Noche Buena en Cuba

Since it’s December, I decided to write about Christmas celebrations in Cuba. For this post, I had the opportunity to interview a good friend of mine (which I have included below) and talk about the traditions she and her family have for christmas.

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When do you and your family celebrate? 

We usually celebrate on the 24th. We call it Noche Buena which means good night. The get-together usually happened at my grandparents’ house with my grandma and grandpa leading.

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Do you have a big dinner? What kind of foods do you eat? 

Yeah, we have a big family dinner. My mom would make pierna de puerco or a whole roasted pig, some yuca con mojo, arroz blanco, frijoles negros, bread, salad, and other side dishes like that. For dessert we usually had flan. We also have turron (it’s a dessert made of nougat and almonds).

Flan_de_huevo_-_by_onnoth

Flan. Photo from Pixabay.

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Pierna de puerco. Photo from Pixabay.

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Turron. Photo from Pixabay.

Do you have any fried plantains during Buena Noche?!

Ha ha, no, we didn’t really have plantains during this time.

What other festivities would you have?

We always had Christmas music playing and salsa music. And the adults would drink and just be merry, ha ha.

Silusalsa

Silhouette of salsa dancers. Picture from WikiMedia Commons.

Do you exchange gifts? When would that take place and when would you be allowed to open them?

After dinner, gifts would be exchanged with the whole extended family. Then, on the 25th, each immediate family would open their gifts to each other at their respective houses.

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Felices fiestas!

 

 

 

References

Gundersen, Ofelia. “Noche Buena.” Personal

interview. 25 Nov. 2015.

Lamu Cultural Festival

Lamu Cultural Festival 

I chose to write about this festival because I thought it was a wonderful, unique festival that many people don’t know much about. I really wanted to explore other cultures that I know little about and I think I accomplished just that.

The Lamu Cultural Festival is dedicated to celebrating Lamu’s rich heritage. This festival is the biggest in the small Lamu Island located on the coast of Kenya. 

"Kofia" by ATTOUMANI MOHAMED Karim - Own work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Kofia.JPG#/media/File:Kofia.JPG

Kofia embroidery. Traditional craft of Lamu. Photo from WikiMedia Commons.

The carnival-like celebrations include music, dance, henna competitions, dhow races, donkey races, and displays of traditional crafts.

The festival began in 2001 and now takes places over 3 days.

"Masai woman in Nairobi" by Angela Sevin - originally posted to Flickr as Masai woman. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Masai_woman_in_Nairobi.jpg#/media/File:Masai_woman_in_Nairobi.jpg

Masai woman in Nairobi. Photo from WikiMedia Commons.

The 3 days of the Lamu Cultural festival consist of various swimming races, dancing, poetry competition, football tournaments, traditional displays, and exhibitions.

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One of the goals of the festival is to teach youth about the Lamu culture and to keep their traditions alive for generations to come.

The festival is now considered a major cultural event of the region.

The people of Lamu take great pride in their heritage. They strive to keep their blended culture alive and growing.

Katina Ceremony

Katina Ceremony

A good friend of mine (who I actually met through studying French) found out about my culture blog and told me about this ceremony that she participates in. Her name is Hirudinee Manukulasuriya and she is a buddhist from Sri Lanka. As we are both quite interested in learning about different cultures, she generously invited me into hers. I also had the chance to interview her about the ceremony, (which you can read more about below). I chose to write about this ceremony because of the significance it has to Buddhism. Religion is another aspect of culture just as language is, so even though Katina is more of a religious ceremony than a cultural one, it still allows one to explore the background and heritage of a group of people. Seeing as how many people (myself included) know little about Sri Lankan culture and even about Buddhism I thought this was a great opportunity to learn more and explore their rich history.

History of the Katina Ceremony 

Katina is an important alms giving ceremony of Buddhism. It takes place at the end of the Vassa, or rains retreat period.

The Katina ceremony originates back to the time of the Buddha.

BD_Golden_Temple

Golden Temple in Dambulla, Sri Lanka: The Buddha sits meditating. Photo from WikiMedia Commons.

A group of 30 monks or bhikkus, once took a journey to spend their retreat season with the Buddha. But before they could get there, the Vassa or rains retreat began in which the monks are required to stop any traveling and live together in peace.

“Buddhist monks live a simple life in order to eradicate desire for worldly pleasures. Life of the monks depends on the collected alms as food, and on robes made from patched up rags. They never request food, robes or anything else” (Manukulasuriya).

