January-February; 13th day of first lunar month
The Lim Festival is an alternating-song contest, held in the commune of Lung Giang, about 18 miles from Hanoi, in the Bac Ninh Province of Vietnam. This is a courtship event, in which girls and boys of different villages carry on a singing courtship dialogue. The singers take part in what is a vocal contest with set rules; one melody, for example, can only be used for two verses of the song, and therefore there is considerable improvising. The storylines of the songs tell of daily events. Young men and women practice them while they are at work in the rice fields or fishing. There is also a weaving competition for young women.
Other Lim Festivals takes place in other villages in the province with processions and games such as human chess and wrestling.
Vietnam National Administration of Tourism
80 Quan Su Rd.
84-4-942-1061; fax: 84-4-826-3956
Mid to late February
The Hala Festival has been held in Kuwait every year since 1999 to celebrate the coming of spring and to promote Arab culture and the local economy. The festival begins with an opening carnival and parade, culminating in a lavish fireworks display that draws up to 250,000 people. Over the course of the subsequent two weeks, visitors are able to enjoy such features as performances of music from around the Middle East, exhibitions of calligraphy and cars, sporting events, and religious events. There are also many activities for children. Shopping is a focal point of the festival, with more than 100 local merchants taking part in prize drawings and special offers, including the sale of millions of retail-discount coupons to festival-goers. The city is swathed in lights, mirroring the bright flowers that bloom on the desert to herald the start of spring.
2490 Tilden St. N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20008
202-966-0702; fax: 202-966-0517
Feast of St. Paul’s Shipwreck
This feast is a commemoration in Malta of the shipwreck of St. Paul on the island in 60 c.e., an event told about in the New Testament. Paul, the story says, was being taken as a prisoner aboard ship to Rome where he was to stand trial. When storms drove the ship aground, Paul escaped and was welcomed by the “barbarous people” (meaning they were not Greco-Romans). According to legend, he got their attention when a snake bit him on the hand but did him no harm, and he then healed people of diseases. Paul stayed for three months in Malta, converting the people to Christianity (Acts 27:1-28:11). Paul is the patron saint of Malta and snakebite victims.
The day is a public holiday, and is observed with family gatherings and religious ceremonies and processions.
See also Mnarja
Malta National Tourist Office
65 Broadway, Ste. 823
212-430-3799; fax: 425-795-3425
FolkWrldHol-1999, p. 124
Firecrackers are a traditional element of Tet, the Vietnamese New Year celebration, and one town really takes its firecrackers seriously. Each year 16 families are selected to compete in producing the most spectacular display for the town of Dong Ky in Vietnam’s Ha Bac Province. These are no ordinary firecrackers, but huge, elaborately decorated affairs that may require two dozen men to carry and up to $500—more than an average family’s annual earnings—to create. Each firecracker is paraded through town and set up on a special tripod for firing. After all the firecrackers have been set off, a panel of judges determines the winning family.
FestWrld: Viet-1997, p. 12
A national public holiday in New Zealand, February 6 commemorates the signing of the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi, in which the Maori natives agreed to coexist peacefully with the European settlers. Although it was first declared a national day of commemoration in 1960, Waitangi Day was not observed as a public holiday outside the North Island until it became New Zealand Day in 1973. It was observed as such until 1976, when it again became known as Waitangi Day.
The town of Waitangi is located on the Bay of Islands at the northern end of the North Island, and the day on which the treaty was signed is observed there by the Royal New Zealand Navy and the Maoris each year.
Because of continued discrimination against them, some Maoris protested the occasion during the 1980s. In 1988 the New Zealand government cancelled the national commemoration ceremonies and has attempted to reorganize the observance in later years. But the protests continued through the 1990s and early 2000s.
Ministry for Culture and Heritage
History and Heritage Units
P.O. Box 5364
Wellington, New Zealand
61-4-471-4027; fax: 61-4-499-4490
of Tourism, Government
of New Zealand
7, MED Bldg.,
33 Bowen St.
P.O. Box 5640
Wellington, New Zealand
64-4-498-7440; fax: 64-4-498-7445
3, 110 Featherston St.
