Friday, July 31, 2015


    Just lurking in the shadows of the neighbor's twinkling Christmas lawn lights is the darker side of the Yule tide. One rarely associates the holiday season with the ghouls and specters that cavort during Halloween, but in many traditions around the world Christmas does have a dark side. Aside from the specters in Dickens's A Christmas Carol, the threat of a lump of coal from Santa, and Chevy Chase's Holiday Vacation; American traditions have been insulated from the horror show of Christmas traditions around the world. Here are just some of stories of Christmas evil that will make you glad that shipping Aunt Tillie's sweater is high on your list of holiday stressors.

A Tender Norwegian Christmas

    Besides eating lye treated cod during the Holiday season, the Norwegians have a number of frightful Christmas traditions. The foremost of these traditions being Julebukk the Christmas goat. Traditions centering around Julebukk are thought to have come from Thor being transported on a sleigh pulled by two goats. In pre-Christian Norway during winter celebrations someone dressed as Julebukk, and carrying a goat head, would burst on to the scene. Julebukk would then symbolically die and be reborn later that evening. Another variation of Julebukk traditions was for one to don the disguise of a goat. While in costume, one would visit neighbor's homes. The game was to figure out who was behind the scary goat head.

    The tradition was Christianized by turning Julebukk into a demonic figure. The demonization of Julebukk must have given the children too many nightmares and Julebukk was forbidden by the church during the Middle Ages. The ban on Julebukk might have fostered the thought that on Christmas Eve witches and other evil spirits come out of the woodwork and to look for brooms to ride. To thwart the spirit world, brooms are hidden on Christmas Eve and guns or fireworks are shot off to spook the incorporeal from invading one's home. Some forms of the Julebukk tradition exist today as more of a door to door caroling event. Also on Norwegian Christmas trees it is common to see goats made of straw reminiscent of the impish goat.

Whipping Up Some Christmas Cheer

    The French have yet another evil companion to Saint Nick in Le Père Fouettard (the whipping father). Like our previous examples, Le Père Fouettard has been bound to ride shotgun in Santa's sleigh for his misdeeds. Said to have been an innkeeper, Le Père Fouettard and his wife planned skullduggery for three wealthy young men who spent the night in their inn. The pair drugged the lads, stole their money, and then slit their throats. To cover up their crimes, the boys were cut into pieces and placed into a barrel of stew meat. Luckily for our three lads, Saint Nicholas was led to the inn by a vision. There Saint Nick confronted Le Père Fouettard and raises the young men from the dead.
To punish Le Père Fouettardfor his crimes, Santa forces the murdering innkeeper to accompany him on the Christmas gift giving spree. Predictably, our whipping father punishes the wicked as Santa rewards the good children. I'm sure of in the back of poor French children's minds, Le Père Fouettard's justice will get out of hand and turn them into stew meat.

    The mixing of Halloween and Christmas traditions seemed farfetched to Americans when Tim Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas was released. Turns out Burton was just following much older traditions than Americans were accustomed to. This Christmas Eve if you hear something rustling around your tree, make sure you're on Santa's good list. If you're not, who knows what spirit of Christmas evil you've conjured up!

Thursday, July 30, 2015


    Krampus is not a muscle contraction that causes unpleasant pain, but Krampus does apparently inflict painful experiences or death to children who do not behave. This mythical creature has been a tool people have used to promote scare tactics in children. Krampus is in cahoots with Santa Claus. In some parts of the world, Santa has plural helpers called Krampi.

    Krampus is depicted as an evil demon that has a long tail, horns, a long tongue, hooves, and carries a black bag or basket. As a child, I never heard of Krampus. Not until I picked up a random National Geographic magazine at the doctor's office had I ever heard of Krampus. This creature originated in Austria and is still very popular in Germany. Krampus is also related to fertility.

    The Americanized Santa Claus does not have these helpers. In other parts of the world, Santa's group of Krampi would be considered similar to American Santa's elves, except for the obvious differences that elves are merry, very small, and gleefully make toys, while Krampi are large and terrifying. Usually, the Americanized helper elves will secretly watch children throughout the year and report good and bad behavior back to Santa. These behavior reports help Santa decide whether or not to give children gifts or not. Spying elves seem creepy.

    Compared to what Krampi do, however, elves don't score as high on the creep-o-meter. Krampi warn and punish bad children (Wikipedia, 2010). They have the authority, per St. Nicolas, to take presents away from naughty children or, if they have misbehaved badly enough, Krampus will hurt them physically, lock them in chains, and stuff them in his black sack or basket and take them away. The children the Krampi determine are very bad will be whisked off for a not-so-special holiday in a dark, scary forest where they will live forever, tortured by the Krampi of the dark forest or possibly, be killed.

    Krampus pre-dates Christianity. He is still feared by some Austrians today and is believed to be an ancient god (Seven Trees, 2008). Other pagan things have been incorporated into Christian holidays, and so has Krampus in his correlation with St. Nicholas. Remember all the while we thought those hooves were from Santa's cute, flying reindeer? It seems we were wrong! Those hooves are from the feet of the Krampi who travel with Santa.

