General Discussion

Cultural Celebrations
HippieVan at 8:54PM, Feb. 23, 2012
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Here in Manitoba(Canada), once a year we like to dress up in our red caps and ceintures fléchées and spend a couple weeks celebrating our history with the Festivale du Voyageur.

 
The Voyageurs were French-Canadian fur traders back in the 18th century. They were some of the first Europeans to settle here, which is why we have a sizeable French population for a city outside of Quebec. They were tough and strong, paddling for some 14-16 hours a day, often carrying tremendous weights. And they did this while living on pemmican - a rather unappetizing mix of dried bison meat and fat, sometimes mixed with berries.
 
For Festivale, we have a special area set aside called Voyageur Park.  There is the Cabane à Sucre, where we eat some old Canadian favourites - crêpes, split pea soup, poutine, and maple syrup taffy rolled on snow(I swear I'm not making that one up). There's also the Ice Bar, which is pretty self-explanatory, and a couple areas for live Francophone music. There are great snow sculptures, a snow maze, and a nice hill for tobogganing. And of course a “trader's post” - souvenirs.
  
Within the park is Fort Gibraltar, which is set up as an old settler's village. We have a blacksmith, a carpenter, a little general store, a shack full of furs, and so on.
 
People really get into Festivale, even the anglophones, and it's a really nice way to celebrate not only our history but also our francophone population who often go ignored outside of the French area of the city.
 
I've heard of Renaissance fairs in other places, although I suppose that's a little different. How do people where you all live get together to celebrate their history?
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ayesinback at 2:51PM, Feb. 25, 2012
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I love the idea of this thread - but I'm afraid I don't have muuch to contribute.
 
Re: where I live, the most generally observed celebrations are what most folks have heard of for all Americans:  Fourth of July and Thanksgiving holidays.  Correspondingly, that means a barbecue of some sort plus some kind of fireworks for the Fourth, and a grotesquely bizarre stuff-yo-face with turkey (plus any number of other foods) on Thanksgiving.  And I'm no turkey fan – what's wrong with a proper roast of beef, I ask.  
 
We also have a traditional parade on Memorial Day, which features home-made “floats”, all the local fire engines, and whatever antique car enthusiasts there are, while marchers in the parade hurl small candies at any kids on the sidelines.
 
As far as regional, we have such a mixed bag of descendants:  British, German, Irish, African, Puerto Rican, Italian, Indian, Korean, Russian, Chinese – and there's more, and all within only about an 8-mile diameter.  So there's lots of little festivals or parades once a year or so, but nothing -that I know of- that pertains to This County or This State.
 
Well, there IS a State Fair, but I've never gone.  Maybe I should check it out.
 
 
Nah.  I'll go to the hot air balloon thing first.
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Genejoke at 11:18PM, Feb. 25, 2012
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Sadly ayes has summed things up rather neatly.  Although being English it's a little different, but the distinct lack shows.
last edited on Feb. 25, 2012 11:19PM
ozoneocean at 2:20AM, Feb. 26, 2012
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New Orleans would've just had its Mardi Grass I think… too bad I wasn't there for that :(
 
OK, here, there's Australia day, ANZAC day, The Royal Show, The Festival of Perth or ‘Artrage“, The Sardine Festival, Shinju Matsuri, …and of course Christmas and New Years.
 
- Australia Day is just the national founding day, like Canada day or Thanks Giving in the US. It’s a holiday, lots of BBQs, fireworks, flag waving, helicopters and fighter jets… too much patriotism generally. Recently some groups have because calling in ”invasion day“, for the aboriginal perspective… Either way it's just another nice day off work for me and a bunch of chest-beating for all those other groups.
 
- ANZAC day is the commemoration of the sacrifice made by Australian and New Zealander troops in WW1. Traditionally it used to be just a sombre day with a moment of silence. Right-wingers have since made it more about patriotism and flag waving.
 
- The Royal Show is a state thing… many states here have them at different times. They're like State Fairs in the US. They evolved from agricultural shows to be general circus type carnival fair things. There's still some agricultural stuff and the various farmers and animal exhibitors, horse riders etc prepare all year for it but it's mostly city people who go (because it's held in the city and 90% of the state population live n the city) and they don't really understand the animal stuff anymore.
 