"Abhisit offer Kathina robes" by Thai Government - http://www.flickr.com/photos/thaigov/5150601467/. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Abhisit_offer_Kathina_robes.jpg#/media/File:Abhisit_offer_Kathina_robes.jpgThai Prime Minister Abhisit offering Kathina robes to monks at 2010 Kathina. Photo from WikiMedia Commons.

The monks found a place to stay together to wait out the monsoon season. They were disappointed about not being able to spend this time with Buddha, but made the best of it nevertheless, by meditating and studying together.

As soon as the monsoon season ended, the monks continued their travels.

“During the raining season in Buddha’s time, monks experienced hardships when going for alms and their robes got dirty. So, Buddha allowed monks to stay in a house/temple if devotees/lay people requested”(Manukulasuriya).

"Vassa in Sakhon Nakhon" by ผู้สร้างสรรค์ผลงาน/ส่งข้อมูลเก็บในคลังข้อมูลเสรีวิกิมีเดียคอมมอนส์ - เทวประภาส มากคล้าย - Captured by uploader.. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Vassa_in_Sakhon_Nakhon.jpg#/media/File:Vassa_in_Sakhon_Nakhon.jpg

Vassa in Sakhon Nakhon. Photo from WikiMedia Commons

When Buddha heard of the monks’ hardships, he allowed them to accept cloth from the lay people for new robes.

Once they had enough cloth, the monks were to sew a robe using a method which required the use of a frame called the Katina. It is here that the festival draws its name (Kathina, 2015).

The Ceremony

“During this period, lay people offered food, medicine, etc. and took care of the monks. The monks practiced meditation all day and some of them became enlightened”

"Buddhist monk in Buddhist church" by ผู้สร้างสรรค์ผลงาน/ส่งข้อมูลเก็บในคลังข้อมูลเสรีวิกิมีเดียคอมมอนส์ - เทวประภาส มากคล้าย - Captured by uploader.. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Buddhist_monk_in_Buddhist_church.jpg#/media/File:Buddhist_monk_in_Buddhist_church.jpg

Besides the cloth for the robe, lay people also offer the bhikkus other gifts such as sugar, tea, coffee, and balms. “Each devotee brings whatever he/she can afford and knows will be of use to the monks” (samadhibuddhistvihara.org).

According to Buddha, the cloth for the robe must be offered to the entire Sangha commmunity. Then, they decide who will receive the gift (BBC.CO.UK).

 

 

In addition to receiving the robe, the nominated monk also enjoys five privileges:

“(i) he is free to go to a meal invitation without having informed another monk.

(ii) Usually monks use a full set of three robes, but he is allowed to go without taking a full set robes according to a specific period of time without any fault.

(iii) He can enjoy a group meal (with four or more monks).

(iv) He can use as many as robes as he likes

(v) Finally, he can receive other robes offered to the Buddhist Saṅgha during the period of rainy season and on the occasion of the Kaṭhina ceremony” (BUDDHISTDOOR.NET)."Kathina Festival in Wat Khung Taphao 01" by ผู้สร้างสรรค์ผลงาน/ส่งข้อมูลเก็บในคลังข้อมูลเสรีวิกิมีเดียคอมมอนส์ - เทวประภาส มากคล้าย - Captured by uploader.. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Kathina_Festival_in_Wat_Khung_Taphao_01.jpg#/media/File:Kathina_Festival_in_Wat_Khung_Taphao_01.jpgKathina festival in Thailand. Photo from WikiMedia Commons.

 

“By taking care of the monks, lay people accumulated wholesome karma” (Manukulasuriya).

Around the World

As it is a very significant ceremony for Buddhists, the Katina ceremony takes place in various temples all around the world:

Sri Lanka

Thailand 

Cambodia

Katina Today  

Katina is the largest celebrated festival among traditional Buddhists around the world.

It now begins very early in the morning. “Throughout the day, Buddhists enjoy the ceremony with cultural entertainment and performing many meritorious acts. According the schedule, it begins early in the morning. People gather in the monastery, undertake the five precepts, and listen to Dhamma talks. The first session is concluded before noon. Thereafter, the devotees serve a meal to the Sangha and enjoy whatever is left over” (BUDDHISTDOOR.NET)

Kandyan_dance_11

Depending on the rainy season of each country, the date of the Katina varies from place to place. Generally, it occurs within the months of October and November (Kathina, 2015).