    So parents, from now on if the threat of receiving coal on Christmas no longer holds any fear, you may want to consider sharing the story of the demonic Krampus with your disobedient child. For extra effect, don't forget the furry costume complete with horns, long tongue, chains, black sack, and scary demon mask while you lurk outside the window some night to prove to your child that Krampi do, in fact, exist. Or you might try not being sadistic. Besides, in places where Krampus is still "celebrated", children have taken to dressing in black rags and chains, running through streets and terrorizing people. Some of them seem to have overcome their fear of the creature and have taken back the Yuletide and the night. The true origins of Christmas are pagan; this is one example of that fact.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015


    Highland games are events held throughout the year in Scotland and other countries as a way of celebrating Scottish and Celtic culture and heritage, especially that of the Scottish Highlands. Certain aspects of the games are so well known as to have become emblematic of Scotland, such as the bagpipes, the kilt, and the heavy events, especially the caber toss. While centred on competitions in piping and drumming, dancing, and Scottish heavy athletics, the games also include entertainment and exhibits related to other aspects of Scottish and Gaelic culture.
    The Cowal Highland Gathering, better known as the cowal Games, held in DunoonScotland every August, is the largest Highland games in Scotland, attracting around 3,500 competitors and somewhere in the region of 15–20,000 spectators from around the globe. Worldwide, however, it is dwarfed by two gatherings in the United States: the 50,000 that attend Grandfather Mountain in North Carolina and the even larger gathering—the largest in the Northern Hemisphere—that has taken place every year since 1865 hosted by the Caledonian Club of San Francisco. This event is currently held Labor Day weekend in Pleasanton, California.

    The games are claimed to have influenced Baron Pierre de Coubertin when he was planning the revival of the Olympic Games. De Coubertin saw a display of Highland games at the Paris Exhibition of 1889.


    The origin of human games and sports predates recorded history. An example of a possible early games venue is at Fetteresso, although that location is technically a few miles south of the Scottish Highlands.
    It is reported in numerous books and Highland games programs, that King Malcolm III of Scotland, in the 11th century, summoned contestants to a foot race to the summit of Craig Choinnich (overlooking Braemar). King Malcolm created this foot race in order to find the fastest runner in the land to be his royal messenger. Some have seen this apocryphal event to be the origin of today's modern Highland games.

    There is a document from 1703 summoning the clan of the Laird of Grant, Clan Grant. They were to arrive wearing Highland coats and "also with gunswordpistill [sic] and dirk". From this letter, it is believed that the competitions would have included feats of arms.
    However, the modern Highland games are largely a Victorian invention, developed after the Highland Clearances.

Heavy Events

    In their original form many centuries ago, Highland games revolved around athletic and sports competitions. Though other activities were always a part of the festivities, many today still consider Highland athletics to be what the games are all about — in short, that the athletics are the Games, and all the other activities are just entertainment. Regardless, it remains true today that the athletic competitions are at least an integral part of the events and one — the caber toss — has come to almost symbolize the Highland games.
    Although quite a range of events can be a part of the Highland athletics competition, a few have become standard.

  • Caber toss: A long tapered pine pole or log is stood upright and hoisted by the competitor who balances it vertically holding the smaller end in his hands (see photo). Then the copetitor runs forward attempting to toss it in such a way that it turns end over end with the upper (larger) end striking the ground first. The smaller end that was originally held by the athlete then hits the ground in the 12 o'clock position measured relative to the direction of the run. If successful, the athlete is said to have turned the caber. Cabers vary greatly in length, weight, taper, and balance, all of which affect the degree of difficulty in making a successful toss. Competitors are judged on how closely their throws approximate the ideal 12 o'clock toss on an imaginary clock.

  • Stone put: This event is similar to the modern-day shot put as seen in the Olympic Games. Instead of a steel shot, a large stone of variable weight is often used. There are also some differences from the Olympic shot put in allowable techniques. There are two versions of the stone toss events, differing in allowable technique. The "Braemar Stone" uses a 20–26 lb stone for men (13–18 lb for women) and does not allow any run up to the toeboard or "trig" to deliver the stone, i.e., it is a standing put. In the "Open Stone" using a 16–22 lb stone for men (or 8–12 lb for women), the thrower is allowed to use any throwing style so long as the stone is put with one hand with the stone resting cradled in the neck until the moment of release. Most athletes in the open stone event use either the "glide" or the "spin" techniques

  • Scottish hammer throw: This event is similar to the hammer throw as seen in modern-day track and field competitions, though with some differences. In the Scottish event, a round metal ball (weighing 16 or 22 lb for men or 12 or 16 lb for women) is attached to the end of a shaft about 4 feet in length and made out of wood, bamboo, rattan, or plastic. With the feet in a fixed position, the hammer is whirled about one's head and thrown for distance over the shoulder. Hammer throwers sometimes employ specially designed footwear with flat blades to dig into the turf to maintain their balance and resist the centrifugal forces of the implement as it is whirled about the head. This substantially increases the distance attainable in the throw.

  • Weight throw, also known as the weight for distance event. There are actually two separate events, one using a light (28 lb for men and 14 lb for women) and the other a heavy (56 lb for men, 42 lb for masters men, and 28 lb for women) weight. The weights are made of metal and have a handle attached either directly or by means of a chain. The implement is thrown using one hand only, but otherwise using any technique. Usually a spinning technique is employed. The longest throw wins.

  • Weight over the bar, also known as weight for height. The athletes attempt to toss a 56 pound (4 stone) weight with an attached handle over a horizontal bar using only one hand. Each athlete is allowed three attempts at each height. Successful clearance of the height allows the athlete to advance into the next round at a greater height. The competition is determined by the highest successful toss with fewest misses being used to break tie scores.

