1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Feasts and Festivals
FEASTS AND FESTIVALS. A festival or feast is a day or series of days specially and publicly set apart for religious observances. Whether its occurrence be casual or periodic, whether its ritual be grave or gay, carnal as the orgies of Baal and Astarte, or spiritual as the worship of a Puritan Sabbath, it is to be regarded as a festival or “holy day” as long as it is professedly held in the name of religion.
To trace the festivals of the world through all their variations would be to trace the entire history of human religion and human civilization. Where no religion is, there can of course be no feasts; and without civilization any attempt at festival-keeping must necessarily be fitful and comparatively futile. But as religion develops, festivals develop with it, and assume their distinctive character; and an advancing civilization, at least in its earlier stages, will generally be found to increase their number, enrich their ritual, fix more precisely the time and order of their recurrence, and widen the area of their observance.
Some uncivilized tribes, such as the Juángs of Bengal, the Fuegians and the Andamanese, have been described as having no word for God, no idea of a future state, and consequently no religious ceremonies of any kind whatever. But such cases, doubtful at the best, are confessedly exceptional. In the vast majority of instances observed and recorded, the religiosity of the savage is conspicuous. Even when incapable of higher manifestations, it can at least take the form of reverence for the dead; the grave-heap can become an altar on which offerings of food for the departed may be placed, and where in acts of public and private worship the gifts of survivors may be accompanied with praises and with prayers. That the custom of ghost-propitiation by some sort of sacrifice is even now very widely diffused among the lower races at least, and that there are also many curious “survivals” of such a habit to be traced among highly civilized modern nations, has been abundantly shown of late by numerous collectors of folk-lore and students of sociology; and indications of the same phenomena can be readily pointed out in the Rig-Veda, the Zend-Avesta and the Pentateuch, as well as in the known usages of the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. In many cases the ceremonial observed is of the simplest; but it ever tends to become more elaborate; and above all it calls for repetition, and repetition, too, at regular intervals. Whenever this last demand has made itself felt, a calendar begins to take shape. The simplest calendar is obviously the lunar. “The Naga tribes of Assam celebrate their funeral feasts month by month, laying food and drink on the graves of the departed.” But it soon comes to be combined with the solar. Thus the Karens, “while habitually making oblations, have also annual feasts for the dead, at which they ask the spirits to eat and drink.” The natives of the Mexican valley in November lay animals, edibles and flowers on the graves of their dead relatives and friends. The common people in China have a similar custom on the arrival of the winter solstice. The ancient Peruvians had the custom of periodically assembling the embalmed bodies of their dead emperors in the great square of the capital to be feasted in company with the people. The Athenians had their annual Νεκύσια or Νεμέσεια and the Romans their Feralia and Lemuralia. The Egyptians observed their three “festivals of the seasons,” twelve “festivals of the month,” and twelve “festivals of the half month,” in honour of their dead. The Parsees, too, were required to render their afringans (blessings which were to be recited over a meal to which an angel or the spirit of a deceased person was invited) at each of the six seasons of the year, and also on certain other days.