“Even today during the raining season, Buddhist lay people invite monks to stay in the temple and take care of them while they practice meditation. This practice ends on the full moon day, and devotees offer monks robes, which is the Katina Ceremony” (Manukulasuriya).

Now, the lay people often offer ready-made robes to the Sangha for Katina.

Because the Katina is a gift from the devotees, no monk is allowed to request or organize the ceremony.

After receiving the robes, monks participate in other religious practices and the lay people perform cultural activities such as singing Buddhist songs and having traditional dances.

Kandyan_dance_9

This year in Sri Lanka, Katina took place on November 15.

ඉස්තුති (istuti)

References

“Kathina Ceremony, Buddhist Kathina Ceremony Festival, Guide

to Kathina Ceremony in Buddhism.” Kathina Ceremony,

Buddhist Kathina Ceremony Festival, Guide to Kathina Ceremony

in Buddhism. N.p., n.d. Web. 2 Nov. 2015. <http://www.

buddhist-tourism.com/buddhist-festivals/kathina-

ceremony.html>.

Manukulasuriya, Hirudinee. “Katina Ceremony.” Personal

interview. 4 Nov. 2015.

Día de Los Muertos

Hola!

Día de los Muertos is my favorite holiday. It’s incredibly fascinating to me and I look forward to it every year. My parents were both born in Mexico and came to the US in their mid twenties. They have instilled in me (and in my many siblings) the various traditions and customs of the Mexican culture. I grew up speaking Spanish (mostly at home/with family) and English (from school and from living in the US), which have formed the basis of my desire to learn languages and about cultures. Though it is not necessarily a major holiday for my family, my parents did teach us all about Día de los Muertos; what it signifies, how it’s celebrated and this particular attitude toward death that many Latinos have. I’ve never actually celebrated at a grave site, but every year I participate in the traditions and customs that surround the Day of the Dead. So read on to discover more about this increasingly popular celebration of life and death.

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Photograph of myself in calavera makeup for Dia de los Muertos 2015. Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Origin of Día de los Muertos 

Día de los Muertos or Day of the Dead is a Mexican holiday that celebrates, remembers, and honors the lives and deaths of ancestors.

Because it expresses beliefs regarding death, spirituality, and the afterlife, Día de los Muertos is considered a religious holiday as well as a cultural one.

The history of Día de los Muertos dates back to the times of the indigenous people of Mexico.

Aztec warriors. Picture from WikiMedia Commons.

When the Spanish Conquistadors arrived in Mexico, they discovered this ceremony of the dead , which the Aztec had been practicing for thousands of years (Day of the dead, 2015).

But rather than fearing death, not only did the Aztecs welcome it, they mocked it.
“…the natives viewed it as the continuation of life…To them, life was a dream and only in death did they become truly awake,” (Day of the dead, 2015).
Día de los Muertos originally took place at the beginning of August, which corresponded to the ninth month of the Aztec solar calendar.

Aztec solar calendar. Photo from Pixabay.

Aztec solar calendar. Photo from Pixabay.

In an attempt to convert the Aztecs to Catholicism, the Spaniards moved the celebration to coincide with All Souls’ Day and All Saints’ day (Day of the dead, 2015).
November 1 is also sometimes referred to as Día de los Inocentes (day of the innocent) for commemorating children and November 2 as Día de los Muertos (day of the dead) for commemorating adults (Sue, n.d.).
The goddess Mictecacihuatl, or Lady of the Dead was the overseer of the dead and festivals of the dead (Cortez, n.d.).

Mictecacihuatl, Aztec goddess of death. Picture from WikiMedia Commons.

The Aztec and other indigenous people of Mesoamerica, would keep skulls as trophies and display them during Día de los Muertos.

Aztec mosaic skull. Phto from WikiMedia Commons.

The calaveras or skulls symbolized death and rebirth to the Aztec. They also believed that the spirits of the dead would come back to the earth during the then month-long observance.
Even today, Aztec traditions and beliefs like Mictecacihuatl and the calaveras continue to play important parts in the celebration.

Calaveras. Photo from Pixabay.

Calaveras. Photo from Pixabay.

Celebrating Día de los Muertos Today

Many people, mostly in rural parts of Mexico, spend Día de los Muertos at the gravesites of their ancestors.

Mexican family tidying and decorating gravesites for Dia de Muertos at a cemetary in Almoloya del Rio, State of Mexico, Mexico. Photo from WikiMedia Commons.

Others create beautifully decorated altares, or altars, which serve to commemorate the departed and welcome their spirits back to earth.