  • Sheaf toss: A bundle of straw (the sheaf) weighing 20 pounds (9 kg) for the men and 10 pounds (4.5 kg) for the women and wrapped in a burlap bag is tossed vertically with a pitchfork over a raised bar much like that used in pole vaulting. The progression and scoring of this event is similar to the Weight Over The Bar. There is significant debate among athletes as to whether the sheaf toss is in fact an authentic Highland event. Some argue it is actually a country fair event, but all agree that it is a great crowd pleaser.

  • Maide Leisg(Scots Gaelic meaning 'Lazy Stick'): Trial of strength performed by two men sitting on the ground with the soles of their feet pressing against each other. Thus seated, they held a stick between their toes which they pulled against each other till one of them was raised from the ground. The oldest 'Maide Leisg' competition in the world takes place at the Carloway show and Highland Games on the Isle of Lewis.

    Many of the Heavy Events competitors in Scottish highland athletics are former high school and college track and field athletes who find the Scottish games are a good way to continue their competitive careers.
    Increasingly in the USA, the Heavy Events are attracting women and master class athletes which has led to a proliferation of additional classes in Heavy Events competitions. Lighter implements are used in the classes.


    For many Highland games festival attendees, the most memorable of all the events at the games is the massing of the pipe bands. Normally held in conjunction with the opening and closing ceremonies of the games, as many as 20 or more pipe bands will march and play together. The result is a thunderous rendition of traditional favourites Scotland the Brave or Amazing Grace, and other crowd-pleasing favorites.
    It is, in fact, the music of the bagpipe which has come to symbolise music at the Games and, indeed, in Scotland itself. In addition to the massed bands, nearly all Highland games gatherings feature a wide range of piping and drumming competition, including solo piping and drumming, small group ensembles and, of course, the pipe bands themselves.
    But the pipes and drums are not the only music which can be heard at Highland games. Music at Highland games gatherings takes on a variety of forms. Many such events offer fiddlingharp circles, Celtic bands and other forms of musical entertainment, the latter usually spiced with a healthy amount of bagpipe music.


    People dance there. There were several traditional dances that were danced along to traditional music.

Secondary Events and Attractions

    At modern-day Highland Games events, a wide variety of other activities and events are generally available. Foremost among these are the clan tents and vendors of Scottish related goods. The various clan societies make the Highland games one of the main focus of their seasonal activities, usually making an appearance at as many such events as possible. Visitors can find out information about the Scottish roots and can become active in their own clan society if they wish.
    At modern games, armouries will display their collections of swords and armour, and often perform mock battles. Various vendors selling Scottish memorabilia are also present selling everything from Irn-Bru to the stuffed likeness of the Loch Ness Monster.
    Herding dog trials and exhibitions are often held, showcasing the breeder's and trainer's skills. In addition, there may be other types of Highland animals present, such as the Highland cattle.
   Various traditional and modern Celtic arts are often showcased. This could include Harper's circles, Scottish country dancing, and one or more entertainment stages. In addition, most events usually feature a pre-event ceilidh (a type of social event with traditional music, dancing, song, and other forms of entertainment).
   Various food vendors will also offer assorted types of traditional Scottish refreshment and sustenance.

Major events in Scotland

Burntisland, FifeBurntisland Highland GamesSecond oldest in the world
Ceres, FifeCERES HIGHLAND GAMESOldest Free games in the world
CrieffCrieff Highland Games
DunoonCowal Highland GatheringBiggest Games in Scotland

Major events outside Scotland


Calgary, AlbertaCalgary Highland Games
Cambridge, OntarioCambridge Highland Games
Grande Prairie, AlbertaGrande Prairie Highland Games
CoquitlamBritish ColumbiaBC Highland Games
Victoria, British ColumbiaVictoria Highland Games and Celtic Festival
Antigonish, Nova ScotiaAntigonish Highland Games
Almonte, OntarioNorth Lanark Highland Games
Cobourg, OntarioCobourg Highland Games
Maxville, OntarioGlengarry Highland Games
Sudbury, OntarioSudbury Celtic Festival & Highland Games
Montreal, QuebecMontreal Highland Games