- The Festival of Perth is a period set aside for the performance and promotion of cultural events- movie festivals, art shows, parades and so on, for about a month or so.
 
- The Sardine Festival involves a parade through the old port centre of Fremantle. It's something to do with the Portuguese and Italian fisherman who largely founded the fishing community there. People eat lots of sardines…
 
- Shinju Matsuri is the festival of the pearl. This happens in the town of Broome in the north of the state. It has Japanese and Chinese origins because the place was founded mostly by Japanese pearl divers and Chinese workers. There's a big parade through the whole place, fireworks, singing, dancing, dragons, lanterns etc. then the parade ends up on the beach to witness the ”stairway to the moon" where the moon touches the sea and the reflection on the waves looks like a stairway up to it.
 
- Christmas is a bigger thing in the lead up to it than on the day, which is quiet since everyone is at home or at the beach or having BBQs in the parks.
- New years is just a big a thing as it is in most places…
 
PIT_FACE at 2:21AM, Feb. 26, 2012
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Well i live back in the town of Woodstock, Illi and this place likes to put a little more emphasis on Groundhog Day bacause the movie Groundhog Day with Bill Murray was actually filmed here! (not Pennsylvania) the city sets up signs all around town where specific events happened in the movie (i.e. where he kept stepping in the puddle, where he threw himself from the Opera House, where they toasted to world peace, which is actually a place i used to work.) and of corse the square with the gazebo is right in the middle of everything. 
we have our own goundhog we confide in every year called Woodstock Willy and there's a small get together before hand and a band comes and plays the Pennsylvania Polka and its generally just a fun time.
Anubis at 2:34AM, Feb. 26, 2012
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Ozone forgot Boxing day, it is the most important day
In New Zealand we also have Waitangi Day, Feb the 6th,  its the NZ version of  the 4th July.  We celebrate the signing of a Treaty between the Crown and the big Maori Chiefs.
Abt_Nihil at 5:23AM, Feb. 26, 2012
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Celebrating Munich's history has two essential ingredients:
A) Beer

B) Cleavage

More info and some great pictures: http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2009/09/oktoberfest_2009.html
Product Placement at 9:23PM, Feb. 26, 2012
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Oh god. We have so many of these…
Let's see… the stuff we can truly call our own.

Þorri (Thorri): The old name of the fourth winter month, taking place between late January and early February. Rough translation of it would be “The harshest one”. Back in the days when we didn't have fancy things like refrigeration technology, people started scratching their heads regarding how to make sure that your food stayed edible over the winter. Sure, keeping the food outside in the snow, might have worked but the trick of making sure that you have enough food for the winter is to prepare it back when it isn't cold. Thus we had to invent creative ways to preserve our food.
Things like storing meats in lactic acid.
Rams testicles pressed into blocks and cured in said acid.
Drying up the head of the sheep (kinda like how head hunters did it), to boil at a later date.
Dried up fish (think beef jerky, except it's fish).
Putrefied shark.
Etc.
Of course. Today we don't need to eat stuff like that, but we indulge ourselves to this type of food, around this time, to honor those who had.

June 17th: Our Independence day. All the traditional stuff. Gather downtown, eat lots of hot dogs, candy floss or whatever else you fancy. Watch street jesters do tricks and count the balloons that kids have lost into the air and are now hovering towards freedom.

Seafarer day (June 6): Being a large fishing community, we honor the sailors on this day. In order to fully enjoy this day, it is best to visit the smaller fishing villages around the country, where the locals gather together (usually around the harbor), have a large cookout, play music, play test-of-strength type of games and such.

Bun day / Bursting day / Ash day:  A trifecta of holidays, which is semi-equivalent to Mardi Gras, on the account that it takes place at the same time. Bun day is a pastry day, in which we gorge ourselves on various cream buns. Bursting day is when everyone eats a large meat dish made from salty mutton and a split pea/turnip stew. This is a remainder of the religious tradition of keeping to the Lent, where you didn't eat any meat for 6 weeks and so you eat whatever meat was left in the house (which was usually kept in a salt barrel for preservation purposes) on the bursting day, which was the last day before Lent. The ash day is the start of Lent. This day has the funniest evolution. It is derived from the tradition where priests formed a cross made of ash on your forehead, during this day. Eventually it became customary to carry around a bag full of ash during this day. Then kids started teasing others by secretly tagging bags of ash on peoples clothing, trying to see how many bags they could tag people with, before they noticed. Thus it slowly and gradually evolved into a sort of a mischief day. Eventually it became customary for kids to dress up on this day as they went around pranking people. Then at some point, store owners started giving kids who'd visit them candy, on the account that they sing for him.
…so yeah, it ended up becoming our equivalent of Halloween.

