Festivals - October to December
Projects highlighted in yellow are featured in Paola's book Celebrating Women.
CHINA. Moon Festival. In Chinese cosmology, the moon represents the female principle, yin, and has been venerated for more than 2,000 years. The Moon Goddess is Chang E. Only women participate in this festival, which occurs on the night of the full moon. (Chinese communities worldwide)
INDIA. Batukamma Panduga (Festival of Flowers). Seven-day festival celebrated by women who make a bell-shaped floral representation of the Goddess Uma (an incarnation of Gauri), then sing, dance and pray for the health and prosperity of their homes. Thousands of women dressed in silk finery converge at Bhadrakali Lake carrying floral “mountains” in every imaginable color, then immerse them in the water. (Warangal, Telangana region, Andhra Pradesh)
INDIA. Chhattha Festival. Women make vows to the Sun God, Surya, saying that they will fast if he improves their families’ conditions. They carry sugarcane shrines to a river and stand in the water as sun rises, making offerings. (Bihar)
INDIA. Ka Pomblang Nongkrem. The High Priestess oversees the proceedings as the matrilineal Khasi people celebrate the harvest with the sacrifice of goats and cocks, the music of flutes and drums, and dancing by the virgins and men of the tribe. (Smit, near Shillong, Meghalaya)
INDIA. Karva Choth. At dawn, Hindu married women eat selected grains and fruit, then fast until the moon rises. When it does, they go outside to pray for their husbands’ prosperity, well-being and longevity, and offer water and flowers to Shiva and Parvati.
INDIA. Navaratri. This nine-day festival, which overlaps with Diwali (Dipawali) and Durga Puja, is dedicated to The Mother Goddess, Shakti, in her forms as Durga (the warrior goddess), Lakshmi (goddess of wealth and abundance) and Saraswati (goddess of learning, music and the arts).
- In Udaipur, 20,000 devotees crawl through a low temple arch.
- In Calcutta, clay Durga images are worshipped at marquees and at home, then immersed in the river on final day.
- In Delhi and Mumbai, there are performances of the epic, Ram Lila; in Mysore, pageantry reminiscent of medieval times.
Diwali is celebrated with lamps, candles, fireworks and sweets made from milk, rock sugar, cardomon; businesses open books for the new fiscal year.
- In Orissa, women paint designs on their houses.
- In Gujarat, women dance the Garba, a line dance performed with percussion sticks and in Rajasthan, they braid rope as they dance the Goph Guntan.
- In Tamil Nadu, women decorate their doorsteps with elaborate designs and start Diwali day with an oil bath.
JAPAN. Memorial Service for Dolls. Priests in temples recite sutra, burn old dolls and dedicate the ashes to a doll mound in the temple courtyard. (Hongakuji Temple, Kamakura; Kaneiji Temple, Tokyo)
NEPAL. Ghatasthapana-Purmina. Two-week festival honoring Goddess Durga. Every household sets up a Durga shrine and on the ninth day, devotees visit important Durga temples. On the tenth day, sword-wielding men parade with bands playing traditional music. There are many blood sacrifices of buffalos, goats, chickens, ducks. (Thamel in Kathmandu; Mangal Bazaar in Patan.)
THAILAND. Loy Kratong Festival. Pays homage to Phra Mae Khongkha, goddess of rivers and waterways. This festival began in the thirteenth century when Nang Noppamas sent a small boat with a candle and incense downstream past a pavilion where her husband, the King, was entertaining friends. Today, Thai women fill floral floats with candles and incense so the goddess will erase their sins and bless their love affairs. (Chiang Mai, Arruthaya, Sukhothai, Thailand; Penang, Malaysia)
UNITED STATES. Emma Crawford Coffin Festival. In the 1800’s, spiritualist Emma Crawford was buried at the top of the 7,200 foot Red Mountain. In the 1900’s, heavy summer rains washed her coffin into the canyon below. Reburied in a cemetery, she’s remembered with a race of coffins on wheels. Each five-member team builds its own; one rides while four push. (Manitou Springs, Colorado)
UNITED STATES. Eö e Emalani i Alaka’i Festival. In 1871, Hawaii’s Queen Emma, wife of King Kamehameha IV, braved the Alakai Swamp to see some of the world most unusual plants. Today, celebrants pack picnics, take nature walks, and watch the festival’s royal procession as well as music, hula, and crafts demonstrations. (Kok’e State Park, Kauai, Hawaii)
VIETNAM. Ka Te Festival. The Cham ethnic group celebrates yin/yang, sky/earth, mother/father. A woman psychic presents offerings. Young women compete at weaving (the winner produces the most beautiful, longest piece of fabric in an hour). There are costumed processions, religious rituals, sacred dancing, and feasting. (Ninh Thuan and central region)