St. UrsenFribourgHighland Games Swiss Championships

United States

Scottsboro, Alabama
North Alabama Scottish Festival & Highland Games
Eagle River, Alaska
Alaskan Scottish Highland Games
Camp Verde, Arizona
Verde Valley Highland Games
Phoenix, Arizona
Arizona Scottish Gathering and Highland Games
Prescott, Arizona
Prescott Highland Games
Tucson, Arizona
Tucson Celtic Festival and Highland Games
Batesville, Arkansas
Arkansas Scottish Festival
Bakersfield, California
Bakersfield High Games
Santa Cruz County, California
Scottish Renaissance Festival featuring the Loch Lomond Highland Games & Celtic Gathering
Campbell, California
Campbell Highland Games
Costa Mesa, California
United Scottish Highland Gathering
Fresno, California
Fresno Highland Games
Livermore, California
Livermore Scottish Games and Celtic Celebration
Modesto, California
Modesto Highland Games
Oakland, California
Oakland Scottish Games
Pleasanton, California
Caledonian Club of San Francisco Highland Gathering
Salinas, California
Monterey Highland Games and Celtic Festival
Santa Cruz, California
Santa Cruz Highland Games and Celtic Festival
Ventura, California
Seaside Highland Games
Vista, California
San Diego Scottish Highland Games and Gathering
Woodland, California
Sacramento Valley Scottish Games
Elizabeth, Colorado
Elizabeth Celtic Festival
Estes Park, Colorado
Long's Peak Scottish/Irish Highland Festival
Highlands Ranch, Colorado
Colorado Scottish Festival
Sterling, Colorado
Sterling Celtic Festival
Goshen, Connecticut
St. Andrews Society of Connecticut Scottish Festival
Norwalk, Connecticut
Round Hill Highland Games
Scotland, Connecticut
Scotland Highland Festival
Dunedin, Florida
Dunedin Highland Games
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Southeast Florida Scottish Festival and Games
Green Cove Springs, Florida
Northeast Florida Scottish Highland Games
Ocala, Florida
Ocala Scottish Highland Games and Celtic Festival
Panama City, Florida
Panama City Highland Games
Pensacola, Florida
Pensacola Highland Games
Tallahassee, Florida
Tallahassee Highland Games
Sarasota, Florida
Sarasota Highland Games
Winter Springs, Florida
Central Florida Scottish Highland Games
Zephyrhills, Florida
Zephyrhills Celtic Festival and Highland Games
Blairsville, Georgia
Blairsville Scottish Festival and Highland Games
Chickamauga, Georgia
Appalachian Celtic Festival
Anderson, South Carolina
Loch Hartwell Highland Games
Ringgold, Georgia
Ringold Highland Games
Savannah, Georgia
Savannah Scottish Games and Highland Festival
Stone Mountain, Georgia
Stone Mountain Highland Games
Honolulu, Hawaii
Hawaiian Scottish Festival
Boise, Idaho
Treasure Valley Highland Games
Oakbrook, Illinois
Illinois St. Andrew Society Highland Games
Springfield, Illinois
Shamrock Games
Springfield, Illinois
Springfield Highland Games and Celtic Festival
Columbus, Indiana
Columbus, Indiana Scottish Festival
Fort Wayne, Indiana
Indiana Highland Games
South Bend, Indiana
Celtic Festival and Bryan Verkler Invitational Highland Games
Davenport, Iowa
Celtic Festival and Highland Games of the Quad-Cities
McPherson, Kansas
McPherson Scottish Festival and Highland Games
Wakeeney, Kansas
Th' Gatherin' Fire Festival O'Beltane
Carrollton, Kentucky
Kentucky Scottish Weekend
Glasgow, Kentucky
Glasgow Highland Games
Murray, Kentucky
Western Kentucky Highlands Festival
Jackson, Louisiana
Highland Games of Louisiana
Minden, Louisiana
Tartan Day Celebration
West Monroe, Louisiana
Northeast Louisiana Celtic Festival
Belfast, Maine
Maine Celtic Celebration
Brunswick, Maine
Maine Highland Games
Elkton, Maryland
Fair Hill Scottish Games
Frederick, Maryland
Frederick Celtic Festival
Havre De Grace, Maryland
Stepping Stone Museum Highland Games
St. Leonard, Maryland
Southern Maryland Celtic Festival and Highland Gathering
McHenry, Maryland
McHenry Higland Festival
Snow Hill, Maryland
Chesapeake Celtic Festival
Florence, Massachusetts
Glasgow Lands Scottish Festival
Greenfield, Massachusetts
Western Massachusetts Highland Games and Festival
Alma, Michigan
Alma Highland Festival and Games
Kalamazoo, Michigan
Kalamazoo Highland Games
Livonia, Michigan
St. Andrews Society of Detroit Highland Games
Saline, Michigan
Saline Highland Games
Farmington, Minnesota
Minnesota Scottish Fair
Moorhead, Minnesota
Celtic Festival
Gulfport, Mississippi
Highlands and Islands Games on the Gulf Coast
Jackson, Mississippi
Celtic Fest Mississippi
Buffalo, Missouri
Southwest Missouri Celtic Heritage Festival
Riverside, Missouri
Kansas City Highland Games
St. Charles, Missouri
Missouri Tartan Day Festivities
Hamilton, Montana
Bitterroot Scottish Irish Festival
Las Vegas, Nevada
Las Vegas Celtic Gathering
Reno, Nevada
Reno Celtic Celebration
Lincoln, New Hampshire
New Hampshire Highland Games
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Rio Grande Valley Celtic Festival and Highland Games
Altamont, New York
Capital District Scottish Games
Amherst, New York
Amherst Museum Scottish Festival and Highland Games
Old Westbury, New York
Long Island Scottish Games
Greensboro, North Carolina
Triad Highland Games
Hendersonville, North Carolina
Foothills Highland Games and Festival
Huntersville, North Carolina
Loch Norman Highland Games
Laurinburg, North Carolina
Scotland County Highland Games
Linville, North Carolina
Grandfather Mountain Highland Games
Mint Hill, North Carolina
Mint Hill Highland Games
Waxhaw, North Carolina
Waxhaw Scottish Highland Games
Winston-Salem, North Carolina
Winston-Salem Celtic Music Festival and Highland Games
Hartville, Ohio
Brigadoon Beltane Festival
Wellington, Ohio
Ohio Scottish Festival
Tulsa, Oklahoma
Oklahoma Scottish Festival and Highland Games
Yukon, Oklahoma
Scottish Heritage Festival and Highland Games
Athena, Oregon
Athena Caledonian Games
Baker City, Oregon
Eastern Oregon Highland Games
Gresham, Oregon
Portland Highland Games
Madras, Oregon
High Desert Celtic Festival and Games
Winston, Oregon
Douglas County Celtic Highland Games
Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
Bethlehem Celtic Classic
Edinboro, Pennsylvania
Edinboro Highland Games
Ligonier, Pennsylvania
Ligonier Highland Games
Manheim, Pennsylvania
Celtic Fling and Highland Games
Richmond, Rhode Island
Rhode Island Scottish Highland Festival
Clover, South Carolina
Clover Scottish Games
Greenville, South Carolina
Greenville Scottish Highland Games
Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina
Charleston Scottish Games and Highland Gathering
Rapid City, South Dakota
Black Hills Dakota Gathering of the Clans
Gatlinburg, Tennessee
Gatlinburg Scottish Highland Games
Jackson, Tennessee
Celtic Fest
Arlington, Texas
Texas Scottish Festival and Highland Games
Bedford, Texas
Bedford Celtic Heritage Festival
Helotes, Texas
San Antonio Highland Games
Houston, Texas
Houston Highland Games and Celtic Festival
Salado, Texas
Salado Scottish Clan Gathering and Highland Games
Lehi, Utah
Utah Highland Games
Payson, Utah
Payson Scottish Festival
Delaplane, Virginia
Virginia Scottish Games and Festival
Leesburg, Virginia
Potomac Celtic Festival
Lanexa, Virginia
Williamsburg Scottish Festival
Lexington, Virginia
Lexington Scots Irish Festival
Mechanicsville, Virginia
Meadow Highland Games and Celtic Festival
Radford, Virginia
Radford Highlander Festival
Enumclaw, Washington
Pacific Northwest Scottish Highland Games
Bellingham, Washington
Bellingham Highland Games
Graham, Washington
Tacoma Highland Games
Greenbank, Washington
Whidbey Island Highland Games
Kelso, Washington
Kelso Hilander Festival and Games
Mount Vernon, Washington
Skagit Valley Highland Games and Celtic Festival
Prosser, Washington
Prosser Scottish Festival
Puyallup, Washington
Scottish American Festival
Spokane, Washington
Spokane Highland Games
Bridgeport, West Virginia
North Central West Virginia Scottish Festival and Celtic Gathering
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Milwaukee Highland Games and Festival
Waukesha, Wisconsin
Wisconsin Highland Games
Gillette, Wyoming
Wyoming Celtic Festival
Jackson, Wyoming
Jackson Hole Scottish Festival