March 1st; Technically not a holiday but something that many people celebrate around here; Beer day! It's the day when prohibition on beer was lifted after 75 long years of it being banned.

Something you guys also do but we do better:

Christmas/Yule: We call it Yule; always have, always will. As you may have noticed how we perverted the traditions of Ash Wednesday, we have a tendency of doing our own creative spin on the Christian holidays. Our old tales speak of horrible little troll offspring, called the Yule lads, who would terrorize the villagers throughout the month of Ýlir (the month of Yule). Each one would specialize in a certain task but I'll leave it up to wikipedia to explain their roles. As the lore goes, their human hating troll mother died and without her influence, her offspring started questioning their way of life and eventually felt guilty about the crimes they had inflicted on the locals. As an act of penance, they now travel to the settlements, spreading gifts to all the children. What really happened of course is that the locals started hearing about this Santa character and started associating him with the Yule lads. Instead of giving their kids gifts labeled from Saint Nick, they carried the names of the Yule lads.
The best part about the whole thing? There are 13 of them. On the 13th day before Christmas, the first one arrives, according to tradition. Then the next one arrives the day after that and the next comes the day after that. That means 13 days of potential gifts. It also means 13 days of well behaved angels because the kids will always be wanting treats from the next lad. After Christmas day, the lads start heading home, one after another in same sequence that they arrived. Departure doesn't equal gift but we signify the departure of the last lad as the official end of Christmas. Thus our “Official Christmas” lasts from Dec 12th (when the first Yule lad arrives) to Jan 6th (when the last one leaves).

New Years: It kinda falls into the Yule period but on this day we go crazy with the fireworks. I mean seriously insane. On New Years eve, there are no restrictions on public loudness. You can have the loudest party in the block and no one will bother complaining; the neighbors would be more likely to join. On this day, there are no restrictions regarding handling fireworks either. This roughly translates into the largest uncoordinated firework display in the world. It kinda looks like this:


Yeah, that's all I can think of at the moment. Gullas, did I forget anything big?
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last edited on Feb. 26, 2012 9:28PM
bravo1102 at 11:40PM, Feb. 26, 2012
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ayesinback wrote:
I love the idea of this thread - but I'm afraid I don't have muuch to contribute.
 
 
 
As far as regional, we have such a mixed bag of descendants:  British, German, Irish, African, Puerto Rican, Italian, Indian, Korean, Russian, Chinese – and there's more, and all within only about an 8-mile diameter.  So there's lots of little festivals or parades once a year or so, but nothing -that I know of- that pertains to This County or This State.
 
 
Nah.  I'll go to the hot air balloon thing first.
There are NJ state ethnic festivals at the PNC Art Center in Holmdel.  Since I live near there I see the signs every time I go on the Parkway.  Memorial Day and Veterans Day are nice to go to at the USS Intrepid or USS New Jersey musuems because they're great gatherings of veterans and overflights and all.
 
July 4th week also has Fleetweek with tons of cool naval vessels from all over, the parade of tall ships and a annual HUGE celebrations in Philadephia and Gettysburg PA.  Philadephia because that's where everything happened and Gettysburg because that's the week the battle happened. 
 
Colonial Williamsburg Va is also a great place to go for July 4th or actually anytime you want to experience the 18th Century because every day is a recreation of a specific day in Virginia colonial history.  One day will be the day they threw the British out in 1775 and the the next will be the day the Declaration arrived in Virginia to be read, then the day the British came back in 1781 and so on.
 
I've been to Gettysburg over the July 4th holiday twice and there's everything you could want and lots of people in American Civil War uniforms.  It's immersion into the world of the Civil War along with lots of patriotism with a period flavor.
 
