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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/535

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THE ORIGIN OF HOLIDAYS.

inspires confidence between man and man, and gives stability to customs and institutions.

We can hardly appreciate the meaning of the appearance of the new moon to the primitive man. It was the herald of a new season of light to dispel his natural dislike and even fear of darkness. The old Hindus and the Arabs through the Syrians sacrificed at new and full moons. The Tasmanians danced at full moon. One of the earliest recorded festivals of the ancient Hebrews is that of the new moon. This event was regularly celebrated by the chief of the Nootka Columbians, by causing a slave to be killed to furnish a banquet, amid songs and dancing, to the other chiefs of lower rank. A certain phase of the moon was also the most frequent natural periodic event to suggest the memory of events celebrated at the last moon, and were this memory vivid enough the savage would be moved to renew his demonstrations. The Uaupés laments his dead from the time of death to burial, and follows this with an Irish wake. Then a lunar month after death the corpse is disinterred, roasted in a pan, the remaining black mass is powdered, mixed with drink, and drunk. The funeral wake among the Abyssinians is held some months after the funeral.

When man's memory grew stronger with his development, the natural solar divisions of time acted as stimuli on his mind to commemorate festival events. The ancient Peruvians feasted each month of the year, but had their principal feasts at the solstices and equinoxes. To the Sol grove, the abode of the family gods or deceased ancestors, the Santals repair yearly, to worship with dancing, music, chanting songs in memory of the founder, and to hold sacrificial feasts of goats and fowls. Each family danced about the tree, supposed to be the abode of its own god. The Karens[1] have an annual feast of the dead at a new moon, when the deceased are supposed to be present, and partake of the food and receive addresses. Among the Kalmucks four yearly feasts are held: (1) New-year's, lasting for several days, with feasting and good wishes. (2) Summer festival, with wrestling, horse-racing, etc. (3) "Consecration of the water," when bodily and spiritual ailments of the bathers in the water were cured. (4) "Candle festival," at beginning of winter, when lights are lit in the temple. The most important and popular feast among the Malagasy is the New-year, or "bathing," that being the principal part of the ceremony. Ten or fifteen thousand bullocks, however, are usually killed at this time, and sacrifices are made to the gods and at the tombs of the king's ancestors. The funeral ceremonies of the Todas are usually celebrated annually by feasting,

  1. Spencer's "Descriptive Sociology," No. V, "Asiatic Races," Table XXXVII, and page 23.