In the majority of recorded instances, the religious feeling of the savage has been found to express itself in other forms besides that of reverence towards the dead. The oldest literatures of the world, at all events, whether Aryan or Semitic, embody a religion of a much higher type than ancestor worship. The hymns of the Rig-Veda, for example, while not without traces of the other, yet indicate chiefly a worship of the powers of nature, connected with the regular recurrence of the seasons. Thus in iv. 57 we have a hymn designed for use at the commencement of the ploughing time;< and in the Aitareya-Brâhmana, the earliest treatise on Hindu ceremonial, we already find a complete series of sattras or sacrificial sessions exactly following the course of the solar year. They are divided into two distinct sections, each consisting of six months of thirty days each. The sacrifices are allowed to commence only at certain lucky constellations and in certain months. So, for instance, as a rule, no great sacrifice can commence during the sun’s southern progress. The great sacrifices generally take place in spring, in the months of April and May. In the Parsee Scriptures the year is divided into six seasons or gahanbârs of two months each, concluding with February, the season at which “great expiatory sacrifices were offered for the growth of the whole creation in the last two months of the year.” We have no means of knowing precisely what were the arrangements of the Phoenician calendar, but it is generally admitted that the worship was solar, the principal festivals taking place in spring and in autumn. Among the most characteristic celebrations of the Egyptians were those which took place at the ἀφανισμός or disappearance of Osiris in October or November, at the search for his remains, and their discovery about the winter solstice, and at the date of his supposed entrance into the moon at the beginning of spring. The Phrygian festivals were also arranged on the theory that the deity was asleep during the winter and awake during the summer; in the autumn they celebrated his retiring to rest, and in spring with mirth and revelry they roused him from his slumbers. The seasonal character of the Teutonic Ostern, the Celtic Beltein and the Scandinavian Yule is obvious. Nor was the habit of observing such festivals peculiar to the Aryan or the Semitic race. The Mexicans, who were remarkable for the perfection of their calendar, in addition to this had an elaborate system of movable and immovable feasts distributed over the entire year; the principal festivals, however, in honour of their chief gods, Tezcatlipoca, Huitzilopochtli and Tlaloc, were held in May, June and December. Still more plainly connected with the revolutions of the seasons was the public worship of the ancient Peruvians, who, besides the ordinary feast at each new moon, observed four solar festivals annually. Of these the most important was the Yntip-Raymi (Sun-feast), which, preceded by a three days’ fast, began with the summer solstice, and lasted for nine days. Its ceremonies have been often described. A similar but less important festival was held at the winter solstice. The Cusqui-Raymi, held after seedtime, as the maize began to appear, was celebrated with sacrifices and banquets, music and dancing. A fourth great festival, called Citua, held on the first new moon after the autumnal equinox, was preceded by a strict fast and special observances intended for purposes of purification and expiation, after which the festivities lasted until the moon entered her second quarter.
Greek Festivals.—Perhaps the annual Attic festival in honour of Erechtheus alluded to in the Iliad (ii. 550) ought to be regarded as an instance of ancestor-worship; but the seasonal character of the ἑορτή or new-moon feast in Od. xx. 156, and of the θαλύσια or harvest-festival in Il. ix. 533, is generally acknowledged. The older Homeric poems, however, give no such express indications of a fully-developed system of festivals as are to be met with in the so-called “Homeric” hymns, in the Works and Days of Hesiod, in the pages of Herodotus, and so abundantly in most authors of the subsequent period; and it is manifest that the calendar of Homer or even of Herodotus must have been a much simpler matter than that of the Tarentines, for example, came to be, of whom we are told by Strabo that their holidays were in excess of their working days. Each demos of ancient Greece during the historical period had its own local festivals (ἑορταὶ δημοτικαί), often largely attended and splendidly solemnized, the usages of which, though essentially alike, differed very considerably in details. These details have in many cases been wholly lost, and in others have reached us only in a very fragmentary state. But with regard to the Athenian calendar, the most interesting of all, our means of information are fortunately very copious. It included some 50 or 60 days on which all business, and especially the administration of justice, was by order of the magistrates suspended. Among these ἱερομηνίαι were included—in Gamelion (January), the Lenaea or festival of vats in honour of Dionysus; in Anthesterion (February), the Anthesteria, also in honour of Dionysus, lasting three days (Pithoigia, Choes and Chytri); the Diasia in honour of Zeus, and the lesser Eleusinia; in Elaphebolion (March), the Pandia (? of Zeus), the Elaphebolia of Artemis, and the greater Dionysia; in Munychion, the Munychia of Artemis as the moon goddess (Μουνυχία) and the Delphinia of Apollo; in Thargelion (May), the Thargelia of Apollo and the Plynteria and Callynteria of Athena; in Scirophorion (June), the Diipolia of Zeus and the Scirophoria of Athena; in Hekatombaion, hecatombs were offered to Apollo the summer-god, and the Cronia of Cronus and the Panathenaea of Athena were held; in Metageitnion, the Metageitnia of Apollo; in Boëdromion, the Boëdromia of Apollo the helper, the Nekusia or Nemeseia (the festival of the dead), and the greater Eleusinia; in Pyanepsion, the Pyanepsia of Apollo, the Oschophoria of Dionysus (probably), the Chalkeia or Athenaea of Athena, the Thesmophoria of Demeter, and the Apaturia; in Maimacterion, the Maimacteria of Zeus; and in Poseideon (December), the lesser Dionysia.