Central NJ has various American War of Independence encampments and reinactments so the last week of June is big in Monmouth County and December big in Trenton and then Princeton.  Sadly if you're not into it you miss out on a lot even though everything is in the newspapers but who checks the events calendar in the paper?
 
US holidays are huge regionally and small nationally.  Columbus Day is HUGE in NYC as is St. Patrick's Day with the parades and all kinds of other nonsense.  There's the Mermaid parade in Coney Island if you like cleavage and even bare bosoms.  There's the great nonsense that is the Halloween parade in NYC.  In Asbury Park there is the annual Zombie parade as well as the Polar Bear Plunge and Jazz/Blues Festival.  Red Bank NJ also has a good Jazz/Blues/Rock festival much better than you'd expect for a central Atlantic State but then you'd be surprised how many musicians at one point have called NJ home.  After all Frankie Vallee and Bruce Springsteen are both from NJ.
You have to read the events calendar and look for the posts and then make time in your schedule to go.  I'm good at reading the newspaper but awful at making time.
ayesinback at 7:04AM, Feb. 27, 2012
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@bravo -
Yeah - there's lots of celebrations here in the States for this war or that.  I hesitate to refer to them as cultural, though.
 
But you're spot on about Halloweem and St Paddy's.  They may have orginated else where but we've definitely morphed them out of a religious vein into something quite fun. 
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gullas at 8:56AM, Feb. 27, 2012
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We've got bunch of national holidays here.
Technically we have two national days, one were we celebrate our “real” indenpendance (17th. June)and the other one we celebrate when we got indenpendance from Denmark(1st. December) but the Danish king was still the head of state. Parades, candy, speeches… yeah…
We celebrate the first day of summer(which happens ot be middle of april, not very summery…)  and winter, a special day for fishermen, Labor Day, one weekend in august called “Verslunarmannahelgin” roughly translates to “shop-holiday” which is kind of ironic due to the fact that this is the biggest shopping weekend of the year.
We celebrate our Christmas days(Jul), New Years Eve and day and we've got many days surrounding easter.
bravo1102 at 9:24AM, Feb. 27, 2012
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ayesinback wrote:
@bravo -
Yeah - there's lots of celebrations here in the States for this war or that.  I hesitate to refer to them as cultural, though.
 
 As an historian I have to disagree.  One of the most important things for Americans to realize is that ours is a nation built by conflict.  I don't say we run out and celebrate the deaths of others to make us great, no, Americans should celebrate the cultural achievements of those who sacrificed for our nation in times of conflict.  That's why I go to reinactments, because even I find myself learning things about the triumph of the human spirit and indeed the American spirit in The Battle of Monmouth Courthouse, Gettysburg, Petersburg, Trenton, Princeton  and so on.  It took a decade into my marriage to convince my wife of this but the evidence is too strong and she came to like the reinactments too.  I didn't figure it out myself until after I put together a timeline for a bulletin board entitled “America: a Nation made by war”
 
Warfare built the American character and culture.  The American Revolution started our nation and the Civil War preserved it and indeed remade it in very important ways.  It also introduced standard sizes in mass produced clothing and shoes. That's a huge cultural achievement and without the US Civil War it may have never happened.   One of the first social institutions and one of great influence on the USA was the militia.  Right after they built churches the first European settlers set up laws requiring military drilling and weapon ownership.  But then they had to because they faced some of the greatest irregular fighters in history. 
 
But then Americans are a people who do not know their history and where they came from and how they got here.  A nation's culture is built by its history and that history often includes warfare.
 
Cinco de Mayo celebrates a Mexican military victory over the French when they tried to install a European Emperor in the mid 19th Century. Now it's a huge Hispanic cultural celebration.  But it's still the comemoration of a military victory that unified the Mexican people when they were in danger of being conquered by outsiders after they had been a nation for 50 years.
ozoneocean at 10:03AM, Feb. 27, 2012
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Wow, interesting Bravo.
The war and conflict aspect was always traditionally downplayed in Australia because all our main post-colonial conflicts involved us fighting for the British (and later the Americans) in other countries, starting with the Boer War in South Africa.
 
ANZAC day was always about a very sombre commemoration of the horrible death toll from WW1 typified by the storming of the beach at Gallipoli. Over time it's gained the WW2 veterans, Korean war, Vietnam, East Timor, Iraq… aaaaaaaand sort of lost its way a bit.
 