An altar dedicated to famous Mexican pop culture figures. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

An altar dedicated to famous Mexican pop culture figures.
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Ofrendas, or offerings, of food, water, skulls, candles, incense, photographs, and cempazuchitl are placed on the altares for the spirits as well as for decoration.

An altar dedicated to loved ones who have passed away. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

An altar dedicated to loved ones who have passed away. Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

With their vibrant colors and rich fragrance, the petals of the cempazuchitl (orange-yellow Mexican marigolds) are used to make trails that lead the spirits to the altars. Magenta terciopelo flowers are used to symbolize the recent death of a friend or family member.

Cempazuchitl and terciopelo flowers. Photo from WikiMedia Commons.

Family and friends place the favorite foods of the deceased on the altares as well as things that they enjoyed doing in life, such as sports equipment, favorite music, instruments, leisure activities, books, etc.

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An altar dedicated to loved ones who have passed away. Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Altares dedicated to children also include toys, candies, sweets, and treats for them to enjoy in the afterlife.

Loteria boards (Mexican game). Photo from WikiMedia Commons.

Wooden balero toys. Photo from WikiMedia Commons.

Mexican candy vendor in Mexico City. Photo from WikiMedia Commons.

At nightfall, family and friends gather to remember and honor the lives of their deceased loved ones and to reconnect with them in their death.

Folk music, traditional and Aztec dances fill the smoky, incense-filled air.

Copal (tree resin) incense burner. Photo from WikiMedia Commons.

Candles flicker and gleam in the night. A moment of loss and lament is transformed into a fun and joyous celebration.

Candles placed on graves for Day of the Dead celebration. Photo from Pixabay.

Candles placed on graves for Day of the Dead celebration. Photo from Pixabay.

Other staples of the holiday are papel picado, sugar or clay calaveras and pan de muerto.

Altar decorations. Photo from WikiMedia Commons.

La Catrina, a character created by cartoon illustrator José Guadalupe Posada in the early 1900s has become a mascot of sorts for Day of the Dead.

The “Dapper Skeleton” as it is sometimes known, is an etching of a female skeleton wearing an elegant hat, mimicking European aristocrats from that time.

La Catrina by José Guadalupe Posada. Photo from WikiMedia Commons.

Posada’s image is a satirical portrait of Mexican natives who strived to imitate the culture of wealthy Europeans. It also expresses the idea that regardless of how wealthy you were in life, or who you were, we’re all equal in death.

Day of the Dead celebration in El Paso, Texas, USA in 2012. Photo from WikiMedia Commons.

Many cities in Mexico and the US often host public Day of the Dead celebrations that people can attend to participate in the festivities.

Aztec dances, traditional dances, calaveritas literarias (“literary skulls”), food and other vendors, music performances, art displays, and altar showcases are just some of the activities available.

Day of the Dead inspired art. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Day of the Dead inspired art. Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Day of the Dead inspired art and trinkets. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Day of the Dead inspired art and trinkets. Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Day of the Dead artisan vendors. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Day of the Dead artisanal vendors. Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Día de los Muertos Around the World

Various countries worldwide have adopted the Day of the Dead festival or have a similar holiday/celebration. You can learn more about these other international celebrations below:

Celebrate Día de los Muertos at home!

There are many ways you can join in on all the fun festivities of Day of the Dead in your own home!

Learn to paint your face like a calavera or sugar skull. You can do basic skull makeup or try something more ornate!

Practice your Spanish with some Day of Dead related refranes, or sayings and poems like this one:

“La muerte es flaca y no puede conmigo” which translates to “Death is skinny/weak and she can’t carry me” (Hernandez, 2011).  Read more here!

Learn a traditional dance, like La Danza de los Viejitos (the dance of the elderly)!

Decorate your altar or your house with brightly colored papel picadoStart of with simple patterns and then move on to more intricate designs!

Papel Picado. Photo from WikiMedia Commons.

Enjoy some deliciously soft and ever-popular Pan de Muerto, ( bread of the dead or dead man’s bread). Find the recipe here.

Pan de Muerto. Photo from WikiMedia Commons.

¡Salud!

Yes, Mexicans do mourn their dead.

We feel that grief just like anyone else, but we also take this time to remember the good times, to celebrate the joys of life, and to accept death. We express our fear by laughing at death in the face.
Through celebration, food, art, dance, music, spirituality, togetherness and love we learn to live alongside death. We accept it as the next step, the next adventure.