Tuesday, July 28, 2015


    The Guelaguetza, or Los lunes del cerro (Mondays of the Hill) is an annual cultural celebration in Mexico that takes place in the city of Oaxaca, capital of the state of Oaxaca and nearby villages. The celebration includes parades complete with walking bands and the marketing of food, statewide artisanal production, and souvenirs, but centers on traditional dancing in costume in groups, often groups of only one sex. Each costume and dance usually has a local historical and cultural meaning. Although the celebration is an important tourist attraction, especially in the capital city of Oaxaca, it also retains significant independent cultural importance for the people of the state.

   Oaxaca has a large indigenous population, 40 percent, compared to 15 percent for Mexico as a whole. Indigenous culture in the state remains strong in its own right, with over 300,000 people in the state who are monolingual in indigenous languages. Unlike the Yucatán, where the indigenous culture consists of closely related groups of Mayans, the indigenous people in Oaxaca are from many different cultures speaking mutually unintelligible languages. The celebration dates back to before the arrival of the Spanish

and remains a defining characteristic of Oaxacan culture. Its origins come from celebrations related to the worship of corn. Communities from within the state of Oaxaca gather to present their regional culture in the form of music, costumes, dances, and food. It is the most famous event of its kind in Mexico.
    Like many indigenous traditions in Mexico, this festival was adapted to Catholic traditions after the conquest. The sacrifice of a virgin slave girl was eliminated, and the Guelaguetza became a celebration in honor of the Virgin del Carmen. After a terrible earthquake in the 1920s that destroyed most of the city, the festival was re-organized as a statewide cultural event to rebuild the morale of the people. It began to take on a

more modern form as a display of each region's unique dance, and became more of a show than a spontaneous festival. In the 1970s a stadium dedicated to the festival was built on a prominent place on Fortin Hill in the center of the city. Foreign and national tourism became increasingly popular when Oaxaca became a UNESCO world heritage city in 1987 and when a modern limited access highway was built into the city in November 1994. Before the highway, transportation was so slow that it was virtually impossible to go to Oaxaca from Mexico City for a weekend trip.

    The celebration takes place on consecutive Mondays at the end of July in towns around the state and in the capital city's open-air amphitheater built into the "Cerro del Fortín", a hill that overlooks central Oaxaca. In 2010 this tradition will be changed as the venue will instead be the soccer stadium. The word Guelaguetza comes from the Zapotec language and is usually interpreted as the "reciprocal exchanges of gifts and services". The literal translation from Teotitlan del Valle is 'Tortilla de Milpa Zapoteca' or the tortilla from the Zapotec farm.

Dates Celebrated

    Each year the Guelaguetza is celebrated on the two Mondays immediately following July 16, except when the first Monday falls on July 18, the day on which Benito Juárez died. Out of respect for Oaxaca's most famous son, the celebrations are postponed for one week, falling on July 25 and August 1 (as occurred in 2005). However, side events associated with the festival,such as concerts, are held all during the month of July.