Of these some are commemorative of historical events, and one at least may perhaps be regarded as a relic of ancestor-worship; but the great majority are nature-festivals, associating themselves in the manner that has already been indicated with the phenomena of the seasons, the equinoxes and the solstices. In addition to their numerous public festivals, the Greeks held various family celebrations, also called ἑορταί, in connexion with weddings, births and similar domestic occurrences. For the great national πανηγύρεις—Olympian, Pythian, Nemean and Isthmian—see the article Games, Classical.
Roman Festivals.—For the purpose of holding comitia and administering justice, the days of the Roman year were regarded as being either dies fasti or dies nefasti—the dies fasti being the days on which it was lawful for the praetors to administer justice in the public courts, while on the dies nefasti neither courts of justice nor meetings of comitia were allowed to be held. Some days were fasti during one portion and nefasti during another; these were called dies intercisi. For the purposes of religion a different division of the year was made; the days were treated as festi or as profesti,—the former being consecrated to acts of public worship, such as sacrifices, banquets and games, while the latter (whether fasti or nefasti) were not specially claimed for religious purposes. The dies festi or feriae publicae were either stativae, conceptivae or imperativae. The stativae were such as were observed regularly, each on a definite day; the conceptivae were observed annually on days fixed by the authorities for the time being; the imperativae were publicly appointed as occasion called for them. In the Augustan age the feriae stativae were very numerous, as may be seen from what we possess of the Fasti of Ovid. The number was somewhat fluctuating. Festivals frequently fell into desuetude or were revived, were increased or diminished, were shortened or prolonged at the will of the emperor, or under the caprice of the popular taste. Thus Augustus restored the Compitalia and Lupercalia; while Marcus Antoninus in his turn found it expedient to diminish the number of holidays.
The following is an enumeration of the stated festivals as given by Ovid and contemporary writers. The first day of January was observed somewhat as is the modern New Year’s day: clients sent presents to their patrons, slaves to their masters, friends and relatives to one another. On the 9th the Agonalia were held, apparently in honour of Janus. On the 11th the Carmentalia were kept as a half-holiday, but principally by women; so also on the 15th. On the 13th of February were the Faunalia, on the 15th the Lupercalia, on the 17th the Quirinalia, on the 18th the Feralia, on the 23rd (at one time the last day of the Roman year) the Terminalia, on the 24th the Regifugium or Fugalia, and on the 27th the Equiria (of Mars). On the 1st of March were the Matronalia, on the 14th a repetition of the Equiria, on the 15th the festival of Anna Perenna, on the 17th the Liberalia or Agonalia, and from the 19th to the 23rd the Quinquatria (of Minerva). On the 4th of April were the Megalesia (of Cybele), on the 12th the Cerealia, on the 21st the Palilia, on the 23rd the Vinalia, on the 25th the Robigalia, and on the 28th the Floralia. The 1st of May was the festival of the Lares Praestites; on the 9th, 11th and 13th the Lemuria were celebrated; on the 12th the Ludi Martiales, and on the 15th those of Mercury. June 5 was sacred to Semo Sancus; the Vestalia occurred on the 9th, the Matralia on the 11th, and the Quinquatrus Minusculae on the 13th. The Ludi Apollinares were on the 5th, and the Neptunalia on the 23rd of July. On the 13th of August were the Nemoralia, in honour of Diana; on the 18th the Consualia, on the 19th the Vinalia Rustica, and on the 23rd the Vulcanalia. The Ludi Magni, in honour of Jupiter, Juno and Minerva, began on September 4. The Meditrinalia (new wine) were on the 11th of October, the Faunalia on the 13th, and the Equiria on the 15th. The Epulum Jovis was on 13th November. The December festivals were—on the 5th Faunalia, and towards the close Opalia, Saturnalia, Larentalia.