¡Gracias!

Cortez, Constance, Dr. “Dia De Los Muertos.” Dayofthedeadsf.org. N.p., n.d.

Web. 5 Oct. 2015. <http://www.dayofthedeadsf.org/history.html&gt;.

“Day of the Dead History: Ritual Dating Back 3000 Years.” Azcentral.com. N.p.,

9 Oct. 2015. Web. 10 Oct. 2015

<http://www.azcentral.com/story/entertainment/holidays/day-of-the-

dead/2014/09/24/day-of-the-dead-history/16174911/>.

Hernandez, Aracely. “Dia De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead).” Dia De Los

Muertos (Day of the Dead). N.p., 2011. Web. 5 Nov. 2015.

<http://www.niu.edu/newsplace/nndia.html&gt;.

Sue, Caryl. “Dia De Los Muertos Lively Mexican Holiday Honors the Dead.”

National Geographic. National Geographic Society, n.d. Web. 5 Oct. 2015.

<http://education.nationalgeographic.com/media/dia-de-los-muertos/&gt;.

Sagra del Tordo

Buongiorno amici! 

I decided to write about this festival because I thought it was very exciting and unique. I have been studying Italian for about a year and I discovered a rich Italian history. The Festival of the Thrush piqued my interest because of its origins and because it just looks like a lot of fun. I know many cities host “renaissance fairs” but I think Sagra del Tordo allows participants to have more genuine and accurate experiences of what life was like in the Middle Ages.

Origin of Sagra del Tordo

On the last weekend of October, the town of Montalcino, Italy celebrates its Sagra del Tordo of Festival of the Thrush.

The festival began in 1958. During the fall, large amounts of birds, namely thrush, migrate from the north to this area of Italy. With so many birds, hunters in the Middle Ages found lots of prey to take back to their families for feasts and other gatherings.

Thrush bird. Photo from WikiMedia Commons.

Thrush bird. Picture from WikiMedia Commons.

How it is Celebrated 

“Twince a year the four quarters of Montalcino, Borghetto (white and red), Pianello (white and blue), Ruga (yellow and blue) and Travaglio (red and yellow), challenge each other in an archery competition that inflames the hearts of the whole community” (The Festival, n.d).

Sagra del Tordo, Montalcino, Italy. Photo from WikiMedia Commons.

Decorated houses and flags blowing in the wind display lots of support and pride for each of the quarters.

To commence, boys and girls dressed in traditional Tuscan country costumes from the 1800s showcase a traditional dance called il Trescone.

“The men would compete in jousts and tournaments to test their bravery and skill, while the women showed their abilities by preparing the game and serving the plentiful local wine” (The Festival, n.d.).

Other festivities include drum parades, archery trials, a feast inside the Castello di Montalcino, parades in medieval costumes and a festive lunch by invitation only.
The main event of the festival is the archery contest in which two archers from each of the four quarters of Montalcino compete.

The captain of the winning team earns a silver arrow in the name of their quarter.
They then sing and chant their way back to their quarter to ring the victory bells (Thrush Festival, n.d.).

Celebrate Sagra del Tordo at Home!

Even if you’re not in Italy, you can also participate in some of the fun activities from the Festival of the Thrush!

You can enjoy a delicious and authentic Italian meal with pappardelle in wild hare sauce, pici, bruschetta, crostini and polenta.

Bruschetta. Photo from Pixabay.

Bruschetta. Photo from Pixabay.

Polenta unica. Photo from WikiMedia Commons.

Of course, the meal isn’t complete unless you have some of Italy’s famous wines, specifically those from Tuscany and Montalcino. Try some Rosso di Montalcino, Brunello di Montalcino, Sant’Antimo DOC, Moscadello di Montalcino, or Moscato di Montalcino.

San Polino Brunello di Montalcino. Photo from WikiMedia Commons.

2008_Castello_Banfi_Rosso_di_Montalcino_D.O.C._(5478993781)

Castello Banfi Rosso di Montalcino. Photo from WikiMedia Commons.

Listen to some Italian folk music while you savor your delicious meal for a more authentic Tuscan experience!

Then after dinner, you can try your hand at archery!

Sagra del Tordo is known for it’s rich history, authentic reenactments, and festive spirit.

Grazie!

References

“Festivals of Tuscany, Italy 2015.” Festivals of Tuscany Italy. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Oct.

2015. http://www.festivals-of-tuscany.com/

“Montalcino.” – Vino Brunello Di E Vino Rosso Di Tuscan Wines, Wine Tours. N.p., n.d.