A conservative Prime Minister we had during the 90's was instrumental in turning it from the sombre event it should always be into a victory celebration of hyper nationalism, ultra patriotism, and flag waving.
That isn't the Australia I grew up in… -_-
 
The only real domestic conflict of note from the colonial era was the miner's rebellion and siege led by Peter Lalor at the Eureka stockade. That's commemorated in folklore and song, but not with a holiday… and nor are the aboriginal rebellions, massacres and conflicts… Probably because all those were anti-government and the government was never overthrown so had no reason to make them holidays.
 
ayesinback at 1:36PM, Feb. 27, 2012
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@bravo – I had to read your post a few times because I’ll admit that initially I was aghast that someone would suggest our nation’s history of conflict as our cultural identity. 
 
From the standpoint that the military does has certain pomp and ceremony, there is a beauty to it.  The objective of protecting the nation and its people, and the values of courage and honor are stirring to the core (although they fly out the window during war).  And that there have been contributions to society because of military needs (spam, for instance) is part blessing and part curse (spam again) because so much of our tax money is funneled into the military that we don’t finance other social interests.
 
Re-enactments:  yup, been to some.  Depending on the actors involved, they can be interesting, even entertaining, and provide an opportunity for a greater appreciation of the historic events.  Or they can be awkwardly derivative.  Civil War sites:  I’ve visited some — Fort Delaware is rather near-by (and they take their re-enactment quite seriously) and both Gettysburg and Fredericksburg were profoundly emotional for me.  If someone wants to feel restless spirits, those are two destinations to try.
 
But an appreciation for one’s history, imo, does not equate to a cultural celebration.  Maybe a cerebral celebration?  Or a patriotic celebration?  And that so much of our history has been steeped in conflict does not mean that it is our only history, nor a history unique to our country (although we’ve had an awful lot of it in our relatively brief existence). And if you insist that it does, then logically one would have to insist just as forcefully that Baptist revival meetings and the mass weddings of the Unification Church (and let’s not forget the reenactments of the Salem Witch Trials) are cultural celebrations as well because religion has had as long and as deep an influence as war.
My point is that there are so many facets to the American heritage and culture, whether it might be development in art (music, film, and TV come to mind) or in technical innovation or whatever, that it’s difficult to pinpoint much of anything that brings all of us together to celebrate, altho there are myriads of celebrations for smaller communities, rather like what PIT_FACE mentioned, and you're right about St Patrick's Day and Halloween.
 

Oz, it sounds like Australia Day approximates our Fourth of July more closely than it does Thanksgiving.
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ozoneocean at 9:32PM, Feb. 27, 2012
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ayesinback wrote:
Oz, it sounds like Australia Day approximates our Fourth of July more closely than it does Thanksgiving.
  Yeah, I suppose it does. :)
I was probably thinking of the “founding” aspect vs the “independence” thing rather than what people actually do on the day, but  yeah, you're right.
 
I must say, I like your point here:
 
“…the military does has certain pomp and ceremony, there is a beauty to
it.  The objective of protecting the nation and its people, and the
values of courage and honor are stirring to the core (although they fly
out the window during war).”

 
It reminds me of what I read in this long academic book on British uniforms when I was assembling my Hussar stuff… and to a lessor extent an illustrated Osprey book on French Hussars.
Back in the 19th Century was the highest peak of military pomp in every aspect and super expensive, labour intensive scrupulous detail, with guff about courage and honour and chivalry. But when it came to wars it was horrible and none of that counted for crap. The contrast is stark and interesting.
 
From another perspective  the pomp and pretty uniforms were necessary to them to maintain the moral and pride of the men in peace time, as well as maintain the national pride in them and encourage recruitment.- according to the author and  the recorded statements and quotes from soldiers, officers and other contemporaries.
Like saying:
“For 2 years of your enlistment you have to walk around barefoot and naked, knee deep in fresh stinking excrement, day after day. But for another other 5 years you'll march around a parade ground and get to wear a bright red, nicely tailored flashy suit with fancy shiny boots, and a cool hat that will make the ladies all swoon and men want to BE you!”
 

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