Festivals - April to June
Projects highlighted in yellow are featured in Paola's book Celebrating Women.
CHINA. Jie Mei Jie (Sisters Festival). Black Miao (Hmu) people celebrate this courtship rite near the river: single women dye cooked rice: blue, pink, yellow and white represent the four seasons. If a young man serenades a girl, which signals his interest, she gives him a packet of rice with her reply inside…a hot pepper means refusal; two chopsticks mean “I love you.” (Taijiang county, Chnog’an region, Guizhou)
INDIA. Vasant Gauri Festival. The Goddess Gauri visits her parental home and is welcomed with a month of pujas in homes, groups and clubs. Married women visit their parents who invite friends and relatives to greet their daughters and Gauri.
INDIA. Yanga (Holy Fire). This ninth-century Sixty-Four Yogini temple has sculptures inside and out of the yoginis, all of whom have women’s bodies and animal heads and are believed to have magic powers to destroy enemies. Villagers burn ghee and chant in Sanskrit to honor the goddesses for bringing peace and harmony. (Hirapur, Orissa) JAPAN. Flower Picking Festival. Since the eighth century, children and women have picked flowers and carried them to shrines. (Otori Shrine, Sakai city, Osaka prefecture)
JAPAN. Kanamara Matsuri. More than two centuries ago, the city’s prostitutes supposedly prayed for protection from syphilis and successful business. The Festival of the Steel Phallus responds to the second wish: celebrants parade images of huge penises and eat penis-shaped lollipops. Today, this Shinto fertility festival raises money for AIDS research. (Kawasaki)
JAPAN. Miyako Odori (Cherry Blossom Dance). As the cherry blossoms flower, Geishas play music and perform this famous dance, which was presented for the first time in 1872. (Gion; Tokyo; Osaka; Arashiyama; Kyoto; Yoshoino).
NEPAL. Mata Tirtha Snan (also known as Mata Trtha Aunsi and Matri Auncy). Mothers Day is celebrated on the night of the full moon. Children give their mothers gifts; mothers bless everyone with good wishes; orphans of all ages pray for their dead mothers (Matatirtha near Kathmandu).
NETHERLANDS. Koninginnedag (Queen’s Day). In 1948, Holland’s Queen Beatrix decreed that her mother, Queen Juliana’s, birthday would always be celebrated on April 30. The party starts the night before and continues with parades, boat parties on the canals, fireworks, games, flea markets, palm readers, bands, beer, dancing and dunking for oranges (the royal family descends from the House of Orange Nassau).
PAKISTAN. Joshi (Spring Festival). Girls collect flowers on the hillside and before dawn, the women decorate the houses, Jesktakan temples and cattle sheds with flowers, then milk the cows, dance and sing. The third day of the festival includes a ceremony to purify mothers and one-year-old babies. Festivities continue for two more days. (Kalasha Valleys: Mumret; Rukmu; Biriu)
PHILIPPINES. Turumba Festival. This festival began with Pakil priestesses, healers who performed Animal sacrifices and went into trances. Catholic priests prohibited the practice. Today, the festival commemorates the seven sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary and hence takes place seven times during April and May. (Pakil, Laguna) SPAIN. Feira do Encaixe (Lace Fair). Women who make bobbin lace compete, demonstrate, exhibit and offer their traditional work for sale. (Camariñas, Terra de Soneira region, A Coruña Province)
SWEDEN. Walpurgis Night Festival. Bonfires flame all over the countryside, inspired by the Viking belief that witches gathered on this night to worship the devil. Students remember the ancient witches’ Sabbath with torchlight parades and songfests to celebrate the death of winter, the birth of spring. (Uppsala; Lund)
UNITED STATES. Red Hat Hoot. Red Hat Society members, all over 50, are inspired by Jenny Joseph’s poem, “When I’m an old woman, I shall wear purple with a red hat.” They do just that, and convene by the thousands once a year for high tea and hijinks. (Location changes; see redhatsociety.com)
VIETNAM. Dau (Thua) Pagoda Festival. Man Muong, a goddess who stopped drought, is celebrated with lion dances, wrestling and a human chess game. This festival is dedicated to the four “lady geniuses:” spirits of clouds, rain, thunder, lightning. (Thuan Thanh district, Bac Ninh province.)
