A festival is a festive event typically celebrated by a group and usually centered on a theme related to that community and its beliefs or customs. It may be marked as a national or local holiday, festive occasion, or special religious event. A festival can take place in a park, on a street corner, at the village pump or even in a court house. The word “fiesta” is derived from Spanish and means a gathering or a celebration.
There are many different types of festive events and festivals, each having its own symbolic meaning and characteristics. Some of these are: Chinese New Year, Holi, Durga Puja, Id-ul-Fitr, Diwali, Eid, New Year’s Eve, and Christmas. These are just a few of the more common events. Other symbolic festivals include: Bihu Festival, Crocus Festival, Ganesh Chathur, Hindu Janamasti, Iftar Festival, Kite Festival, Mysore Festival, Pongal Festival, Puri Festival, Shahada Festival, and St. Valentine’s Day. These and many more can be found online.
The festive behavior of humans can be highly correlated with festivals. This can take the form of behavior like celebrating, socializing, gift-giving, paying respect, eating, and other such actions. In order to understand cultural differences and celebrations, it is important to recognize and differentiate between symbolic behaviors and ceremonial behaviors. The first type of behavior is considered to be symbolic behavior while the other type of behavior is considered to be ceremonial. The ceremonial behavior is generally related to events that have significant social significance, such as religious festivals and feasts.
Ritualistic behavior, on the other hand, is the opposite of religious festivals and is performed in a conventional manner. For example, during the funeral of a family member a ritualistic practice known as Bhai Phota or son day is performed. On the first day of the festival Bhai Phota, sons are offered dry fruits and sweets by female relatives and friends. After this ceremony, the celebration ends and the body is decorated.
Ritualistic customs form the basis of most Indian religious and cultural practices. For example, during Durga Puja or the wedding festival, girls offer flowers to their new husbands as a symbol of blessing the new couple. Similarly, during the festivals of Baisakhi and Diwali, Hindu married women burn incense sticks and take blessings of God at this ceremony. Some of the other common symbolic and ceremonial activities include: Aarti (deward) processions; Yatra (riding); Jain asanas (breathing exercises); Panchkarma (ritualistic dancing) and Agni (ritualistic fire). All these rituals are performed to praise and honor the deities.
Symbolic activity has played a key role in Hindu religious and cultural life since ancient time. This holds true for New Year and Christmas too. According to Indian folk tradition, if you wish your loved one on this day with good wishes then you can offer him or her some dry fruits. Also, a traditional method of wishing the new year is by presenting a garland or a teeka tree to the goddess.