The calendar as it stood at the Augustan age was known to contain many comparatively recent accessions, brought in under the influence of two “closely allied powers, the foreign priest and the foreign cook” (Mommsen). The Megalesia, for example, had been introduced 204 B.C. The Ludi Apollinares could not be traced farther back than 208 B.C. The Floralia and Cerealia had not come in much earlier. Among the oldest feasts were undoubtedly the Lupercalia, in honour of Lupercus, the god of fertility; the Equiria, in honour of Mars; the Palilia; the great September festival; and the Saturnalia.
Among the feriae conceptivae were the very ancient feriae Latinae, held in honour of Jupiter on the Alban Mount, and attended by all the higher magistrates and the whole body of the senate. The time of their celebration greatly depended on the state of affairs at Rome, as the consuls were not allowed to take the field until they had held the Latinae, which were regarded as days of a sacred truce. The feriae sementivae were held in the spring, and the Ambarvalia in autumn, both in honour of Ceres. The Paganalia of each pagus, and the Compitalia of each vicus were also conceptivae. Of feriae imperativae,—that is to say, festivals appointed by the senate, or magistrates, or higher priests to commemorate some great event or avert some threatened disaster,—the best known is the Novendiale, which used to be celebrated as often as stones fell from heaven (Livy xxi. 62, xxv. 7, &c.). In addition to all those already mentioned, there occasionally occurred ludi votivi, which were celebrated in fulfilment of a vow; ludi funebres, sometimes given by private persons; and ludi seculares, to celebrate certain periods marked off in the Etrusco-Roman religion.
Feasts of the Jews.—By Old Testament writers a festival or feast is generally called either חג (compare the Arabic Hadj), from חגג to rejoice, or מועד, from יעד, to appoint. The words שבת and מקרא קודש are also occasionally used. In the Talmud the three principal feasts are called רגלים, after Exod. xxiii. 14. Of the Jewish feasts which are usually traced to a pre-Mosaic origin the most important and characteristic was the weekly Sabbath, but special importance was also attached from a very early date to the lunar periods. It is probable that other festivals also, of a seasonal character, were observed (see Exod. v. 1). In common with most others, the Mosaic system of annual feasts groups itself readily around the vernal and autumnal equinoxes. In Lev. xxiii., where the list is most fully given, they seem to be arranged with a conscious reference to the sacred number seven (compare Numb. xxviii.). Those belonging to the vernal equinox are three in number; a preparatory day, that of the Passover, leads up to the principal festival, that of unleavened bread, which again is followed by an after-feast, that of Pentecost (see Passover, Pentecost). Those of the autumnal equinox are four; a preparatory day on the new moon of the seventh month (the Feast of Trumpets) is followed by a great day of rest, the day of Atonement (which, however, was hardly a festival in the stricter sense of the word), by the Feast of Tabernacles, and by a great concluding day (Lev. xxiii. 36; John vii. 37). If the feast of the Passover be excepted, it will be seen that all these celebrations or commemorations associate themselves more readily with natural than with historical events. There was also a considerable number of post-Mosaic festivals, of which the principal were that of the Dedication (described in 1 Macc. iv. 52-59; comp. John x. 22) and that of Purim, the origin of which is given in the book of Esther (ix. 20 seq.). It has probably no connexion with the Persian festival Furdigán (see Esther).