    As the festival became a bigger tourist attraction, there was an inevitable backlash from purists that saw the ancient traditions being used for commercial purposes. There is a subgroup that vocally pushes for a populist Guelaguetza, or a return to the more spontaneous celebrations of the pre-Columbian era. The 2005 decision to conduct two performances a day for each of the two Mondays, was perceived by many traditionalists as a blatant attempt accommodate more ticket purchasing tourists.

    The commercialization of indigenous culture is hardly unique to Oaxaca. The Hawaiian luau and hula dances and the Flamenco dances in southern Spain are other prime examples. In Oaxaca, where there is conflict between some groups and the state, the festival can become a focal point of contention.

    Due to protests against the state government led by the Asamblea Popular del Pueblo de Oaxaca, which were met with State Violence, the State-Sponsored Guelaguetza was not held at the Cerro del Fortín as planned in 2006, but instead a free, "Popular Guelaguetza" was held by APPO. The 2007 celebration was boycotted by APPO, and attempts to hold a Popular Guelaguetza were thwarted by government police repression, including the killing of at least one attendee and disappearance of many others.

Monday, July 27, 2015


    The Nachi Fire Festival is one of Japan's cultural gems. Listed as an intangible cultural asset the festival has a history of more than 1500 years and is one of the most spectacular festivals of the summer. Held on July 14th each year, the Nachi no Hi Matsuri or Nachi Ogi Matsuri (Fan Festival) is a traditional fire festival involving ritual offerings, music and dance. The festival is held in a remote area of the Yoshino-Kumano National Park on the Kii Peninsula. The shrines where the Nachi Fire Festival takes place are part of the UNESCO World Heritage list, the Kumano Nachi Grand Shrine and the Hiryu shrine, which is located at the base of the massive Nachi waterfall, which with a 133 meter (about 436 feet) drop is the highest waterfall in Japan.

    The festival involves 12 (portable) mikoshi shrines, each decorated with mirrors and gold, and 12 massive ceremonial torches. Carried from Kumano Nachi Grand Shrine down the old Kumano road to the Hiryu shrine, they are then purified by fire and water. The festival is fantastic, you can feel the spray from the waterfall and you can feel the

heat on your face from the torches - it is usually prudent to keep a safe distance as it is isn't unusual for the fire bearers to lose control and singe a few spectators. Known as the Nachi-no-Hi-Matsuri or Nachi-Ogi-Matsuri (Fan Festival), the event begins on the morning of 14 July every year with ritual Shinto offerings, music and dance. In the afternoon the 12 sacred mikoshi, beautifully decorated with gold and mirrors, are carried along with 12 ceremonial torches towards the Hiryu shrine, located near Nachi waterfall.

    White-robe priests carry 12 enormous torches of cypress wood. These purify the path for the unique mikoshi of Nachi. Usually mikoshi (portable shrines) look like palanquins, but these are 10m (30ft) tall vermilion panels decorated with mirrors and fans (this is also known as Ogi Matsuri, the 'Fan Festival'). In the background are the vermilion pillars of the shrine, and the 133m (436ft) waterfall which first attracted Emperor Jimmu to worship here at the dawn of Japanese civilisation.

    Following a sacred ritual in the shrine itself, the mikoshi are carried to the stone steps just under the waterfall, where the torches are lit and the torch-carriers purify them by walking up and down the steps in circles. The purification by fire and smoke is completed by water, in the form of the mist spraying from above. The Kumano mountains have been revered as the site of great mystical power for more than 1000 years. A Buddhist paradise was said to be hidden among the peaks, to be reached in life by the devout worshipper who undertook a pilgrimage to the mountains and prayed at the shrines.

Friday, July 24, 2015


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    The Virgin del Carmen Feast is about a feast of marine tradition at Marbella town that ends on July 16th (the Virgin Festival). The Virgen del Carmen, Saint of the Sea and of Fishermen, is one of the sacred headlines, which awakens more devotion among neighbors in the region. The whole town gathers in the streets and beaches every summer to see the processional tour of the virgin by land and sea.

    A week before this date and in the Chapel of the Fishing Port; a mass is celebrated where the Sisterhood Chorus participates and the Virgin of the City together with the Marine Virgin are shown and toured every year. The Marine Virgin is taken out from a cave located at 12 meters depth in the proximity of Poste de la Mina (El Cable). At the end of the act, the Golden Anchor is awarded to the eldest retired fisherman.

    This same day of July 16th the maritime procession of the virgin is celebrated, she leaves the Fishing Port towards Banus Port and back to the Sport Port; she is accompanied by countless crafts decorated with flags that give the color and joy the festivity needs. The land procession begins from the Sport Port (already at the sunset) that takes her to the temple.

    The Virgin del Carmen parish church is located at 10 kilometers from Marbella, at Elvira Cerrado a zone fully delimited by urban areas. The temple has a modern structure, even though the parish church was built twenty years ago, but the building has more than ten years or so.

    Its main and defining element is the continuous flow of tourists coming and going from any region of the world. If it is a regular behavior; the number of faithful more than doubles during the summer; as the temple has capacity for nearly 250 persons seated, there are many of them located at the doors and in the square just in front of the church to take part of the Eucharist.