P.O. Box 5022
Wellington Central, New Zealand
64-4-914-3000; fax: 64-4-914-3001
AnnivHol-2000, p. 22
DictDays-1988, p. 127
NatlHolWrld-1968, p. 24
January-February; 15th day of waning half of Hindu month of Magha
Complete silence is observed on the day known to Hindus as Mauni Amavasya. Because bathing during Magha, one of the most sacred Hindu months, is considered to be a purifying act, many Hindus camp out along the banks of the Ganges River throughout the month and bathe daily in the sacred river. But the bathing and fasting end with the observance of Mauni Amavasya, a day for worshipping Lord Vishnu and circumambulating the peepal (a type of ficus) tree, which is mentioned in the Bhagavad Gita and is regarded as holy.
For many Hindus, the celebration takes place at Prayag, a well-known pilgrimage center where the Ganges, Yamuna, and Saraswati rivers flow together. Some live here for a full month, practicing rituals and ceremonial sacrifices known as Kalpa-Vas . Religious discourses and services are held daily, and the worshippers who come here eat only one meal a day or confine their diet to fruit and milk.
RelHolCal-2004, p. 183
Last Tuesday in January
This ancient fire festival is observed by people of Lerwick in the Shetland Islands. In pre-Christian times their Norse ancestors welcomed the return of the sun god with Yule, a 24-day period of feasting, storytelling, and bonfires. The last night of the festival was called Up-Helly-Aa, or “End of the Holy Days.”
Today a group known as the Guizers builds a 31-foot model of a Viking longship, complete with a dragon’s head and many oars, in honor of those Viking invaders who decided to remain in Scotland. On the night of Up-Helly-Aa, the Guizers dress in Norse costumes and helmets and carry the boat to a large open field. There they throw lit torches into the ship and burn it.
Up-helly-Aa originally referred to Epiphany, or January 6—the day when the Yuletide holidays came to an end. The shifting of the date to the end of January probably reflects the change from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar in 1752. This day is also referred to as Uphaliday, Uphelya, Up-Helly-Day, Uphalie Day, or Uphalimass .
Shetland Islands Tourism
Lerwick, Shetland ZE1 0LU United Kingdom
44-87-0199-9440; fax: 44-19-5046-0807
AnnivHol-2000, p. 18
BkHolWrld-1986, Jan 28
DictDays-1988, p. 124
EncyChristmas-2003, p. 776
FolkWrldHol-1999, p. 48
RelHolCal-2004, p. 270
24th day of each month
Tradition calls for Japanese Buddhists to honor Kshitigarba Jizo on the 24th day of each month with a ritual known as Jizo Ennichi.
Kshitigarba Jizo is a Bodhisattva, or “Buddha-to-be,” who is highly regarded by Buddhists in Japan as well as in China, where he is known as Ti-t’sang.
Among Japanese Buddhists, Kshitigarba is known for helping children, women in labor, and the wicked. He is also believed to participate in ushering in the souls of the faithful when they die. He is frequently shown in monk’s robes, holding a staff with six rings in his right hand (symbolizing the six dimensions of existence in the realm of desire) and an orb or pearl in his left hand whose symbolic meaning is not known. His statue is most often found outside temples, where he can guide both the dead and the living. Shrines in his honor are set up along roadsides, since he protects travelers as well.
DictWrldRel-1989, p. 418
In Bulgaria the old women who helped deliver babies—much like the modern midwife—were called baba, or grandmother. It was widely believed that the baby received some of the baba’s wisdom, and it was customary for the baby’s parents to bring the baba flowers on a particular day each year, called Grandmother’s Day or Day of the Midwives . Eventually the children grew up, but they would continue to visit their baba each year.
Most babies in Bulgaria today are born in hospitals, so the children bring flowers to the doctors and nurses who assisted at their birth. Another traditional activity on this day involves boys dunking girls in the icy waters of rivers and lakes, supposedly to bring them good health in the coming year.
See also Grandparents’ Day
BkFest-1937, p. 66
BkHolWrld-1986, Jan 20
Week of Prayer for Christian Unity
The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, as organized by the World Council of Churches, dates back to 1964. Calls forChristian unity and efforts to bring Christians of various denominations together in worship can be traced back at least 200years earlier, however. In 1908, the Rev. Paul Watson proposed a week-long observance dedicated to Christian unity to bescheduled between the feasts of St. Peter’s Chair (January 18) and St. Paul (January 25), the two great leaders of the firstChristians. The World Council of Churches maintains these dates. Each year an inter-denominational committee selects ascriptural theme and prepares the outlines of a worship service for each day of the Week of Prayer. Individual congregationsare free to use the material as is, or vary it to suit local practices and traditions.
World Council of Churches
150 route de Ferney
P.O. Box 2100
Geneva, 1211 Switzerland
41-22-791-6111; fax: 41-22-791-0361