Earlier Christian Festivals.—While making it abundantly manifest that Christ and his disciples observed the appointed Jewish feasts, the New Testament nowhere records the formal institution of any distinctively Christian festival. But we have unambiguous evidence of the actual observance, from a very early period, of the first day of the week as a holy day (John xx. 19, 26; 1 Cor. xvi. 2; Acts xx. 7; Rev. i. 10). Pliny in his letter to Trajan describes the Christians of Bithynia as meeting for religious purposes on a set day; that this day was Sunday is put beyond all reasonable doubt by such a passage as that in the Apology of Justin Martyr, where he says that “on Sunday (τῆ τοῦ ἡλίου λεγομένῃ ἡμέρᾳ) all the Christians living either in the city or the country met together.” The Jewish element, in some churches at least, and especially in the East, was strong enough to secure that, along with the dies dominica, the seventh day should continue to be kept holy. Thus in the Apostolic Constitutions (ii. 59) we find the Saturday specially mentioned along with the Sunday as a day for the assembling of the church; in v. 15 it is ordained that there shall be no fasting on Saturday, while in viii. 33 it is added that both on Saturday and Sunday slaves are to have rest from their labours. The 16th canon of the council of Laodicea almost certainly means that solemn public service was to be held on Saturday as well as on Sunday. In other quarters, however, the tendency to regard both days as equally sacred met with considerable resistance. The 36th canon of the council of Illiberis, for example, deciding that Saturday should be observed as a fast-day, was doubtless intended to enforce the distinction between Saturday and Sunday. At Milan in Ambrose’s time Saturday was observed as a festival; but Pope Innocent is found writing to the bishop of Eugubium to urge that it should be kept as a fast. Ultimately the Christian church came to recognize but one weekly festival.
The numerous yearly festivals of the later Christian church, when historically investigated, can be traced to very small beginnings. Indeed, while it appears to be tolerably certain that Jewish Christians for the most part retained all the festivals which had been instituted under the old dispensation, it is not at all probable that either they or their Gentile brethren recognized any yearly feasts as of distinctively Christian origin or obligation. It cannot be doubted, however, that gradually, in the course of the 2nd century, the universal church came to observe the anniversaries of the death and resurrection of Christ—the πάσχα σταυρώσιμον and the πάσχα ἁναστάσιμον, as they were respectively called (see Easter and Good Friday). Not long afterwards Whitsunday also came to be fixed in the usage of Christendom as a great annual festival. Even Origen (in the 8th book Against Celsus) enumerates as Christian festivals the Sunday, the παρασκευή, the Passover with the feast of the Resurrection, and Pentecost; under which latter term, however, he includes the whole period between Easter and Whitsuntide. About Cyprian’s time we find individual Christians commemorating their departed friends, and whole churches commemorating their martyrs; in particular, there are traces of a local and partial observance of the feast of the Innocents. Christmas day and Epiphany were among the later introductions, the feast of the Epiphany being somewhat the earlier of the two. Both are alluded to indeed by Clemens Alexandrinus (i. 340), but only in a way which indicates that even in his time the precise date of Christ’s birth was unknown, that its anniversary was not usually observed, and that the day of his baptism was kept as a festival only by the followers of Basilides (see Epiphany).
