A festival is a large public celebration that usually lasts for more than a day and centers on some cultural theme. It can also refer to any regularly recurring program of events such as concerts or plays. A festival is often a religious celebration but can also be secular in nature. Moreover, festivals are not just about celebrating culture, they also serve to unite and bring together groups of people who might not normally interact with one another.
The word festival is derived from the Latin feast and it is not surprising that many festivals are associated with abundant food. This could be the Shrove Tuesday feast before the beginning of Lent and its period of fasting or the harvest festivals that arose out of the need to celebrate the end of the growing season. Alternatively, many festivals are linked to the re-enactment of some mythological event or legend. For instance, the Hindu religion reenacts a mythological story about a devil king called Hiranyakashyap who had a son named Prahlad. Despite having the blessings of God, this devil king became arrogant and wanted to worship himself rather than god. Consequently, the gods decided to send an angel to test whether he was worshiping him or not. The angel instructed him that if he wanted to worship god then he should eat everything except his own daughter.
Other festivals are purely recreational in nature and involve the gathering of people for an extended period of time. The Burning Man festival is a prime example of this. It began as an intimate community of friends but has now grown into a massive arty and apocalyptic paean to the wonders of self-expression that attracts a tight-knit group of bohemians from around the world.
For many people, though, a festival is about music. Whether it is the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland that has been held for over fifty years or the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Tennessee, festivals are often a great place to see legendary artists perform live. A festival can also be a venue for a particular type of performance such as a play, opera or concert.
A festival can even be a solution to a problem like the Wara Art Festival in Japan. It was founded as a way to use the rice straw (wara) that is a byproduct of the annual harvest in Niigata. The festival is an important part of the local economy and provides jobs for those who work in the rice straw industry.
The festival is a phenomenon that has occupied scholars from many disciplines including comparative religion, sociology and folklore for centuries. Yet little explicit theoretical effort has been devoted to the description, analysis and interpretation of these cultural phenomena. Hopefully this article has stimulated the reader to investigate this fascinating area of study further. To learn more about the meaning of festival and how it relates to human culture, check out this website.