Festival means a special time of year, usually a recurring one, that is characterized by events, performances, and celebrations, generally having religious, historical, or cultural significance. Festivals may also be community gatherings that center on a theme such as music or art, or they might be commemorative in nature. Festivals can take on many forms, including music concerts (called festivals or rock festivals), plays, parades, art exhibits, fairs, food and wine tastings, etc.
The word festival comes from the Latin festivalis, meaning “feast.” In fact, it seems that there is almost no human culture in which feasts are not celebrated on some regular basis. Many scholars in such fields as comparative religion, ethnology, and folklore have studied the nature of these feasts and their relationship to particular religions or cultures. It can be said that a festival is a typical case of glocalization, or the interrelationship of high culture and local customs.
Throughout history, festival has been seen as a way to honor the gods and goddesses of different faiths and cultures, a way for people to express their appreciation and thanks for a good harvest, or a way to mark important milestones in the lives of their ancestors. In a society in which religious beliefs are dominant, festivals serve as a reminder that life is a gift from a higher power and that every aspect of daily living should be considered with gratitude.
In religions that view time as cyclical, festivals often have the additional function of reminding humans of their place in the order of things. The Chinese philosophers Confucius (6th-5th centuries bc) and Mencius (4th-3rd centuries bc) taught that the natural world was governed by cycles, and that the changing of the seasons represented the renewal of these cycles. Thus, it was necessary to celebrate the beginning of a new season, as well as its end, in order to keep the balance.
It has been suggested that the festivals of ancient Mesopotamia, which were primarily connected to agriculture and the cycle of planting and harvesting, were an attempt to keep this balance. The festival is a common form of communal spirituality, which explains why it is found in all societies throughout the world.
Festivals that focus on culture or tradition are a way for communities to connect with their heritage and to pass on these traditions to the next generation. These festivals, sometimes called heritage festivals, allow citizens to reconnect with their roots and to feel a sense of belonging in a globalized society. They can also provide a way to understand their history, which in turn can help them better understand their place in the universe. The festival also enables them to share their values and morals with others, thus helping to shape a more ethical and civilized society.