. A survey found that in 1981 about 23 percent of Sheffield schoolchildren made Guys, sometimes weeks before the event. Collecting money was a popular reason for their creation, the children taking their effigy from door to door, or displaying it on street corners. But mainly, they were built to go on the bonfire, itself sometimes comprising wood stolen from other pyres; “an acceptable convention” that helped bolster another November tradition, Mischief Night. Rival gangs competed to see who could build the largest, sometimes even burning the wood collected by their opponents; in 1954 the Yorkshire Post reported on fires late in September, a situation that forced the authorities to remove latent piles of wood for safety reasons. Lately, however, the custom of begging for a “penny for the Guy” has almost completely disappeared. In contrast, some older customs still survive; in Ottery St Mary men chase each other through the streets with lit tar barrels, and since 1679 Lewes has been the setting of some of England’s most extravagant 5 November celebrations, the Lewes Bonfire.

Generally, modern 5 November celebrations are run by local charities and other organisations, with paid admission and controlled access. Author Martin Kettle, writing in The Guardian in 2003, bemoaned an “occasionally nannyish” attitude to fireworks that discourages people from holding firework displays in their back gardens, and an “unduly sensitive attitude” toward the anti-Catholic sentiment once so prominent on Guy Fawkes Night. David Cressy summarised the modern celebration with these words: “the rockets go higher and burn with more colour, but they have less and less to do with memories of the Fifth of November … it might be observed that Guy Fawkes’ Day is finally declining, having lost its connection with politics and religion. But we have heard that many times before.”

Similarities with other customs
Historians have often suggested that Guy Fawkes Day served as a Protestant replacement for the ancient Celtic and Nordic festivals of Samhain, pagan events that the church absorbed and transformed into All Hallow’s Eve and All Souls’ Day. In The Golden Bough, the Scottish anthropologist James George Frazer suggested that Guy Fawkes Day exemplifies “the recrudescence of old customs in modern shapes”. David Underdown, writing in his 1987 work Revel, Riot, and Rebellion, viewed Gunpowder Treason Day as a replacement for Hallowe’en: “just as the early church had taken over many of the pagan feasts, so did Protestants acquire their own rituals, adapting older forms or providing substitutes for them”. While the use of bonfires to mark the occasion was most likely taken from the ancient practice of lighting celebratory bonfires, the idea that the commemoration of 5 November 1605 ever originated from anything other than the safety of James I is, according to David Cressy, “speculative nonsense”. Citing Cressy’s work, Ronald Hutton agrees with his conclusion, writing, “There is, in brief, nothing to link the Hallowe’en fires of North Wales, Man, and central Scotland with those which appeared in England upon 5 November.” Further confusion arises in Northern Ireland, where some communities celebrate Guy Fawkes Night; the distinction there between the Fifth, and Halloween, is not always clear. Despite such disagreements, in 2005 David Cannadine commented on the encroachment into British culture of late 20th-century American Hallowe’en celebrations, and their effect on Guy Fawkes Night:

Nowadays, family bonfire gatherings are much less popular, and many once-large civic celebrations have been given up because of increasingly intrusive health and safety regulations. But 5 November has also been overtaken by a popular festival that barely existed when I was growing up, and that is Halloween … Britain is not the Protestant nation it was when I was young: it is now a multi-faith society. And the Americanised Halloween is sweeping all before it—a vivid reminder of just how powerfully American culture and American consumerism can be transported across the Atlantic.

Reporting on the same topic, in 2012 the BBC’s Tom de Castella concluded:

It’s probably not a case of Bonfire Night decline, but rather a shift in priorities … there are new trends in the bonfire ritual. Guy Fawkes masks have proved popular and some of the more quirky bonfire societies have replaced the Guy with effigies of celebrities in the news – including Lance Armstrong and Mario Balotelli – and even politicians. The emphasis has moved. The bonfire with a Guy on top – indeed the whole story of the Gunpowder Plot – has been marginalised. But the spectacle remains.

Another celebration involving fireworks, the five-day Hindu festival of Diwali (normally observed between mid-October and November), in 2010 began on 5 November. This led The Independent to comment on the similarities between the two, its reporter Kevin Rawlinson wondering “which fireworks will burn brightest”.

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Almabtrieb Festival Fri, 25 Jul 2014 02:51:30 +0000 The Almabtrieb (German language literally: drive from the mountain pasture) is an annual event in the alpine regions in Europe, referring to a cow train in autumn.

During summer, all over the alpine regions cow herds feed on alpine pastures (Almen or Alpen) high up in the mountains (a practice known as transhumance). In numbers, these amount to about 500,000 cows in Austria, 380,000 in Switzerland and 50,000 in Germany.

While there is often some movement of cattle between the Almen during the summer, there is usually one concerted cow train in autumn to bring the cows to their stables down in the valley. This typically takes place in late September or early October. If there were no accidents on the Alm during the summer, in many areas the cows are decorated elaborately, and the cow train is celebrated with music and dance events in the towns and villages. Upon arrival in the valley, joint herds from multiple farmers are sorted in the Viehscheid, and each cow is returned to its owner.

In many places this Alpine custom of Almabtrieb has nowadays evolved into a major tourist attraction, with a public festival and booths set up along the course for selling agricultural as well as artisans’ products along with alcoholic beverages.

The reverse cow train up to the Almen in spring is not celebrated.

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