CHINA. Mazu (Tianhou) Festival. Mazu, a woman who became a goddess, rescued fishermen at sea and was later elevated to Empress of Heaven. Decorated sampans and junks filled with devotees set off at dawn for Taoist temples to honor her, bringing offerings of pink dumplings and fruit. Her image is paraded through streets. Outside her temples: lion dancers, fortune tellers, Chinese operas performances. (Meizhou Island, Fujian Province; also Hong Kong; Beigang; Taiwan)
FRANCE. Gypsy Pilgrimage. Two day festival honors the gypsy’s patron saint Sarah. Sometimes 10,000 Romany people gather to sing, dance and attend the candlelight vigil in church. The image of Sarah is decorated with flowers and carried in procession to the sea. (Les Saintes-Maries de la Mer)
GHANA. Dipo (Puberty Rites). After their first menstruation, young women of the Krobo ethnic group are secluded for two or three weeks while prominent women teach them about sex, birth control, how to maintain a good marriage and personal dignity in society. Afterwards, the girls are presented to their community at a durbar attended by the chief, where young men select their wives.
GREECE. Anasternaria (Firewalking Festival). Barefoot villagers clasp icons of Saint Helen (whose saints day it is) and dance on embers without getting burned. (Agia Elleni; Langada) JAPAN. Aoi Matsuri (Hollyhock Festival.) A local, single woman is appointed to perform a purification ritual on forty women at the sacred Mitarashi River. (Kamigamo-jinja Shrine, Kyoto)
KOREA. Tano Festival. For twenty days, female shamans perform a variety of rituals designed to drive away evil spirits and encourage deities to bestow good crops, good health and long life. Many shamans enter trances to report human wishes to the gods and relay divine instructions. Mask dancing, swinging contests, fireworks, parades, and circuses also occur. (Kangnung, Kangwondo Province)
LAOS. Boun (Bun) Bang Fai Festival. This two-day festival, connected with ancient fertility rites, features erotic songs, dances. Prizes are given for the best processions. Women parade with carved wooden phalluses painted red--and live turtles, the symbol of female sex. Men are disguised as women to shock the heavens into producing lightening and rain. Monks set off rockets on the banks of the Mekong River to provoke rain. (Phonmy, Phonhong district, Vietianne Province)
MEXICO. Santa Rita de Casia. Towns in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec are matriarchal and often, during all- night saint-day parties, tent fulls of women dance together while men drink and talk outside. This four-day festival includes a procession of people who toss gifts to spectators, fireworks, and feasts; it ends when the women wash the pots. (Ixtaltepec)
PHILIPPINES. Flores de Mayo (Flowers of May). Month long festival to Virgin Mary. Daily floral offerings are presented by little girls dressed in white. Procession on the last day: the town’s beauties wear white gowns, carry flowers. Star of the procession is Queen Elena (mother of Constantine the Great, discoverer of the true cross). Parades of women clad as female figures from the Bible occur throughout the country. (Manila; Mindanao; Santacruzan; Zamboanga)
PHILIPPINES. Pilgrimage for Peace and Good Voyage. Pilgrims are infertile women who want to become mothers. The event opens with a religious procession of muses riding on decorated hammocks; elderly devotees dance and pray all the way from the Virgin’s shrine to the cathedral. A mass and feast complete the activities. (Negros, Visayas)
PHILIPPINES. Sayaw sa Obando (Obando Dance). It is said that if women who want to have children do this dance, Saint Clara, patron saint of the childless, will grant their wish. (Manila, Luzon)
PORTUGAL. Festival of Our Lady of the Roses. Women parade through town carrying beautiful rose tapestries above their heads. (Viana do Castelo) SPAIN. Holy Cross. Crosses of flowers are posted. Love songs are offered to the Virgin. Single girls are serenaded. People dance and sing satirical songs. (Castile La Mancha)
SPAIN. Romeria del Rocia. This is Spain’s biggest festival. Pilgrims transport an image of the Virgen del Rocio (Our Lady of the Dew) through Andalucia on foot, horseback and ox cart (no motorized vehicles are allowed). Gypsy caravans covered with flowers travel through the woods and ford the Guadiamar River. Accompanied by tambourines, flutes and guitars, the pilgrims cross across the plain. In the marches, the oxen run up the steps of the El Rocia shrine to deliver the Virgin’s image before mass. For the next few days, there are fireworks, dancing, singing, local food and wine. (Huelva)