Web. 20 Oct. 2015. http://www.montalcino.net/

“Montalcino Castle.” Montalcino Castle. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Oct. 2015.

http://www.castellitoscani.com/montalcino.htm

“MONTALCINO: SAGRA DEL TORDO: The Sagra That Has Outgrown Its Name.”

MONTALCINO: SAGRA DEL TORDO: The Sagra That Has Outgrown Its Name. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Oct. 2015. <http://www.mapitout-montalcino.com/2012/10/festival-montalcino-tuscany.html&gt;.

“Sagra Del Tordo.” – Montalcino. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Oct. 2015.

http://www.montalcinowinetours.com/en/art-culture/sagra-del-tordo.html

“The Festival of the Thrush.” The Festival of the Thrush. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Oct. 2015.

http://www.prolocomontalcino.com/en/events/item/1124-the-festival-of-the-thrush

“Thrush Festival.” Of Montalcino 2012. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Oct. 2015.

http://www.tuscany-charming.it/en/events/thrushfestival.asp

MassKara Festival

Welcome to the City of Smiles! 🙂

I became fascinated with the Philippine culture when I noticed the similarities between the Tagalog language and the Spanish language. With Spanish on my side and my slight “obsession” with languages, I decided to add Tagalog to my collection. But, in order to understand the Philippine people’s use of language, I must first understand the Philippine culture. I chose to write about the MassKara Festival because it is unique and it expresses the people of Bacolod’s positivity and resilience. How wonderful would it be to come form a place that is known for their smiles? and what better way to face adversity than with a big smile that says nothing can bring me down?!

Every year in October, the city of Bacolod, capitol of Negros Occidental in the Philippines, hosts their joyous MassKara Festival.

Bacolod City Hall, Negros Occidental, Philippines Photo from WikiMedia Commons

So what does MassKara mean?

The name of the festival is a play on words. The first part comes from the English word “mass” meaning a large amount (of people, in this case). The second part “kara” comes from the Spanish word “cara” which means face. The name “MassKara” also sounds like the word “máscara” which is Spanish for mask. So, the MassKara Festival is about masks, faces and a lot of people.

Giant MassKara Mask, 2013 Photo from WikiMedia Commons

Giant MassKara Mask, 2013
Photo from WikiMedia Commons

Origin of the MassKara Festival

Unlike many other festivals with histories that date back to times of prosperity and celebration, the MassKara festival actually originated from a period of crisis and tragedy.

Being the Philippines’ main source of sugar, when the world prices of sugar dropped in the early 1980’s, Bacolod city was hit the hardest. In that same year, a vessel named Don Juan sank, taking the lives of many Negrenses from Bacolod.

But instead of wallowing in grief, the city of Bacolod decided to throw a party. The local government thought a celebration could help lift the people’s spirits and improve on their struggling economy.

This celebration has continued year after year since then, and is now known as the MassKara Festival of Bacolod City.

Thanks to the MassKara festival, Bacolod earned its title as the City of Smiles.

MassKara participant 2013 Photo from WikiMedia Commons

MassKara street performer 2013
Photo from WikiMedia Commons

How is the festival celebrated?

Festivities last for about 20 days. Locals and tourists alike come together every October to enjoy music, dancing, parades, and smiles. Similar to Mardi Gras, festival-goes of MassKara create and dress in elaborate, costumes, colorful beads, magnificent headdresses , and, of course, happy, smiling masks.

MassKara street performer, 2013 Photo from WikiMedia Commons

MassKara street performer, 2013
Photo from WikiMedia Commons

A street dance competition opens the festival with performers from all around the region participating in creative and exuberant dances. Beating drums and Latin rhythms and lots of dancing fill the streets for the duration of MassKara.

MassKara street dance champion 2014

The girl with the most dazzling smile is selected to represent the spirit of the festival as the MassKara Queen.

MassKara Queen and her court, 2005

MassKara Queen and her court, 2005 Photo from WikiMedia Commons

Throughout the twenty days of MassKara, visitors can also enjoy beauty pageants, carnivals, drum and bugle competitions, food festivals, sports events, concerts, agricultural trade shows and garden shows.

“This year’s edition of Masskara festival in Bacolod City will features a new attraction: Electric Masskara float parade and dance competition and finally Barangay Granada and barangay 18 declared grand prize winners in the masskara street dance competition and electric dance float parade.” – video description from YouTube.