BOLIVIA. Swings of San Andrés. Marriageable young women take turns on decorated swings, some of which are 35 feet high. On the beams are baskets with gifts; women believe if they touch the baskets, they will be lucky in love. “Flaming flower! Flaming flower!” they shout as they fly across the sky. Tradition says the swings help propel ancestral spirits, who have been visiting, back to the heavens. (Tortora)
ECUADOR. Mama Negra Festival. In 1742 after the volcano Cotopaxi erupted, the Virgen de las Mercedes was declared Patroness of the Volcano. On her Saints day, the Ritual of the Mama Negra is performed: a sacred tragedy that dramatizes the liberation of the black slaves. Mestizo men play all the roles including Mama Negra. (Latacunga)
INDIA. Kali Puja. This festival celebrates Kali, the terrifying warrior goddess for whom Calcutta was named. Black male goats are sacrificed. Kali images are worshipped, then immersed on the final day. (West Bengal; Assam; Orissa; Bihar)
MYANMAR. Tazaungdiang Festival. An all-night speed-weaving competition is held at the temple, as single women weavers make robes for the monks, which they present the next morning. (Shwedagon Pagoda, Yangon (Rangoon); Taunggyi)
NEPAL. Festival of Chait. Women line the area’s 108 ponds with offerings to Chait, the Sun God. At the holy pond of Dhanush Sagar, they immerse themselves waist-deep in the water and hold the offerings to the setting sun. At dawn they return and perform the same ceremony to the rising sun. (They used to stay in the ponds all night as penance) (Janakpur)
TIBET. Belha Rabzhol (Auspicious Heavenly Maid Festival). Lamas from the Moru Monastery offer sacrifices to the Auspicious Heavenly Maid, who protects the Buddhist Doctrine at the Jokhang Monastery. Her portrait is carried in procession and Tibetan women wear their best clothing to honor the portrait, bringing the Maid scarves as gifts. This is a favorite festival for Tibetan women, who nickname it The Fairy Festival. (Lhasa)
BENIN. Egungun Festival. The Yoruba cult, Gélédé, honors women’s power. The festival occurs when the priestess decides: usually at the beginning of an agricultural cycle. It pays tribute to the female ancestors, elders and deities who are known as “our mothers,” and whose powers are both constructive (fertility) and destructive (witchcraft). The festival is celebrated in the marketplace (women control trade and are economically independent, so the marketplace symbolizes female power). The dancers are men who are costumed in women’s head scarves, baby wrappers and skirts, which they borrow from all the women in the village. (Also celebrated in Nigeria, where the date, set by divination, is between March and May)
MEXICO. Fiesta de Inmaculada Concepcion. Parades, bullfights and dances honor the Virgin Mary, the patron of this island which, when Spanish explorers discovered it in the fifteenth century, was inhabited only by Mayan statues of women. (Isla Mujeres, Cancun)
MEXICO. Our Lady of Guadalupe. In 1531, the Virgin appeared outside of Mexico City and asked a poor Indian to have the bishop build a church on that site. A long list of miracles, cures and interventions are attributed to her. Each year, 10 million visit her basilica, the most-visited Catholic Church in the world after the Vatican. (Mexico City)
PAKISTAN. Chaumos (Chowmas) Festival. The Kalasha tribe’s winter solstice festival.
Day 3: teenaged girls compete in a war of words;
Days 4 and 5: music and dancing in the temple of Jeshtak (goddess of marriage, pregnancy, and birth);
Day 8: Women’s ceremony of sacrificial bread. Girls eat offerings and throw the remainder in the river for the dead. Women chant and perform erotic dances.
Day 14: Cross-dressing and masks represent the primordial unity of the sexes, a perfect condition said to exist in another age.
In order to attend the 12-day festival, visitors must demonstrate respect for local customs by sacrificing a goat. (Brua villages in the Mummuret and Rukmur Valleys)
SWEDEN. Sankta Lucia Day. Clad in long white gowns, girls wear crowns of candles, sing and serve their parents saffron rolls and coffee in bed. In Stockholm, Lucia and her attendants parade through the streets in decorated carriages. (national)
SRI LANKA. Nanumuramangallaya. Emperor Asoka’s daughter, Bhikkhuni Arahath Sangamitla, accompanied her brother who introduced Buddhism to Sri Lanka. She took her father’s gift: a sapling from the sacred Bodhi tree under which Buddha obtained enlightenment. The sapling, now 2,283 years old and believed to be the oldest tree in the world, is treated like a living Buddha. During this ceremony, it is decorated with ornaments. (Mahamewuna Garden)
SWITZERLAND. Achetringele Festival. Maidens are beaten with inflated pigs’ bladders in a rambunctious New Year procession. (Laupen)
TURKEY. St. Nicholas Festival. St. Nicholas, a fourth-century bishop, anonymously dropped bags of coins down the chimneys of the homes of village girls who had no dowry, thus allowing them to marry. (Antalya, Demre)