TUNISIA. Lag B’Omer. During this Jewish holiday, women ensure fertility by crawling into the grotto in the historic Ghriba Synagogue and placing raw eggs with their names on them around the temple stone. A scarf-bedecked menorah is paraded through the streets, decorated with flowers and sprayed with perfume. (Djerba)
VENEZUELA. Devil Dancers of Corpus Christi. Although usually only men promise the Virgin to be devil dancers in exchange for divine intervention, in this village, female devils dancers perform for the health of their children. (Naiguata)
CHINA. Water Splashing Festival and Dai Tribal New Year. The festival was inspired by a legend about seven beautiful Dai women who destroying a fire fiend. For three days, girls sprinkle water on each other and throw scented, decorated, fringed bags at prospective lovers. Dragon boat racing, young girls’ peacock dance, giant hot air balloons at night. (Jinghong City, Xishaungbanna Prefecture, Yunnan Province)
JAPAN. Ta-ue Matsuri (Rice Planting Festival). This eighth century shrine is dedicated to the rice goddess and has “thousands” of red gates. Women dressed in ancient court costumes perform a Shinto dance; Young women plant rice seedlings in a sacred field; rituals petition the goddess for a good harvest. (Fushimi-inari Taisha Shrine, Fukakusa, Fushimi-ku)
INDIA. Vat Savitri. Married women observe a fast, tie red threads around a banyan tree, and pray for their husbands. They are celebrating the selflessness of beautiful Princess Savitri, who, having decided to marry a prince, then learning he would die within a year. She stuck with her decision and negotiated for his life.
INDONESIA. Usaba Sambah Festival. Bali Aga women and girls wrap themselves with the red double-ikat cloth that can take five years to weave--and crown themselves with flowered, golden headdresses. The women perform ritual offering dances. Unmarried women ride creaky wooden Ferris wheels built and powered by men: an ancient ritual that represents the unification of sun and earth. (Tenganan, Bali)
ITALY. Palio. Before this thunderous race that has honored the Madonna of Provenzano since the eleventh Century, horses are blessed in the chapels of the districts that sponsor them. After a lavish, three-hours of medieval pageantry, ten horses race around the Piazza del Campo twice (which takes less than two minutes), competing to win the coveted palio (banner). (Siena. Also held in August)
MEXICO. Feast Day of San Juan. Legend says a mermaid left the river to comb her hair on this day, setting a precedent for local women to cut theirs. (Oaxaca)
POLAND. Nocsweitojaska. Single women make wreaths of flowers and herbs, put poems in them, and float them down the river hoping eligible bachelors will find them irresistible. (Ciechanoweic and other small villages near rivers and lakes)
SOUTH KOREA. Tano Festival. Shaman women conduct rituals and enter trances to assure good crops, good health and long life. On Tano day, women wash their hair with fragrant flowers to drive out evil spirits, and swing standing on ropes looped on trees; girls’ competitions are held villages. There are masked dances during the 20-day outdoor festival. (Kangnung/Gangneung-si, Kangwondo Province)
SPAIN. Corpus Christi. Festival floats travel over pavements of petals, artistic designs of flowers that local women have created. (Ponteareas)
UNITED STATES. Betty Picnic. This events celebrates “the Bettys of this world for their vivacity, impulsiveness and similarities.” Usually about 50 women named Betty relish Betty-favorites such as tomato soup with basil, smoked salmon with asparagus. (Grants Pass, Oregon)
UNITED STATES. Judy Garland Jubilee. The star’s hometown event includes three days of screenings of The Wizard of Oz, panels of scholars and authors discussing Garland’s career, a collector’s forum (chaired by the man who owns Dorothy’s red shoes), tours of her childhood home, and a gala dinner with a silent auction of memorabilia. (Grand Rapids, Minnesota)
UNITED STATES. National Women’s Music Festival. Since 1974, this four-day festival sponsored by Women in the Arts, has showcased women’s music, art and culture. (Kent, Ohio)
UNITED STATES. Sheep Is Life. Sheep play a central role in daily life and spirituality for Navajo women who own sheep, shear, spin and weave their wool. All of these activities are demonstrated at this five-day festival, which includes weaving and felting workshops. (Tsaile, Arizona)
UNITED STATES. Mermaid Parade. This parade opens the beach for the summer; costumed mermaids of all shapes, sizes and ages (plus a few mermen and Neptunes) march in front of 500,000 spectators at Coney Island. (New York)