Cultural festivals occur in every country of the world. Attending a festival from another culture is like putting that culture under a microscope, as when attending a festival, one often sees the fine and intricate components of that culture in vivid and vibrant detail. Let’s take a closer look at three different festivals in various parts of the world – Spring Festival in China, the San Fermin Festival in Spain, and Carnival in Brazil – by placing them under that microscope.
Otherwise known as Chinese New Year, Spring Festival is the most important festival celebrated by Han Chinese. Beginning on the eve of the lunar New Year, families travel near and far to get together for an enormous meal, accompanied by weeks-long fireworks. Spring Festival lasts for fifteen days, the first few of which are designated for visiting family, then extended family and, lastly, friends. Mandarin oranges are given as gifts of good fortune for the coming year. New clothes are purchased, and most wear red, as not only does this color symbolize good fortune, but the color comes into play in the Spring Festival story of the mythical monster, Nian, who is frightened away by loud noises, fire and the color red. Red lanterns are hung and red envelopes full of cash are given to the young by their elders. Drums are beaten to lion dances, and fireworks explode to scare away evil spirits with both the sound and the light. If visiting China, Spring Festival is a great cultural experience, full of delicious food, thrilling performances and splendid company.
The San Fermin Festival in Pamplona is home to the famed Running of the Bulls. Starting on July 6th, the festival lasts until midnight on July 14th. On the 7th, San Fermin’s statue is carried through Pamplona’s streets and the Running of the Bulls follows, reoccurring every morning of the festival week. During the running, six steers and six bulls are guided through the narrow streets of Pamplona by courageous (or incredibly stupid) runners to the Plaza de Toros, where the bulls will later take part in bullfights and be killed. Though the course is over 825 meters long, it lasts only three minutes, as hundreds of people race alongside the bulls, often incurring injury in the process. Over a dozen people have been killed over the years, and each year sees around 200 to 300 participants injured. Though this festival is quite a risky one, the Running of the Bulls is a sight to see…though perhaps not one to participate in.
Catholics worldwide celebrate Carnival, but it is the most famous holiday in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Marking the beginning of Lent, Carnival is celebrated 46 days before Easter and, being as such, is primarily driven by the Christian calendar. However, the week-long festival in Brazil combines Christian, Pagan and Brazilian traditions. Huge parades traipse through the streets, whilst music, dancing and partying sets the city alight with life. People dress up in bright clothes and costumes, eat and drink in excess, and enjoy general merriment. Carnival is a must if visiting any South American country in early-March.
Though we’ve but a brief glimpse through the microscope at Spring Festival, the San Fermin Festival, and Carnival, one might only see the fine and intricate components of these cultures by attending the festivals in the flesh.