Festivals are a way of celebrating culture and having fun. They happen in all cultures, all over the world and for lots of different reasons. Religion, music and food are just a few of the themes that inspire festivals new and old. But what exactly are they?
The word ‘festival’ means a celebration that takes place over an extended period of time. They can last for hours, days or weeks and focus upon a particular theme, such as art, food, music or a certain aspect of a local community. They may be participatory or spectator events, or a combination of both. Festivals can be recurring or one-off, such as the annual festival in Edinburgh, or they can be themed around specific genres of music, such as a folk music festival or rock music festival.
Many of the biggest festivals have their roots in religion, and are a special occasion used by religious followers to honour gods. Some of the best known include Christmas, Hanukkah, Diwali, Passover, Easter and Holi. The latter is also known as the Festival of Colours, or the Festival of Love, and it celebrates two key themes: the triumph of good over evil, and the eternal love between Gods Radha and Krishna.
Other festivals have a more secular origin, and are typically connected with harvest time or the changing of the seasons. These are often linked to religion, but can also be a way of showing thanks for good harvests and encouraging people to celebrate their own unique traditions and customs.
For example, Halloween and Easter are both festivals which blend religious commemoration with thanksgiving for a good harvest and the turning of the seasons. They can also be seen as a way to keep up traditional rituals that have been lost or forgotten in the modern world.
Festivals are usually organised by local communities, and are often marked as a local or national holiday, mela or eid. They are typical examples of glocalisation and the interrelationship between high culture and low culture. In addition, they are a frequent occasion for the celebration of local, regional or even national heroes and their achievements.
The Bible talks about several festivals, including the Feast of Tabernacles, which pictures a 1,000-year reign of Christ on earth when all humans will be taught God’s ways (Revelation 5:10). It also teaches that at the end of this Millennium, all who have ever lived without full knowledge of God’s way will be restored to life on earth (Revelation 21:5). This is an event to look forward to with great expectation! In the meantime, let us make the most of this life – to the glory of God! Amen.