The MassKara Festival today

The MassKara festival has become a symbol of resilience for the people of Bacolod. It shows that no matter how difficult things may get, the city and its people will triumph and their smiles will never fade.

This year, the festival begins on the first of October and will continue until the 19th of October.

Salamat po! 🙂

References

Geronimo, Harold. “Celebrating the Philippines’ most Colorful Festivals.” The Filipino

Express:15. Jan 2010. ProQuest. Web. 26 Oct. 2015<http://search.proquest

.com/docview/212522943?pq-origsite=summon&accountid=3611>

“Masquerades.” Its More Fun in the Philippines RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 6 Oct. 2015.

<http://itsmorefuninthephilippines.com/masskara-festival/&gt;.

“Masskara Festival – One Bacolod.” One Bacolod. N.p., n.d. Web. 6 Oct. 2015.

<http://www.onebacolod.com/masskara-festival/#sthash.x55GjG7e.dpbs&gt;.

“The Official Website of Bacolod City.” The Official Website of Bacolod City. N.p., n.d.

Web. 6 Oct. 2015. <http://www.bacolodcity.gov.ph/&gt;.

“The Story Behind MassKara.” The Story Behind MassKara. N.p., n.d. Web. 6 Oct.

2015.<http://www.bacolodcity.gov.ph/story_behind.htm&gt;.

La Nuit Blanche

Bonjour mes amis!

This festival was appealing to me because I thought that it was a wonderful way to explore culture through art. I have been studying French for about two years but I had never heard about this festival. Even though it is a popular world wide, the event itself is unique in that it takes place during nighttime and makes art more accessible to visitors. Long, dark and sometimes cold nights (often in the winter) may not sound like ideal conditions to have a festival but through this celebration, the people of France give life to an otherwise gloomy period of time.

Read on to find out more about this festival, and about where and how you can participate in it.

eiffel-tower-951517_1920

Paris, France Photo from Pixabay.

Origin of La Nuit Blanche

On the first Saturday of October every year, the city of Paris hosts a dusk til dawn arts festival called La Nuit Blanche (the white night).

La Nuit Blance in Paris 2012. Photo from WikiMedia Commons.

La Nuit Blanche in Paris 2012. Photo from WikiMedia Commons.

Some areas in northern Europe experience polar nights where the night lasts for more than 24 hours. Many cities began pulling all-nighters by hosting illuminating cultural celebrations during this period of darkness. (But no need to worry about vampires during these days of night.)

Inspired by St. Petersburg’s White Nights Festival, a modern celebration of La Nuit Blanche began in 2002.

St. Petersburg Bridge during White Nights Festival. Photo from WikiMedia Commons.

St. Petersburg Bridge during White Nights Festival. Photo from WikiMedia Commons.

White Nights Festivals Around the World

The festival has grown and spread worldwide since then. You can learn more about similar international festivals below:

The Main Event

To celebrate, the center of the city is transformed into a makeshift art gallery to display and host various art installations, music performances, film viewings, art, dance performances, and themed social gatherings.

Sculpture

Art installation/sculpture “Têtes de Poupées” by Jean-Francois Petitperrin.
Photo from WikiMedia Commons.

Beginning at 7 p.m. and ending around 7 a.m., locals and tourists snake their way through the city to view dazzling lights, artistic works, and exciting spectacles, like the flying quartet.

Art installation

Art installation “Les Belles Endormies” by Marie-Claude Quignon. Photo from WikiMedia Commons.

This all night arts festival also features and opportunity for people to enjoy museums, art galleries and other cultural institutions free of charge.

Food vendors, bars, restaurants, and some amusement rides are also open during the festival.

Visitors are able to experience lesser known, but equally wondrous, parts of Paris. They can explore a whole other side of the city through art.

Celebrate La Nuit Blanche at Home!

Learn simple and basic French! Here and here! (<–all are great resources that I have personally used and found to be helpful in my studies!)

Listen to some wonderful French music appropriate for any occasion!

Watch some award-winning short French films!

Have you been to a White Nights festival before? Share your experience in the comments section. I’d love to hear all about it!

Bonne journée!

References

“Art Night Long.” The Economist (Online) Oct 08 2014ProQuest. Web. 29 Sept. 2015 .

“Nuit Blanche 2015.” Parisianist. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Sept. 2015.

<http://www.parisianist.com/en/attractions/annual-events/nuit-blanche/>.