When we come down to the 4th century we find that, among the 50 days between Easter and Pentecost, Ascension Day has come into new prominence. Augustine, for example, enumerates as anniversaries celebrated by the whole church those of Christ’s passion, resurrection and ascension, along with that of the outpouring of the Holy Ghost, while he is silent with regard to Christmas and Epiphany. The general tendency of this and the following centuries was largely to increase the festivals of the Church, and by legislation to make them more fixed and uniform. Many passages, indeed, could be quoted from Chrysostom, Jerome and Augustine to show that these fathers had not by any means forgotten that comparative freedom with regard to outward observances was one of the distinctive excellences of Christianity as contrasted with Judaism and the various heathen systems (compare Socrates, H.E. v. 22). But there were many special circumstances which seemed to the leaders of the Church at that time to necessitate the permission and even legislative sanction of a large number of new feasts. The innovations of heretics sometimes seemed to call for rectification by the institution of more orthodox observances; in other instances the propensity of rude and uneducated converts from paganism to cling to the festal rites of their forefathers proved to be invincible, so that it was seen to be necessary to seek to adapt the old usages to the new worship rather than to abolish them altogether; moreover, although the empire had become Christian, it was manifestly expedient that the old holidays should be recognized as much as possible in the new arrangements of the calendar. Constantine soon after his conversion enacted that on the dies dominica there should be no suits or trials in law; Theodosius the Great added a prohibition of all public shows on that day, and Theodosius the younger extended the prohibition to Epiphany and the anniversaries of martyrdoms, which at that time included the festivals of St Stephen, and of St Peter and St Paul, as also that of the Maccabees. In the 21st canon of the council of Agde (506), besides Easter, Christmas, Epiphany, Ascension and Pentecost, we find the Nativity of John the Baptist already mentioned as one of the more important festivals on which attendance at church was regarded as obligatory. To these were added, in the centuries immediately following, the feasts of the Annunciation, the Purification, and the Assumption of the Virgin; as well as those of the Circumcision, of St Michael and of All Saints.
Festivals were in practice distinguished from ordinary days in the following ways: all public and judicial business was suspended, as well as every kind of game or amusement which might interfere with devotion; the churches were specially decorated; Christians were expected to attend public worship, attired in their best dress; love feasts were celebrated, and the rich were accustomed to show special kindness to the poor; fasting was strictly forbidden, and public prayers were said in a standing posture.
Later Practice.—In the present calendar of the Roman Catholic Church the number of feast days is very large. Each is celebrated by an appropriate office, which, according to its character, is either duplex, semi-duplex or simplex. A duplex again may be either of the first class or of the second, or a major or a minor. The distinctions of ritual for each of these are given with great minuteness in the general rubrics of the breviary; they turn chiefly on the number of Psalms to be sung and of lessons to be read, on the manner in which the antiphons are to be given and on similar details. The duplicia of the first class are the Nativity, the Epiphany, Easter with the three preceding and two following days, the Ascension, Whitsunday and the two following days, Corpus Christi, the Nativity of John Baptist, Saints Peter and Paul, the Assumption of the Virgin, All Saints, and, for each church, the feast proper to its patron or title and the feast of its dedication. The duplicia of the second class are the Circumcision, the feast of the Holy Name of Jesus, of the Holy Trinity, and of the Most Precious Blood of Christ, the feasts of the Purification, Annunciation, Visitation, Nativity and Conception of the Virgin, the Natalitia of the Twelve Apostles, the feasts of the Evangelists, of St Stephen, of the Holy Innocents, of St Joseph and of the Patrocinium of Joseph, of St Lawrence, of the Invention of the Cross and of the Dedication of St Michael. The Dominicae majores of the first class are the first Sunday in Advent, the first in Lent, Passion Sunday, Palm Sunday, Easter Sunday, Dominica in Albis, Whitsunday and Trinity Sunday; the Dominicae majores of the second class are the second, third and fourth in Advent, Septuagesima, Sexagesima and Quinquagesima Sundays, and the second, third and fourth Sundays in Lent.
In the canons and decrees of the council of Trent repeated allusions are made to the feast days, and their fitness, when properly observed, to promote piety. Those entrusted with the cure of souls are urged to see that the feasts of the Church be devoutly and religiously observed, the faithful are enjoined to attend public worship on Sundays and on the greater festivals at least, and parish priests are bidden to expound to the people on such days some of the things which have been read in the office for the day. Since the council of Trent the practice of the Church with respect to the prohibition of servile work on holidays has varied considerably in different Catholic countries, and even in the same country at different times. Thus in 1577, in the diocese of Lyons, there were almost forty annual festivals of a compulsory character. By the concordat of 1802 the number of such festivals was for France reduced to four, namely, Christmas day, Ascension day, the Assumption of the Virgin, and All Saints day.