    Many people regularly attend each celebration in July. The participation is very special in this original context due to the nuances everyone contributes with its nationality and culture. Language is not usually a hindrance when people talk about the language of God, the language of love. Then it should not be languages or barriers but it is for certain that many of them are just people that never come back. Therefore, the pastoral is meant to strengthen meditation, praying, and reflection on the Word.

Thursday, July 23, 2015


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   Bastille Day is the name given in English-speaking countries to the French National Day, which is celebrated on the 14th of July each year. In France, it is formally called La Fête Nationale (The National Celebration) and commonly le quatorze juillet (the fourteenth of July). It commemorates the 1790 Fête de la Fédération, held on the first anniversary of the storming of the Bastille on 14 July 1789; the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille fortress-prison was seen as a symbol of the uprising of the modern nation, and of the reconciliation of all the French inside the constitutional monarchy which preceded the First Republic, during the French Revolution. Festivities and official ceremonies are held all over France. The oldest and largest regular military parade in Europe is held on the morning of 14 July, on the Champs-Élysées avenue in Paris in front of the President of the Republic, French officials and foreign guests.

Events And Traditions Of The Day

   The parade opens with cadets from the École Polytechnique, Saint-Cyr, École Navale, and so forth, then other infantry troops, then motorized troops; aircraft of the Patrouille de France aerobatics team fly above. In recent times, it has become customary to invite units from France's allies to the parade; in 2004 during the centenary of the Entente Cordiale, British troops (the band of the Royal Marines, the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment, Grenadier Guards and King's Troop, Royal Horse Artillery) led the Bastille Day parade in Paris for the first time, with the Red Arrows flying overhead.  In 2007 the German 26th Airborne Brigade led the march followed by British Royal Marines.

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   The president used to give an interview to members of the press, discussing the situation of the country, recent events and projects for the future. Nicolas Sarkozy, elected president in 2007, chose not to give it. The President also holds a garden party at the Palais de l'Elysée.
   Article 17 of the Constitution of France gives the President the authority to pardon criminals and, since 1991, the President has pardoned many petty offenders (mainly traffic offences) on 14 July. In 2007, former President Sarkozy declined to continue the practice.


Storming The Batille

   On 19 May 1789, Louis XVI convened the Estates-General to hear their grievances. The deputies of the Third Estate representing the common people (the two others were the Catholic Church and nobility) decided to break away and form a National Assembly. On 20 June the deputies of the Third Estate took the Tennis Court Oath, swearing not to separate until a constitution had been established. They were gradually joined by delegates of the other estates; Louis XVI started to recognize their validity on 27 June. The assembly renamed itself the National Constituent Assembly on 9 July, and began to function as a legislature and to draft a constitution.
   In the wake of the 11 July dismissal of Jacques Necker, the people of Paris, fearful that they and their representatives would be attacked by the royal military, and seeking to gain ammunition and gunpowder for the general populace, stormed the Bastille, a fortress-prison in Paris which had often held people jailed on the basis of lettres de cachet, arbitrary royal indictments that could not be appealed. Besides holding a large cache of ammunition and gunpowder, the Bastille had been known for holding political prisoners whose writings had displeased the royal government, and was thus a symbol of the absolutism of the monarchy. As it happened, at the time of the siege in July 1789 there were only seven inmates, none of great political significance.

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   When the crowd—eventually reinforced by mutinous gardes françaises—proved a fair match for the fort's defenders, Governor de Launay, the commander of the Bastille, capitulated and opened the gates to avoid a mutual massacre. However, possibly because of a misunderstanding, fighting resumed. Ninety-eight attackers and just one defender died in the actual fighting, but in the aftermath, de Launay and seven other defenders were killed, as was the 'prévôt des marchands' (roughly, mayor) Jacques de Flesselles.
   Shortly after the storming of the Bastille, on 4 August feudalism was abolished and on 26 August, the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen proclaimed.

The Fête de la Fédération

   The Fête de la Fédération on the 14 July 1790 was a huge feast and official event to celebrate the uprising of the short-lived constitutional monarchy in France and what people considered the happy conclusion of the French Revolution. The event took place on the Champ de Mars, which was at the time far outside Paris. The place had been transformed on a voluntary basis by the population of Paris itself, in what was recalled as the Journée des brouettes ("Wheelbarrow Day").

   A mass was celebrated by Talleyrand, bishop of Autun. The popular General Lafayette, as captain of the National Guard of Paris and confidant of the king, took his oath to the constitution, followed by the King Louis XVI. After the end of the official celebration, the day ended in a huge four-day popular feast and people celebrated with fireworks, as well as fine wine and running naked through the streets in order to display their great freedom.

Origin of the Present Celebration

   On 30 June 1878, a feast had been arranged in Paris by official decision to honour the French Republic (the event was commemorated in a painting by Claude Monet).  On 14 July 1879, another feast took place, with a semi-official aspect; the events of the day included a reception in the Chamber of Deputies, organised and presided over by Léon Gambetta,  a military review in Longchamp, and a Republican Feast in the Pré Catelan.  All through France, as Le Figaro wrote on the 16th, "people feasted much to honour the Bastille".
   On 21 May 1880, Benjamin Raspail proposed a law to have "the Republic choose the 14 July as a yearly national holiday". The Assembly voted in favour of the proposal on 21 May and 8 June.  The Senate approved on it 27 and 29 June, favouring 14 July against 4 August (honouring the end of the feudal system on 4 August 1789). The law was made official on 6 July 1880, and the Ministry of the Interior recommended to Prefects that the day should be "celebrated with all the brilliance that the local resources allow".  Indeed, the celebrations of the new holiday in 1880 were particularly magnificent.