“Nuit Blanche – Que Faire à Paris ?” Que Faire à Paris? N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Sept. 2015.

<http://quefaire.paris.fr/nuitblanche>.

“Nuit Blanche.” Time Out Paris. N.p., 1 Apr. 2015. Web. 29 Sept. 2015.

<http://www.timeout.com/paris/en/nuit-blanche>.

Oktoberfest!

Hallo meine Freunde!

I’ve been studying German for almost a year now. I have recently been learning about holidays and celebrations. Naturally, Oktoberfest had a major role in my studies. Though it is one of the most well-known and popular festivals around the world, when one thinks about Oktoberfest, the only thing that comes to mind is beer, beer and more beer. Therefore, I wanted to explore the history of this celebration and the cultural elements that make this festival so great.

Creative Commons License Artwork

Did you know Oktoberfest’s origin does not stem from beer or alcohol?

That’s right! Before 1818, beer was not even a staple of the festival like it is today. The largest beer festival in the world actually began as a wedding celebration in honor of the marriage between Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen. It took place on October 12, 1810 in Munich, Germany. The celebration was so great that the people of Munich decided to do it again the following year. And thus, Oktoberfest was born.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Creative Commons License

Wait, you’re not going to drink at Oktoberfest?!

Oktoberfest for the non-drinker

If you’re like me and you’re not much of a drinker, you may be thinking “why should I even go to Oktoberfest? There’s nothing to do but drink.”

Fear not, my friends! It may sound absurd, but even we can join in on all the fun!

In the early years of Oktoberfest, there were many other activities festival-goers could participate in, from horse races, agricultural shows, and dancing, to tree climbing, crossbow competitions, and freak shows.

Unfortunately, some of these events no longer take place. (Darn! Wonder how I’d fare in a crossbow competition?)

I have had limited experience with Oktoberfest.  I’ve only attended one festival that was held in the US. Even so, I have learned a lot about the history and traditions of this celebration and of the German and Bavarian culture. One of my older sisters, my younger sister, and my nephew attended with me and we really enjoyed ourselves.

 This work is licensed under a <a href=

Creative Commons License
A caricature drawing of myself that I got at Oktoberfest

So, if you’re not up to consuming some of the 1.8 million gallons of beer available at Oktoberfest celebrations, (but if you are, that’s cool too!) here is a list of alternative activities:

  • Sample various traditional foods, such as Bretzeln (pretzels), Weißwurst (white sausage), Reiberdatschi (potato pancakes), Sauerkraut (pickled red cabbage), and many, many more.
  • View musical performances
  • Listen to the bands
  • Visit the carnival game booths
  • Caricature drawings
  • Shop at the vendor booths for trinkets, art, decor, etc.
Photo from Pixabay

Photo from Pixabay

Though they may seem out of place, a lot of kids also attend the festival every year. Some activities appropriate for the younger crowd are:

  • face painting
  • balloon figures
  • carnival rides
  • Parades full of people dressed in traditional costumes
Photo from Pixabay

Photo from Pixabay

Celebrate Oktoberfest at Home!

Learn some simple and basic German words! Found herehere, here, and here. (<–all are great resources that I have personally used and found to be helpful!)

Froebel Stern or German paper star. Photo from Pixabay

Froebel Stern or German paper star. Photo from Pixabay

Make your own Froebel Stern (German paper star) here.

Alphorns. Photo from WikiMedia Commons.

Alphorns. Photo from WikiMedia Commons.

Join friends and family in yodeling contests, alphorn making, beer barrel roll races and other fun games. (Instructions for each of these found here.)

Pretzels. Photo form Pixabay.

Pretzels. Photo form Pixabay.

Enjoy some delicious black forest cake, pretzels, apple strudel, and other yummy treats!

Hope you have an awesome and fun-filled Oktoberfest!

Danke und Prost

References

“5 Reasons to Raise Your Steins to the History of Oktoberfest.” M2 PressWIRE.

(August 14,2015 Friday ): 354 words. LexisNexis Academic. Web. Date

Accessed: 2015/09/24.

“8 Fun Facts about Munich’s Oktoberfest.” Fox News. 1 Oct. 2014. Web. 24 Sept.

2015.<http://www.foxnews.com/travel/2014/10/01/fun-facts-about-

oktoberfest/>.

Katz, Jon. “10 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Oktoberfest.” Food Republic. 26

Sept. Web. 24 Sept. 2015

“What Is Oktoberfest?” What Is Oktoberfest? Web. 24 Sept. 2015.