The calendar of the Greek Church is even fuller than that of the Latin, especially as regards the ἑορταὶ τῶν ἁγιῶν. Thus on the last Sunday in Advent the feast of All Saints of the Old Covenant is celebrated; while Adam and Eve, Job, Elijah, Isaiah, &c., have separate days. The distinctions of ritual are analogous to those in the Western Church. In the Coptic Church there are seven great festivals, Christmas, Epiphany, the Annunciation, Palm Sunday, Easter Sunday, Ascension and Whitsunday, on all of which the Copts “wear new clothes (or the best they have), feast and give alms” (Lane). They also observe, as minor festivals, Maundy Thursday, Holy Saturday, the feast of the Apostles (11th July), and that of the Discovery of the Cross.
In common with most of the churches of the Reformation, the Church of England retained a certain number of feasts besides all Sundays in the year. They are, besides Monday and Tuesday both in Easter-week and Whitsun-week, as follows: the Circumcision, the Epiphany, the Conversion of St Paul, the Purification of the Blessed Virgin, St Matthias the Apostle, the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin, St Mark the Evangelist, St Philip and St James (Apostles), the Ascension, St Barnabas, the Nativity of St John Baptist, St Peter the Apostle, St James the Apostle, St Bartholomew, St Matthew, St Michael and all Angels, St Luke the Evangelist, St Simon and St Jude, All Saints, St Andrew, St Thomas, Christmas, St Stephen, St John the Evangelist, the Holy Innocents. The 13th canon enjoins that all manner of persons within the Church of England shall from henceforth celebrate and keep the Lord’s day, commonly called Sunday, and other holy days, according to God’s holy will and pleasure, and the orders of the Church of England prescribed in that behalf, that is, in hearing the Word of God read and taught, in private and public prayers, in acknowledging their offences to God and amendment of the same, in reconciling themselves charitably to their neighbours where displeasure hath been, in oftentimes receiving the communion of the body and blood of Christ, in visiting of the poor and sick, using all godly and sober conversation. (Compare Hooker, E.P. v. 70.) In the Directory for the Public Worship of God which was drawn up by the Westminster Assembly, and accepted by the Church of Scotland in 1645, there is an appendix which declares that there is no day commanded in Scripture to be kept holy under the gospel but the Lord’s day, which is the Christian Sabbath; festival days, vulgarly called holy-days, having no warrant in the Word of God, are not to be continued; nevertheless it is lawful and necessary, upon special emergent occasions, to separate a day or days for public fasting or thanksgiving, as the several eminent and extraordinary dispensations of God’s providence shall administer cause and opportunity to his people.
Several attempts have been made at various times in western Europe to reorganize the festival system on some other scheme than the Christian. Thus at the time of the French Revolution, during the period of Robespierre’s ascendancy, it was proposed to substitute a tenth day (Décadi) for the weekly rest, and to introduce the following new festivals: that of the Supreme Being and of Nature, of the Human Race, of the French people, of the Benefactors of Mankind, of Freedom and Equality, of the Martyrs of Freedom, of the Republic, of the Freedom of the World, of Patriotism, of Hatred of Tyrants and Traitors, of Truth, of Justice, of Modesty, of Fame and Immortality, of Friendship, of Temperance, of Heroism, of Fidelity, of Unselfishness, of Stoicism, of Love, of Conjugal Fidelity, of Filial Affection, of Childhood, of Youth, of Manhood, of Old Age, of Misfortune, of Agriculture, of Industry, of our Forefathers, of Posterity and Felicity. The proposal, however, was never fully carried out, and soon fell into oblivion.
Mahommedan Festivals.—These are chiefly two—the ʽEed es-Sagheer (or minor festival) and the ʽEed el-Kebeer (or great festival), sometimes called ʽEed el-Kurban. The former, which lasts for three days, immediately follows the month Ramadan, and is generally the more joyful of the two; the latter begins on the tenth of Zu-l-Heggeh (the last month of the Mahommedan year), and lasts for three or four days. Besides these festivals they usually keep holy the first ten days of Moharram (the first month of the year), especially the tenth day, called Yom Ashoora; the birthday of the prophet, on the twelfth day of the third month; the birthday of El-Hoseyn, in the fourth month; the anniversary of the prophet’s miraculous ascension into heaven, in the seventh month; and one or two other anniversaries. Friday, called the day of El-Gumah (the assembly), is a day of public worship; but it is not usual to abstain from public business on that day except during the time of prayer.
