Festivals are essential expressions of culture. They represent the identity of a country and a people. They remind us of where we came from and of our history and our values. These events tie us together as a community, allowing us to cele- brate, grieve, and learn together. With masks, music, and extravagant displays, we step outside the realm of the everyday and into a time of myth and legend. Beyond the stories that bind us together, there’s also a very personal, religious experience that’s tied into festivals and celebrations. What’s Memory Got to Do with It? Festivals are not just about remembering the past and following the tenets of faith to bring about a feeling of hope and a promise for the future. They allow faith-based communities to collectively celebrate and remember the past in a real way, but these celebrations offer much more than just that. Beyond simple faith or belief, festivals can represent a substantiation of a lifelong dedication or purpose. Masked characters are used to embody religious and historical figures from the past. Magic, myth, mystery, and heroism are all possible, real, and right out there in the open. We remember the miracles of saints and exploits of heroes, just as we honor the sacrifices of martyrs, both past and present. We also celebrate love and friendship. It’s often trite to talk about love, but we tend to gravitate toward it for companionship, for human connection. We seek ways to explore the often-impossible-to-understand emotions, feelings, and relationships in our lives. And festivals give us something to look at, to explore, and to imagine. Festivals mark the changing of the harvest and the seasons, helping us reflect upon ourselves and our place in the community. Through them, people immerse themselves in the ideals of Christmas, Diwali, Eid al-Adha, Rosh Hashanah, and so many other holidays. We need festivals. We need to belong. We need a space outside the norm that jolts us into a sense that what we have collectively accom- plished as a people matters in the grander scheme of things. What Do We Learn? Yes, festivals allow us to tap into the feeling that we belong to something bigger than ourselves. History, stories, language, culture—in many cases, we can’t learn these culturally unique forms of social interaction or behavior anywhere else in the world. It’s a social heritage that works on us beyond the confines of a single workshop or master class.



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