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   In the debate leading up to the adoption of the holiday, Henri Martin, chairman of the French Senate, addressed that chamber on 29 June 1880. "Do not forget that behind this 14 July, where victory of the new era over the ancien régime was bought by fighting, do not forget that after the day of 14 July 1789, there was the day of 14 July 1790. ... This [latter] day cannot be blamed for having shed a drop of blood, for having divided the country. It was the consecration of the unity of France. ... If some of you might have scruples against the first 14 July, they certainly hold none against the second. Whatever difference which might part us, something hovers over them, it is the great images of national unity, which we all desire, for which we would all stand, willing to die if necessary."

Bastille Day Military Parade

   The Bastille Day Military Parade is the French military parade that has been held on the morning of 14 July each year in Paris since 1880. While previously held elsewhere within or near the capital city, since 1918 it has been held on the Champs-Elysées, with the evident agreement of the Allies as represented in the Versailles Peace Conference, and with the exception of the period of German occupation from 1940 to 1944.  The parade passes down the Champs-Elysées from the Arc de Triomphe to the Place de la Concorde, where the President of the French Republic, his government and foreign ambassadors to France stand. This is a popular event in France, broadcast on French TV, and is the oldest and largest regular military parade in Europe.   In some years, invited detachments of foreign troops take part in the parade and foreign statesmen attend as guests.
   Smaller military parades are held in French garrison towns, including Toulon and Belfort, with local troops.

Bastille Day celebrations in other countries
  • Belgium
  • Liège celebrates the Bastille Day each year since the end of the First World War, as Liège was decorated by the Légion d'Honneur for its unexpected resistance during the Battle of Liège.
  • Hungary
  • Budapest's two-day celebration is sponsored by the Institut de France.
  • South Africa
  • Franschhoek's week-end festivaL has been celebrated for the last 15 years. (Franschhoek, or 'French Corner,' is situated in the Western Cape.)
  • United Kingdom
  • London has a large French contingent, and celebrates Bastille Day at various locations including Battersea Park.

  • United States
Over 50 U.S. cities conduct annual celebrations
  • Baltimore has a large Bastille Day celebration each year at Petit Louis in the Roland Park area of Baltimore City.
  • Boston has a celebration annually, hosted by the French Cultural Center for over 35 years. Recently, the celebration took place in The Liberty Hotel, a former city jail converted into a boutique hotel, though more often the festivities occur in Boston's Back Bay neighborhood, near the Cultural Center's headquarters. The celebration typically includes francophone musical performers, dancing, and French cuisine.
  • Chicago has hosted a variety of Bastille Day celebrations in a number of locations in the city, including Navy Pier and Oz Park. The recent incarnations have been sponsored in part by the Chicago branch of the French-American Chamber of Commerce and by the French Consulate-General in Chicago.
  • Houston has a celebration at La Colombe d'Or Hotel. It is hosted by the Consulate General of France in Houston, The French Alliance, the French-American Chamber of Commerce, and the Texan-French Alliance for the Arts.
  • Milwaukee's four-day street festival begins with a "Storming of the Bastille" with a 43-foot replica of the Eiffel Tower.
  • Minneapolis has a celebration in Uptown with wine, French food, pastries, a flea market, circus performers and bands. Also in the Twin Cities area, the local chapter of the Alliance Française has hosted an annual event for years at varying locations with a competition for the "Best Baguette of the Twin Cities."
  • Montgomery, Ohio has a celebration with wine, beer, local restaurants' fare, pastries, games and bands.
  • New Orleans has multiple celebrations, the largest in the historic French Quarter.
  • New York City has numerous Bastille Day celebrations each July, including Bastille Day on 60th Street hosted by the French Institute Alliance Française between Fifth and Lexington Avenues on the Upper East Side of Manhattan,] Bastille Day on Smith Street in Brooklyn, and Bastille Day in Tribeca. The Empire State Building is illuminated in blue, white and red.
  • Orlando has a boutique Bastille Day street festival that began in 2009 in the Audubon Park Garden District and involves champagne, wine, music, petanque, artists, and street performers.
  • Philadelphia's Bastille Day, held at Eastern State Penitentiary, involves Marie Antoinette throwing locally manufactured pastries at the Parisian militia, as well as a re-enactment of the storming of the Bastille.
  • San Francisco has a large celebration in the downtown historic French quarter.
  • Seattle's Bastille Day Celebration, held at the Seattle Center, involves performances, picnics, wine and shopping.

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One-time celebrations

  • 1979: A concert with Jean-Michel Jarre on the Place de la Concorde in Paris attracted one million people, securing an entry in the Guinness Book of Records for the largest crowd at an outdoor concert.
  • 1989: France celebrated the 200th anniversary of the French Revolution, notably with a monumental show on the Champs-Élysées in Paris, directed by French designer Jean-Paul Goude. President François Mitterrand acted as host for invited world leaders.
  • 1990: A concert with Jean-Michel Jarre was held at La Défense in Paris.
  • 1995: A concert with Jean-Michel Jarre was held at the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
  • 1998: Two days after the French football team became World Cup champions, huge celebrations took place nationwide.
  • 2004: To commemorate the centenary of the Entente Cordiale, the British led the military parade with the Red Arrows flying overhead.