Hindu and Buddhist Festivals.—In modern India the leading popular festivals are the Holí, which is held in March or April and lasts for five days, and the Dasahara, which occurs in October. Although in its origin Buddhism was a deliberate reaction against all ceremonial, it does not now refuse to observe festivals. By Buddhists in China, for example, three days in the year are especially observed in honour of the Buddha,—the eighth day of the second month, when he left his home; the eighth day of the fourth month, the anniversary of his birthday; and the eighth of the twelfth, when he attained to perfection and entered Nirvāna. In Siam the eighth and fifteenth days of every month are considered holy, and are observed as days for rest and worship. At Trut, the festival of the close of the year, visiting and play-going are universal. The new year (January) is celebrated for three days; in February is another holiday; in April is a sort of Lent, ushering in the rainy season; on the last day of June presents are made of cakes of the new rice; in August is the festival of the angel of the river, “whose forgiveness is then asked for every act by which the waters of the Meinam have been rendered impure.” See Bowring’s Siam and Carné’s Travels in Indo-China and the Chinese Empire. Copious details of the elaborate festival-system of the Chinese may be found in Doolittle’s Social Life of the Chinese.
Literature.—For Christian feasts see K. A. H. Kellner, Heortologie (Freiburg im Breisgau, 1906); Hippolyte Delehaye, Les Légendes hagiographiques (Brussels, 1905); J. Rendel Harris, The Cult of the Heavenly Twins (Cambridge, 1906); de Rossi-Duchesne, Martyrologium Hieronymianum.
- “To feast” is simply to keep a festum or festival. The etymology of the word is uncertain; but probably it has no connexion with the Gr. ἑστιᾶν
- See Spencer, Principles of Sociology, i. 170, 280, 306.
- Haug, Parsis, 224, 225.
- “May the heavens, the waters, the firmament, be kind to us; may the lord of the field be gracious to us.... May the oxen (draw) happily, the men labour happily; may the traces bind happily, wield the goad happily” (Wilson’s translation, iii. 224).
- See Haug’s Aitareya-brâhmanam of the Rig-Veda; Max Müller’s Chips from a German Workshop, i. 115.
- Visperad. See Haug, Parsis, 192; Richardson’s Dissertation on the Language, &c., of Eastern Nations, p. 184; Morier’s Journey through Persia.
- De Iside et Osiride; Macrobius, Saturnalia, i. 21.
- In this month the anniversaries of the battle of Marathon, and of the downfall of the thirty tyrants, were also publicly celebrated.
- See Schoemann, Griechische Altertümer, ii. 439 seq.; Mommsen Heortologie.
- Feriae privatae, such as anniversaries of births, deaths, and the like, were observed by separate clans, families or individuals.
- In the “parallel” passages, there is considerable variety in the designation and arrangement of these feasts. While Ex. xii. approximates most closely to Lev. xxiii. and Num. xxviii., Ex. xxiii. has stronger affinities with Deut. xvi. The relations of these passages are largely discussed by Graf, Die geschichtlichen Bücher des A. T., pp. 34-41, and by other recent critics.
- On the whole subject of Jewish festivals see Reland, Antiq. Hebr.; Knobel, Leviticus (c. 23); George, Die jüdischen Feste; Edersheim, The Temple; its Ministry and Services; Ewald, Altertümer des Volkes Israël; articles in Bible dictionaries.
- As, at a later period (601), Gregory the Great instructed his Anglo-Saxon missionaries so to Christianize the temples, festivals, &c., of the heathen “ut durae mentes gradibus vel passibus, non autem saltibus, eleventur.”
- Manumission, however, was lawful on any day.
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